Senegalese Refugees Speak Out Amid Increased Violence



Southern Senegal is experiencing some of the worst fighting in years, as violence between separatist rebels and army loyalists flares.  The fighting has left one small town in rural Senegal deserted, as farmers are forced to leave their crops to languish due to safety concerns.

Nearly 200 protesters gathered outside government offices in Ziguinchor in southern Senegal this week.  Some held signs that read, "We Are Tired of the Fighting."

Residents of Diabir flee fighting

Most of the protesters were residents of Diabir, a small town 15 kilometers outside Ziguinchor.  Diabir is nearly deserted now, as its residents have fled after an increase in fighting between the Senegalese Army and members of the separatist rebel movement known as the Movement for the Democratic Forces of Casamance, or MFDC.

A teacher from Diabir says he was forced to leave his home and stay with family in Ziguinchor.

"My name is Thierno Diallo," he said. "I am a teacher in Diabir, in the outskirts of Ziguinchor.  In that area since the fighting between the MFDC troops and the Senegalese army began, people are leaving their villages for Ziguinchor.  A lot of people who are there are really now in bad conditions and they are really living in dire straits."

The fighting is part of one the longest-running conflicts in Africa.  The conflict began in 1982, when MFDC separatists launched a rebellion against the Senegalese government.

A peace accord was reached in 2004, but in the past month the area has seen some of the worst violence since 2002.  Last week, rebels shot and killed a Senegalese loyalist soldier.  In retaliation, a military jet belonging to the Senegalese army bombed the positions of the rebel movement.

The fighting is hurting local farmers, who have been forced to leave their crops unattended amidst the violence said Diallo.

"It is the rainy season," said Diallo. "And people should be in their farms trying to plow the lands, and now it will be very difficult for them to do their jobs in their fields."

People angry with government

At this week's rally, another resident of Diabir, Ousmane Diop, said he is angry with the government for not making their area safe against the rebel attacks.

He said his area is usually without electricity, and at night bandits invade their homes.  He added people with guns constantly come in and steal their livestock.

Another Diabir resident, Mama Mbouray Kande says she is traumatized by what is happening in her small town.

There is fighting and there is darkness, says Kande.  At the demonstration this week, she said there are no longer army soldiers in the rural areas to protect her and her children.  She pleaded with the government to send military police to the area to protect them from the bandits and rebels.

Because of safety concerns, Kande and her family fled their home.  She is now staying in a temporary shelter for refugees, set up inside a school in Ziguinchor.

Diallo adds this housing situation only compounds the problem, because soon the government will be forced to move the refugees when school starts in Ziguinchor.

"Most of them are now in Ziguinchor with relatives or they are in schools and the school will be opening very soon," he said. "And it will be a very difficult problem for the government to make the population leave the school and to prepare for the opening of the academic year."

At the rally, a member of the armed forces who refused to be named insisted they were doing all they could to protect the population.

This week, Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade promised to continue with peace efforts in the region.  But he added he thought peace had been achieved when his government signed the peace accords in 2004 with the MFDC.

When the fighting began more than 25 years ago, families in the region were driven from their homes.  But in recent years, they had started to return to the land, where agriculture provides the main source of income.   


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs