Increased violence in Senegal forces 1000 residents to flee

Civilians near Senegal’s southern border face a dire situation after fleeing increased violence by rebel forces in the area.
More than 1000 residents have fled their homes in Southern Senegal after an ambush that left six Senegalese soldiers dead last week.

Niagha region community leader Yorom Ballo says the situation is very difficult in his area. Residents in the villages closest to the attacks have fled their homes to stay with relatives and friends nearby. With the sudden increase in population in some villages, there is not enough food to feed everyone.

Ballo adds there is also a shortage of beds, and the situation in many homes is one of cramped quarters. He visited one family where 20 people were staying in one room.

He worries that conditions are unsanitary and may lead to illness.

The residents left their homes near the country’s border with Guinea-Bissau after recent increases in attacks by Senegalese rebels in the area.

Last week, soldiers were returning from patrol when they were ambushed in an attack thought to have been carried out by rebels from the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces.

It was one of the deadliest attacks against Senegalese troops in recent years. A day earlier gunmen killed one person and wounded three others in an attack on a taxi in the region.

The Senegalese air force last month bombed rebel bases near Ziguinchor, the regional capital of The Casamance, Senegal’s southern district, after suspected MFDC fighters killed a soldier at an army outpost. Two people were killed in an attack on a bus in August.  

The Casamance region is separated geographically from the rest of the country by Gambia. The rebellion there is one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.

It originally began as a separatist movement of ethnic Dioula fighting for greater autonomy from the government in Dakar. A 2004 peace accord restored order in Casamance and led to hopes that the region might once again become a valuable tourist destination.

In a nationwide address last month, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade deplored the recent violence and vowed to pursue peace efforts with the MFDC.

Pic: Senegalese soldiers