According to the Henry-Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (H.D), officials of the Senegalese government and the Casamance separatist rebellion leaders met last week in Cape Verde.
In the press statement issued Monday, the Geneva-based Center did not mention the Senegalese government’s delegates’ names and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance’s (MFDC) leadership Praia meeting on April 8 and 9. The statement does not specify which branches of the MFDC, divided into rival political and military factions, participated in these discussions, nor whether the one led by Salif Sadio, the most radical leader of the rebellion, was represented.
However, the statement did indicate that the Casamance rebellion is now tooled with a Provisional Committee of Unified Political and Combatant Wings of the Casamance rebellion.
These are the first talks made public between Senegal and the Casamance rebellion since those held in Rome in October 2017. The Rome discussions essentially involve the Senegalese government and the MFDC faction led by Salif Sadio. Sadio is a Casamance radical warlord whose combatants have bases in the northern part of Casamance, along the border with The Gambia.
The talks between Senegal and Salif Sadio’s wing in Rome under the mediation of the Community of Sant’Egidio have stalled for months. Meanwhile, the Senegalese army launched military operations at the end of January to secure displaced people’s return and respond to abuses committed by the MFDC rebels on civilians. The Senegalese army attacks successfully uprooted key MFDC factions in the Southern Casamance from their strongholds used for timber and cannabis trafficking.
The Henry-Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogues is a private diplomacy organization based in Switzerland that assists in mediation between conflicting parties to prevent or end armed conflicts. The organization was already involved in negotiations in Casamance but dealt essentially with the rebellion’s southern front.
According to the Henry Dunant Centre, a joint declaration sanctioned the Praia talks defining” the axes for future negotiations.” The two parties have also expressed their “will to resolve the conflict in Casamance through dialogue,” the centre said in its press statement.
Casamance is the scene of one of the oldest conflicts in Africa since 1982 when separatists took arms to demand the region’s independence. After claiming thousands of lives and devastating the economy, the conflict has slowed, with episodic spikes in tension.