AFRICA/SENEGAL - The plague of Casamance and cocaine trafficking

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dakar (Agenzia Fides) – Tension increases in Casamance, region of Senegal wedged between Gambia and Guinea Bissau, a "low intensity" theater of war since 1982 for the presence of an independence movement. On 13 December, an armed group attacked the village of Kabeum, causing a number of victims. The historical Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting for years for the independence of the territory is now divided into different armed groups, dedicated more to banditry than to the political guerrilla warfare.
"There are many armed groups operating in Casamance," explains to Fides Fr. Giuseppe Giordano, OMI missionary who has been working in Senegal for many years. "The clashes in past days took place near the border with Gambia, but there are also phenomena of banditry on the border with Guinea Bissau. In these cases we cannot exclude that we are talking about banditry from this latter Country, where, among other things, poorly paid military are not new to such acts".
With regards to the possibility that the increasing flow of cocaine passing through West Africa from Latin America and towards Europe can play a role in increasing the instability of the Casamance, the missionary says, "it cannot be excluded. Drugs certainly come from Latin America to Guinea Bissau, especially in the islands of the archipelago. From Guinea Bissau, however, it is not easy to transfer it directly to Europe, because the country is poorly connected to the rest of the world. For example, links with Europe are limited to two weekly flights to Portugal".
"So - reflects Fr. Giordano - if you create an instable border area in Senegal with Guinea Bissau, one can assume that this will facilitate the transfer of loads of cocaine to the airport through the territory of Senegal to the airport in Dakar which is rather well connected with the rest the world: with the whole of Africa, with Europe and North America. Much of what goes on in Senegal has been underlined and said many times, but it is really hard to know what the situation is really like", warns Fr. Giuseppe in conclusion. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 15/12/2011)