Cablegate: Casamance of Senegal: A Stalled Peace Process

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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: A permanent peace in the Casamance remains
elusive since the fragmentation of the MFDC (Movement of Democratic
Forces of Casamance) following the death of its founder Father
Diamacoune Senghor and the resulting in-fighting amongst the group's
military wing, Atika. President Abdoulaye Wade's undeclared
strategy of maintaining the status quo in the hope that the
rebellion will die a natural death has lead to an absence of
significant dialogue between the GOS and the MFDC. Marijuana
growing and highway robberies, and other illicit acitivies provide
enough financial incentives for rebels to continue to stay in the
MFDC. End summary.

No Political Representation

2. (SBU) The MFDC's loose political structure did not survive the
death of Father Diamacoune Senghor, leaving the government without
an interlocutor that could speak for the whole of the MFDC. Those
that now claim to speak for the group have little support and
include Abdoulaye Diedhiou, who is in jail in the Gambia, and
Nkrumah Sane, a hardliner who lives in exile in Paris. Ansoumana
Badji, a former secretary general of the MFDC who maintains ties
with President Wade's office while shuttling between Lisbon, Paris,
Dakar and the Casamance, told the Embassy that Wade "believes that
the conflict is over and is no longer listening." In his view, Wade
thinks that sooner or later the MFDC will capitulate. This view
seems to be corroborated by the fact that the Foundiougne
negotiations to resolve the conflict have been abandoned and that
the GOS no longer has a Casamance mediator.

3. (SBU) Jean-Marie Biagui, the current but not widely supported
Secretary General of the MFDC told the Embassy he was disappointed

with Wade's refusal to appoint two MFDC members to Senegal's Senate.
Biagui argued that this would have given a voice to the MFDC within
the country and paved the way for an integration of MFDC members
within institutions after a negotiated settlement. Biagui, who is
for decentralized rule in the Casamance, told the Embassy that Wade
had initially accepted his proposition but reversed course when
Presidential adviser, Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, a Casamance native,
warned that this would cause serious divisions and tension within
the Joola population, the leading ethnic group in the separatist

Fragmented Armed Groups and Interference

4. (SBU) Though fragmented, Atika has armed men in areas bordering
both the Gambia and Guinea Bissau. Atika's leading commander Salif
Sadio enjoys the protection of Gambian President Jammeh who gave him
a safe haven following several attacks by a mix of Senegalese and
Bissau Guinean soldiers and fighters from two rival branches within
Atika led by Magne Dieme and Cesar Atoute Badiate. Dieme is the
architect of a strategy, supported by Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, to
kill Sadio and build a unified command with Badiate to restart talks
with the GOS. However, there are unconfirmed reports that Dieme
died while being interrogated by Gambian police who were trying to
ascertain whether nor not his group supported former Gambian chief
of staff Colonel Cham's coup attempt. For its part, the GOS remains
quiet while Jammeh, who benefits from this conflict and who needs
Joola support to stay in power, detains its MFDC "allies" as they
believe that a decapitated and fragmented MFDC is more malleable
than a unified one.

Yet the Mood is Upbeat in the Casamance

5. (SBU) While talk of conflict and armed robberies continue, the
mood amongst the people of the Casamance remains cautiously upbeat.
During a recent trip to the region Poloff discussed the situation in
the region with several NGOs and local activists and they were all
unified in their belief that peace has never been closer. When
asked why, they all emphasized that people have had enough of the
conflict. Moroever, they contended that as older rebel leaders have
died no younger ones have emerged with the ability to hold the
rebellion together. Meanwhile, local NGOs, several with USG funds,
are focusing their programs on conflict resolution, inter-communal
dialogue, methods to achieve peace and young people.

6. (SBU) World Education, an American NGO working to improve the
lives of the poor through economic and social development, has
funded the creation of six community radios. For the first time, a
medium now exists to give the various players in the conflict a
means to express themselves and allow others to know what they
think, the MFDC included. World Education Director Abdou Sarr told
Poloff that this program has been so successful that they are being
inundated with requests for assistance to help set up more community

DAKAR 00000151 002 OF 002

stations. The stations have programs in all of Senegal's main
languages as well as in local dialects. World Education monitors
the programming to make sure that the focus remains on the peace
process. He went on to say that they plan to increase the number of
radio stations to 12 because they believe that the fundamental
barrier to peace is a lack of communication between the many actors
in this complex struggle.

7. (SBU) Ibrahim Ba, the director of CONGAD, a national umbrella
organization for the many NGOs in Senegal, echoed a similar view,
saying the MFDC is losing popular support and that there has been a
clear reduction in the intensity of the conflict. However, he
warned that some parties, mainly those involved in illegal logging
and drug trafficking, had much to gain from keeping this conflict
alive. He also lamented a lack of engagement from Dakar saying:
"everybody in the region knows exactly what needs to be done to
resolve conflict but all Dakar does is come here and bribe some
people and leave." Still Ba remains upbeat: "In the past the
conflict had widespread local support but nowadays that is no longer
the case."


8. (SBU) Although there seems to be widespread local support for an
end to the conflict, prospects for a definitive negotiated peace
settlement remain elusive, especially since the GOS seems to be
favoring a policy to allow the MFDC to either simply wither on vine
or to self-destruct by encouraging internal fighting within Atika
and by bribing its political leaders. Thus, while the MFDC has been
weakened, the frustrations that caused the rebellion in the first
place are still there. Life in the Casamance is a juxtaposition of
extreme poverty and insecurity for its inhabitants with abundant
natural resources that have the potential to change the face of the
region. Nowadays, the conflict has morphed from a fight for
independence for the region into lucrative sources of income for
rebels who have branched into marijuana growing, highway robbery,
and illegal logging (the military is also alleged to be involved in
illegal logging). Reportedly, the MFDC has gone so far as to gain
control of orchards by mining the areas around them. This situation
is likely to continue, given the GOS's lack of political will to
resolve the conflict and the government's preoccupation with Wade's

9. (SBU) There is, however, a significant risk that President Wade
could lose the strategic gamble he is making. The Casamance region
borders the fragile, quasi-narco state of Guinea-Bissau. While we
have no reason to believe at this time that the MFDC is implicated
in trafficking of South American cocaine from Guinea-Bissau, the
danger is clear. The GOS barely controls the Casamance region and
Senegal's borders are porous.

© Scoop Media

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