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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 02:05 GMT 03:05 UK
New efforts to end Senegal conflict
By Chris Simpson in Dakar

Fresh efforts are being made to end the long-running conflict in the south of Senegal.

Senegalese President Abdelaye Wade
President Wade has praised the separatist leader for his moderation
A separatist movement, the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces, the MFDC, is holding a special congress in the Gambian capital, Banjul, to try to heal internal divisions and put up a united front.

The MFDC signed a peace agreement with the government of Senegal in March, but a low-intensity conflict has continued in Casamance.

Much of the violence has been blamed on separatist hardliners, who have accused the MFDC leadership of betraying the separatist cause.

Moderate leader

The MFDC has spent much of the past 17 years fighting for a special status for the south of Senegal.

But the movement's leader, Father Augustin Diamacoune-Senghor, now in his 70s, has distanced himself from both the armed struggle and the demand for a separate state.

Mr Diamacoune, who signed the peace agreement with the Senegalese Government, was praised by President Abdoulaye Wade for his foresight and moderation.

But he has not been able to unite his movement behind the peace deal.

Factionalised movement

The MFDC has always been heavily factionalised, and hardline elements have rejected the compromise with the government, continuing to carry out armed attacks and ambushes and provoking strong counter-insurgency measures from the government army.

Mr Diamacoune is now in the Gambian capital, Banjul, trying to unite the MFDC.

Delegates from all the movement's rival wings are meant to join him, thrashing out a common position and accepting the case for peace.

The Senegalese Government badly needs to bring the whole of the MFDC into a dialogue.

The conflict in Casamance has proved highly disruptive, destabilizing the local economy, hitting tourism revenues and complicating relations with neighbouring countries like The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.

See also:

13 Mar 01 | Africa
Ambush in Casamance
25 Dec 00 | Africa
Six die in Casamance violence
17 Dec 00 | Africa
Senegal peace talks end abruptly
02 Apr 00 | Africa
New era for Senegal
23 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Senegal
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