Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is peace finally at hand in Casamance?

The unilateral cease fire declared recently by Salif Sadio appears to hold more promise than previous cease fires in the 32-year old low intensity war, making it the longest unresolved conflict in Africa.

The election of a new President in Macky Sall gave Senegal a new push in search of peace in the Casamance, a peace process that started during the administration of President Wade.

Preliminary peace talks started in Rome on the 13-14 October, 2012 under the auspices of the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio.  The process continued under Macky Sall with the February 2014 when 'confidence-building measures' were adopted by both parties which, among other measures, the  Macky Sall government agreed publicly and in writing that "there is no arrest warrant issued against Salif Sadio", leader of the most important faction of the rebel groups.

The confidence building measures also included a guarantee of free movement of Salif Sadio and the commitment of both parties "to maintain a behavior that can facilitate negotiations" that can lead to peace.

The process's success to this point leading up to the MFDC cease fire is attributable in part to the isolation of parties Macky Sall consider to be tangential in nature who may have actually contributed to lack of progress in the search for peace in the Casamance.  The decision of the Sall's government to maintain the Community of Sant"Egidio process started under Wade assured continuity, and provided the opportunity to build on the gains made of the past couple of years.

Two significant deviation from previous policy seemed to have proved significant to the unilateral cease fire announced by Salif Sadio.  The first is the marginalization of the "collectif des cadres casamancaise" (known simple as the "Colletif") headed by the local entrepreneur Pierre Goudiaby ATEPA, and second is the exclusion of Yaya Jammeh from taking part in the peace process.

Both the "Collectif" and Yaya Jammeh were seen by many in the new administration to have contributed to the lack of success during the 12 years of the Wade presidency, who famously promised to resolve the conflict in 100 days upon his assuming office.

The peace process appears to have received a significant helping hand from the Obama administration by elevating its role with the appointment of a Adviser dedicated exclusively to the conflict in the Casamance.

A source in Dakar who is close to the MFDC confirmed that while the cease fire is in effect, he's unsure of how long it will hold.  When the question was posed to him as to whether Salif Sadio has given up the idea of independence for the Casamance, the surprising answer was in the negative.  When he was asked why, he refused to respond over the phone.  We hope he's wrong, and for good reason.