The 30 year long revolt in the Casamance region of Senegal shows no sign of easing as violence flares up amid presidential calls for peace. A series of recent clashes have left more than a dozen soldiers dead as the Senegalese government tries to flush out rebels from their bases.
Since December last year the Casamance revolt has escalated, with at least 19 Senegalese soldiers and an unknown number of rebels being killed up until early April. I-Net Bridge reports that this is the highest death toll the army has known in recent years. Earlier this year Senegalese troops conducted a vast operation in North Sindian in Casamance aimed at flushing out rebels, Pana Press adds.
The southern Casamance region has been in the throes of a rebellion since 1982 as the Diolas and other groups in Casamance continue to be repressed and excluded from Senegal’s political process, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Earlier this month Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade again called on the movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC) to lay down arms and bring peace to the region.
“I wish, once again, to reiterate my commitment to continue, unabated, the current efforts for the peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis in Casamance,” he said.
He also warned against future acts of violence. “The state will continue to assert, with force, its sovereign prerogatives to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity because, on these principles, there can be no concession.”
Negotiations between the Senegalese government and the MFDC are deadlocked, Sapa reports. Previous negotiations occurred in February 2005 after a peace agreement was signed in December 2004.
The US Department of State said rebels associated with the MFDC have killed civilians and military personnel, committed robberies, fought with the army and harassed local populations.
The US State Department Said the level of violence in Casamance increased last year, with several instances of combat between MFDC and army soldiers, as well as various MFDC factions. The Senegalese army conducted several sweeps near the regional capital Ziguinchor and the area of Oulampane in northern Casamance. At least 13 soldiers were killed in suspected MFDC attacks between February and December 2010. It is not clear how many MFDC rebels were killed.
In one of the worst incidents last year, suspected MFDC rebels ambushed a military patrol in Bignona on December 27, killing six soldiers, according to the US State Department.
On February 22 Senegal cut diplomatic ties with Iran after accusing Iran of sending weapons to the rebels via neighbouring Gambia. The Senegalese Foreign Ministry said Iranian-supplied weapons were linked to an attack on February 20 that killed three Senegalese soldiers.
In December last year, Senegal recalled its ambassador to Iran, saying it was unsatisfied with explanations given by Iranian officials over mortars and rockets seized in Nigeria in October.
As many as 40 000 people have been displaced by the Casamance conflict, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, while 10 000 are internally displaced persons are still living in the Casamance.