The high court in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal on Monday sentenced three defendants to life imprisonment in the Boffa Bayotte massacre case.
Four years after the massacre of 14 loggers in the Boffa Bayotte Forest, the 13 defendants have just been told their fate.
The judge pronounced different verdicts that mainly keep three defendants in prison for the rest of their lives.
Journalist Rene Capin Bassene, Omar Ampouye Bodian, and the rebel leader Cesar Atoute Badiate, who was tried in absentia, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The judge thus partially followed the prosecutor’s request.
Last April, the prosecutor had requested life imprisonment for the leader of the armed wing of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) and ten other individuals.
He noted that the Boffa Bayotte case was a “planned, mature, and well thought-out act.
Thus, for him, the defendants are guilty of criminal conspiracy, attempted murder and participation in an insurrectional movement.”
Among them are the journalist Rene Capin Bassene, accused of having orchestrated the assassination, and Omar Ampouye Bodian, also presented as a member of the MFDC.
Unlike the other 12 people on trial since March 21 at the Ziguinchor high court, Cesar Atoute Badiate was not in the box, even though the Senegalese army has dismantled several rebel bases in the south of the country in recent weeks.
In addition, two co-defendants, Abdoulaye Diedhiou and Alioune Badara Sane, left the court free after receiving a six-month suspended sentence for illegal possession of weapons.
The other eight defendants were acquitted by the judge.
Rebels arrested in Dakar?
Although there were initially 25 detainees, 12 of them were released on January 28 by the courts after spending four years in prison.
They were dismissed from the case, meaning that they were cleared by the investigating judge when the investigation was closed.
Meanwhile, two people had been granted provisional release, while the rest of the group continued to languish in prison pending the verdict that was delivered Monday at the criminal chamber of Ziguinchor.
This case, which dates back to January 2018, had made the news at the time in Senegal.
Some 20 woodcutters were taken to task by armed assailants in the classified forest of Boffa Bayotte, located south of Ziguinchor.
According to the testimony of survivors, several dozen armed men, dressed in uniforms and sometimes hooded, gathered the woodcutters in a remote corner of the forest before opening fire.
While some observers believe that the conviction of Cesar Atoute Badiate could jeopardize negotiations to end the 40-year rebellion in Casamance, the situation on the ground shows that the balance of power is in favor of the Senegalese government, which has recaptured many rebel bases in recent months.
In this sense, President Macky Sall has encouraged the military to continue “without respite (their) operations until all assigned objectives are achieved” in the south of the country.
However, tensions surrounding the rebellion have been rekindled in recent days by members of and close to the government.
After the large opposition demonstration last Wednesday with Ousmane Sonko, the new mayor of Ziguinchor and a radical opponent to President Macky Sall, the government spokesman confirmed rumors of the arrest of rebels bound for Dakar.
They would have come to the capital to attend the opposition’s political rally that was intended to put pressure on the government to validate the national list of the opposition coalition known as ‘Yewwi Askan Wi’ (Free the People) for the July 31, 2022 legislative elections.
But to the activist Guy Marius Sagna, a close ally of Ousmane Sonko and originally from Casamance, “Macky Sall and his gang are the real rebels.”