Mediation and support for the peace process in Casamance – Senegal

In 1982, a separatist rebellion started in the Casamance region of South Senegal, resulting in one of the longest lasting conflicts in Africa, which is ongoing to this day. The region, surrounded by the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and the Atlantic Ocean, has seen a decrease in the level of intensity of the conflict – though there remains a clear need for a reconciliation process to be established. This is the context in which HD, present in Senegal since 2014, is assisting the peace process in Casamance.

Context

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The Casamance region of Senegal is separated from the rest of the country by the Gambia, which contributes to a sentiment of political and economic marginalisation within the region’s population. Since the 1980s, this sentiment has fed into a separatist rebellion, led by the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). The conflict today has lost much of its intensity, though remains unresolved despite successive attempts at a peace process. The MFDC split into four factions due to internal disagreements, compromising the pursuit of peace efforts.

President Macky Sall reached out to the rebels of Casamance following his election in March 2012, initiating a dialogue with the Northern Front of the MFDC, with the support of the Community of Sant’Edigio. In 2014, the government mandated the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) to re-launch negotiations with three of the Southern Front movements, as negotiations were previously interrupted in 2013.

Given the largely forgotten nature of the conflict, any peace agreement must allow rebels to return to civilian life, while allowing the daily life of Casamance residents to return to a state of normality. The agreement must also respond to the grievances that led rebels to take up arms. Furthermore, a reconciliation process will need to be negotiated in order to heal the wounds of the past and to prevent a resurgence of violence.

Activities

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HD has worked towards instilling the necessary conditions for the pursuit of political negotiations between the government and the three Southern Fronts of the MFDC since 2014. Having established contact with all parties to the conflict and with the actors bearing influence on these (the state, armed groups, the diaspora, and civil society), HD is focusing its efforts on the establishment of an inclusive and legitimate negotiation platform, which would in turn allow the three Southern Fronts to develop and coordinate a negotiation strategy. HD’s main objectives are to:

  • Promote the establishment of an inclusive political dialogue between the relevant parties. To do this, HD is encouraging the involvement of all actors holding an influence on the conflict in order to ensure that any proposed solutions are in turn accepted by all;
  • Assist in negotiations between the Senegalese state and the three Southern Fronts of the MFDC, both in the lead up to and following the conclusion of an official mediation process, in order to reinforce its outcomes. HD is supporting parties to the conflict in elaborating their grievances, demands, and red lines, to this end.

Donor support

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HD would like to thank the European Union for its support to this project in Senegal since 2014.

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