More than 690 people have fled their homes following intensifying conflict between the Senegalese army and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance in the country’s southern region.
Since the Senegalese military launched an offensive against the separatist group, more than 6,000 villagers in Casamance and surrounding villages have abandoned their homes to seek refuge in neighbouring countries like the Gambia.
Formed in 1982, the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance has been largely dormant since a ceasefire in 2014 but continues to launch occasional attacks, prompting military interventions. Early this year, the rebel group reportedly abducted seven soldiers and killed four after an intense gun battle between the two groups.
The Casamance rebellion has thrived on the idea that the region is being exploited and its people marginalized.
On the other hand, the Senegalese army has shared that the recent operation in Casamance is aimed at dismantling rebel group bases along the Gambian border. The rebels have also been accused of trafficking cannabis and rosewood to fund their movement.
Dame Beye, who leads several civil society organizations in Casamance told reporters that the region had enjoyed relative stability and peace since 2013, but now the situation is dire.
“We think that the solution is an open dialogue because the results we achieved from 2013 to the present happened because they agreed to lay down their arms and talk,” he said. “That’s the only thing that could bring peace to Casamance. Because we’ve suffered too much from this conflict,” he said.