Cablegate: Casamance: Increased Violence and a Potential New Leader

DE RUEHDK #1440/01 3291432
R 251432Z NOV 09





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Casamance: Increased Violence and a Potential New Leader

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Between November 2-4, PolCouns visited the
Casamance to assess the region's volatile security situation where
road hijackings by armed gunmen have become commonplace.
Additionally, a border quarrel between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau
near Cabrousse has created tensions that have led to a significant
increase in the presence of both militaries which resulted in a
standoff, but so far has not developed into an active conflict. End

Rebels at the Door of Ziguinchor

2. (SBU) In the past, fighters from the Movement of Democratic
Forces of Casamance (MFDC) had avoided static positions near towns
and villages for fear of being shelled. But in a bold recent move
they attacked the village of Baraf, two miles from the regional
capital Ziguinchor, and now occupy the school of Baraf. The Prefect
of Ziguinchor told Embassy that they had relocated 200 elementary
school students from Baraf to the city of Ziguinchor and wondered
why the state was not doing anything to dislodge the rebels. The
Governor of Ziguinchor promised the people of Baraf that the state
would protect them, but those who tried to return to Baraf were
threatened by rebels and had to leave their homes again. The
Governor has since been changed and replaced by Cheikh Tidiane
Dieng, the former Governor of Tambacounda, who is reputed to be
close to the ruling party. The rebels are apparently occupying
Baraf because it sits at a crucial crossroads for produce coming
from the south on its way to Ziguinchor and then north.

The Prodigal Son

3. (SBU) President Abdoulaye Wade recently appointed the Mayor of
Ziguinchor, Abdoulaye Balde, to be the new Minister of Defense.
This puts Balde at the heart of the Casamance crisis during a period
characterized by the lack of a serious peace initiatives and the
paralysis of the political wing of the MFDC. It is not clear if
Balde will be willing to invest his political capital in this
complex crisis - a feeling that was echoed by the chair of the
Regional Council of Ziguinchor. A close aide to Balde confided to
PolCouns that he is not in a position to cross partisan lines to
bring together all the actors who can help piece together the peace
puzzle in the Casamance. He noted that Balde is a prisoner of his
supporters, who see Casamance politics as a zero sum game.

Unified command

4. (SBU) In the absence of a credible political branch, the military
wing of the MFDC now leads the way and this partly accounts for the
fierce leadership battle that has erupted among various factions.
Several sources close to the MFDC told PolCouns that the MFDC is now
closer than ever to having a unified command. The man who may take
charge is Mamadou Niantang Diatta, from Kartiak in northern
Casamance. He allegedly occupies the base that used to be the
stronghold of Salif Sadio known as Etat Major near Guinea-Bissau.
Salif allegedly agreed to give up his command for a unified one
under Niantang Diatta. Diatta wishes to have a non-bloody
transition and his approach is to have Cesar Atoute Badiate and
other prominent rebels form a consultative body around him in the
new command.

Cabrousse Border Dispute

5. (SBU) A new element that may influence the Casamance conflict is
the border dispute between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. The dispute
started when Victor Mandiga, a former Minister of Finance of
Guinea-Bissau, allegedly tried to build a hotel on a piece of land
belonging to Guinea-Bissau stretching from the village of
Boudiediete to Cap Roxo (near Cap Skiring in Senegal). Mandiga
built his own PVC border markers painted in red and white and
planted them to make the border visible. The border in that area is
demarcated by three almost invisible concrete stones, known as
markers 182, 183, and 184, left by the Portuguese. This land is
traditionally cultivated by local Senegalese villagers who believe
it is part of Senegal and had even authorized a small hotel to be
built there. As the border area is not directly accessible from
Guinea-Bissau one has to either go through the border post of Mpack
(in Senegal) or cross a river by pirogue. The people of Cabrousse
not only uprooted and threw away Mandiga's border markers but they
also destroyed the coconut tress he had planted on this piece of
land allegedly allocated to him by the Government of Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau soldiers march into Senegal

6. (SBU) During the week of October 19, a company of Bissau Guinean

DAKAR 00001440 002 OF 002

soldiers crossed the river and occupied the small hotel owned by a
Senegalese named Aziz. They planted two brand new flags supported
by tree branches. The Deputy Prefect of Cabrousse told PolCouns
that Bissau Guineans entered about one kilometer into Senegalese
territory to the lighthouse on Cape Roxo to look for border marker
184, which they alleged the Senegalese had destroyed on purpose.

7. (SBU) A veteran NCO who mans the Senegalese military post of
Boudiediete told PolCouns that he walked with the Bissau Guinean
soldiers and made sure they did not go into the village of Cabrousse
as he felt that some of them were clearly on a punitive mission and
wanted the villagers to pay for the vandalism against Mandiga's
project. The NCO regretted that the Senegalese authorities did not
act in time to resolve this dispute, which has actually been brewing
since 2008. He further commented that intelligence provided to him
by his informers indicated that Guinea-Bissau had assembled about
three thousand troops with heavy equipment along the border (near
Suzana and Valera). On November 4, PolCouns crossed into
Guinea-Bissau, where the Deputy Prefect of Sao Domingo confirmed the
presence of troops (scaled down) in the Valera area. The same day,
Zamora Induta, the Chief of Staff of Guinea-Bissau's armed forces
came to inspect the troops. (Comment: For Induta, this border
crisis was a perfect opportunity to stamp some measure of authority
over the country's fractious military by using the issue of
sovereignty as a rallying point. End comment.)

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The security situation in the Casamance has
deteriorated as evidence by a noticeable increase in military
personnel. So far, the GOS has managed to restrain its armed
forces, but if the border dispute with Guinea-Bissau is not proQly
resolved, it could provide the MFDC with new allies in the Bissau
Guinean army and shatter the fragile and relative peace in the
Casamance. The situation has degraded sufficiently that several
members of the donors group (i.e. Austria, Belgium, Canada, the
European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UNDP, the United
Kingdom, and the United States) have agreed to send a letter to the
Prime Minister expressing concern about the rise in violence and the
potential impact on development and humanitarian projects in the
region. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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