The document signed between the rebels group and the Senegalese government remains confidential for now.
When he was campaigning for a second term in 2019, Macky Sall never missed an opportunity to say that one of his main priorities was “lasting peace” in Senegal’s southern region of Casamance. This rich region has been plagued by an interminable conflict with rebels since 1982, and no Senegalese government has so far succeeded in pacifying it, despite the signing of several peace agreements, all of which have been dead or almost dead.
By announcing on Thursday, August 4, that he “welcomes the peace agreement and the laying down of arms” signed in Bissau between Senegal and the provisional committee of the political and fighting wings of the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance), Senegal’s fourth president seems to believe in his chances of being the one who will, at last, succeed in silencing this never-ending rebellion, which makes the crisis in Casamance one of the oldest civil conflicts in Africa.
Brokered by the president of neighboring Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, whom the Senegalese president made a point of thanking for his “mediation,” this new agreement for the return of peace to Casamance was signed by one of the MFDC leaders, Cesar Atoute Badiate, and an emissary of the Senegalese government.
“You entered the maquis when I was ten years old. Today, I am 50. I think that’s enough now. How many people have died, been maimed or left their villages? We will support you in the search for peace,” Guinea-Bissau Head of State Umaro Sissoco Embalo told rebel leader Cesar Atoute Badiate, adding that he is the “guarantor of this agreement.”
The content of the document signed between the rebel leader and the Senegalese emissary has not yet been revealed.
Launched on December 26, 1982, when MFDC militants attempted to replace the Senegalese flag flying in Zinguichor with a white flag, the conflict in Casamance has so far caused several thousand deaths and displacements.
Despite extremely violent episodes, the conflict has remained largely contained at a fairly low level, preventing it from becoming a major flashpoint.
A massive offensive by the Senegalese army, launched in January 2021, is believed to have significantly weakened the rebels and forced a significant number of their leaders to enter into negotiations with the Senegalese government, according to several experts.
The rebels, whom the authorities and several international organizations accuse of financing themselves largely by trafficking in wood and cannabis, have often been supported by the Gambia or Guinea-Bissau, where the authorities have often maintained complex relationships with Senegal.
Formerly a Portuguese possession for several centuries before coming under French control, then attached to the colony of Senegal in 1888, Casamance is bordered to the sound by Guinea-Bissau and almost cut off from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia, an elongated and small formerly British landmass that now cuts Senegal almost in two.