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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Senegal 'separatist war is over'
Senegalese soldiers
The army has failed to end the war in 21 years
A 21-year secession war in Senegal's southern province of Casamance has finished, says the rebel leader.

Jean-Marie Francois Biagui was speaking at a gathering of hundreds of rebel delegates in the Casamance capital, Ziguinchor.

However, hardline factions did not turn up to the meeting, raising doubts about whether the fighting will stop.

The war has killed hundreds and displaced many thousands from what is dry Senegal's most fertile region.

Casamance, with a mixture of Muslims, Christians and Animists and many different ethnic groups, is divided from the mostly Muslim north by The Gambia.

Correspondents say that in recent years, much of the violence in Casamance has been robberies, rather than attacks on the army or state institutions.

Sceptical

"I wish to stress here and now that for us the war is definitely over," said Mr Biagui, secretary-general of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC).

Like Mr Biagui, the long-time MFDC leader, Father Diamacoune-Senghor, is also in favour of holding talks with the government.

The meeting was intended to thrash out a common position between the different wings of the rebel group.

However, the armed wing of the MFDC did not take part.

The BBC's Alpha Jallow in Ziguinchor said that locals feel that peace talks can only succeed if the hardline factions are brought on board.


SEE ALSO:
Clashes in Casamance
27 Mar 02  |  Africa


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