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Fighting Stops in Casamance, But Conflict Continues

Though the recent fighting in Senegal's Casamance region has stopped, the country's minister of foreign affairs said the region's independence is not up for negotiation.

The shooting that could be heard sporadically through days and nights in Senegal's southern Casamance region has stopped. But tensions remain between government soldiers and rebels from the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance.

One rebel source says they have moved from their previous posts, forced out by fire from government troops.

Last week, a statement signed by Cesar Badiate was released, saying he represented the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance. The statement named people who the rebel group felt could negotiate on their behalf.

But Lamine Sagna, who served as secretary for the former MFDC leader Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, said Badiate does not have the authority to speak on behalf of the MFDC.

Sagna says Cesar Badiate, to my knowledge, is not the head of the general forces of the MFDC. He says Badiate was in charge of an operation that already passed.

The MFDC rebels have been fighting a low-level insurgency for independence in Casamance since 1982. It is one of the longest-running conflicts on the African continent.

This week, Senegal Minister of Foreign Affairs Madické Niang told a local radio station Casamance would be part of Senegal until "the extinction of the sun."

The government and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance signed a peace accord in 2004, but attacks have escalated in recent months. Thousands of civilians have been displaced because of the fighting.