Dakar (Agenzia Fides) - "We are deeply concerned about the armed conflict that is currently taking place in northern Casamance", declares the Community of Sant'Egidio, which for years has acted as a mediator for peace between the government of Senegal and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). A "low-intensity" civil war has been raging in the Casamance region of southern Senegal since 1982. On Sunday night, March 13, the Senegalese army announced that it had launched an operation against the rebels in Casamance. The offensive was launched less than two months after the deaths of four Senegalese soldiers and the capture of seven others by rebels in the Gambian border area.
The seven soldiers, members of the West African Military Mission in Gambia (ECOMIG), were later released. The release of the soldiers was made possible through the mediation of the Community of Sant'Egidio. "Following the clashes that occurred on January 24th between Senegalese soldiers from the West African regional mission ECOMIG and fighters from the MFDC led by Salif Sadio, Sant'Egidio intervened to stop the incidents and limit their consequences, managing to obtain the return of the bodies of the fallen Senegalese soldiers and the release of the seven Senegalese soldiers captured by the MFDC", it said in a statement.
According to the Senegalese army, the main objective of its own operation is to destroy the MFDC bases on the northern border with Gambia. At the same time, the goal of dismantling all criminal gangs active in this area is being pursued.
The Senegalese military offensive is also affecting neighboring Gambia, where detonations of heavy weapons and gunfire have affected people in villages on the border with Senegal, according to the Gambian government.
As a result of the military operations, numerous displaced persons and refugees from Casamance have also arrived in Gambian villages on the border. "Sant'Egidio calls for an end to the current military operations by the Senegalese army in order to ensure the stability of the affected region and to keep the path of dialogue open". The Community also reiterates its full willingness to continue the negotiation process, convinced that only through a reasonable negotiation will a definitive peace in Casamance be possible". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 16/3/2022)