May 5, 2014:
Not all peacekeeping requires peacekeepers, sometimes it just requires patience and an offer the troublemakers can’t refuse. Such is the case in Senegal where the government believes it has finally worked out a peace deal with the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) separatist rebels. This deal might actually work.
The MFDC unrest has been going on since 1982, has left over 5,000 dead and made life miserable in Casamance an area that contains only about four percent of Senegal’s 14 million people. The MFDC rebellion has been low key but persistent, with a spike in 1992-2001 that left over a thousand dead and caused a split in the MFDC. This sort of situation is typical throughout Africa, where groups of armed men maintain control, or at least freedom, in an area, often on a border. The central government does not consider it worth the trouble and expense to deal with the situation. Such was the case with MFDC.
Back in 2004 Senegal offered another amnesty for MFDC, after the rebels agreed to clear landmines from the southern Casamance region and the end a decades-old conflict. That did not work out. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded by mines in Casamance, a former tourist attraction and fertile farming area bordering Guinea-Bissau and Gambia. Economic activity in Casamance has been crippled by three decades of separatist violence. MFDC demands more autonomy for the largely Christian and animist population in Casamance. Most Senegalese are Moslem but religious persecution isn’t what keeps the rebellion going. MFDC quickly turned into a criminal gang, dominated by some of the local smuggling groups. Most of the mines were planted by the MFDC, either to discourage army or police patrols or as a form of extortion (local villagers would not be told where the mines secretly planted around their village was until they paid up). The MFDC no longer has much popular appeal and the government peace offer has a lot of popular support in Casamance.