Senegal, southern rebels sign accords to end one of Africa’s oldest conflicts
The accord, signed in neighboring Guinea-Bissau, allows rebels fighting a separatist campaign in the Casamance region since 1982 to lay down their arms and work towards a lasting peace.
Senegal has signed an agreement with rebels from the south of the country who have pledged to lay down their arms and work towards lasting peace in the homeland of one of Africa’s oldest active rebels.
Rebel leader Cesar Atoute Badiate, head of a unit of the Casamance Democratic Forces Movement (MFDC), and an envoy of Senegalese President Macky Sall signed the peace accord in Guinea-Bissau on Thursday.
Sall had made a “final peace” in the Casamance region one of the priorities of his second term.
“How many people have died, (been) maimed, or left their village? We will accompany you in your search for peace,” Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo told Badiate during the signing ceremony.
Embalo, who is also Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), added: “I can assure you that we will be the guarantors of this agreement.”
The signed document will remain confidential for the time being.
“I welcome the Peace Agreement and Laydown of Arms signed in Bissau on August 4 between Senegal and the Provisional Committee of the political and combatant wing of the MFDC,” Sall said on Twitter.
“I remain committed to consolidating lasting peace in Casamance,” he added, thanking Embalo for his mediation.
CONTINUE READING: Senegal launches military operation against rebels in the south
The unstable past of the Casamance
The Casamance, Senegal’s southernmost region, is almost separated from the rest of the country by the tiny state of The Gambia. It has a distinct culture and language stemming from its past as a former Portuguese colony.
The MFDC has waged a low-intensity separatist campaign since 1982 that has claimed several thousand lives.
But the conflict was mostly dormant until Senegal launched a major offensive last year to drive out the rebels.
In a clash on January 24, four Senegalese soldiers were killed and seven were captured alive and taken across the border to Gambia. The rebels released the hostages the following month.
In March, the army launched a new operation in which it claimed to have destroyed several rebel bases, with the loss of one soldier and eight wounded.
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