News

Senegalese Refugees Speak Out Amid Increased Violence

Multimedia

Audio

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.
Comments
     
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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs