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Located on the northwestern coast of Africa, Senegal is lauded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. It is the only country in post-colonial Africa that has avoided a military coup against its democratic government. However, the democracy of Senegal still experiences lapses in its democratic process, a common ailment of African nations establishing independence post-colonization.

2004 marked the beginning of the most significant violent conflict in Senegal’s recent history. Located in the southwestern corner of Senegal lies Casamance, a province which has been vying for independence from the Senegalese government since 1982. Civil unrest in Casamance came to a head in 2004, with instances of violent conflict being documented well into 2014. The conflict between the Casamance rebels, known as the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC), and the official Senegalese military has displaced thousands and taken a serious toll on civilian life.

While a ceasefire was signed by both warring factions in 2014, fighting between the Senegalese army and the MFDC continues today, albeit at a much smaller scale. Little has been done to reincorporate internally displaced Senegalese people into the state and remediate the living conditions of those affected by the civil strife of the separatist movement. Below are 10 facts about Senegalese refugees and their status as liminal bodies in a warring state.

  1. Sixty percent of Senegal’s population lives on less $3.10 a day, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain even the most basic human necessities such as food, water, shelter and vaccines.
  2. The richest 20 percent of Senegal hold 46.9 percent of the country’s wealth, illustrating that those displaced by conflict have limited economic resources to rebuild their lives.
  3. The most recent data concerning casualties resulting from the conflict states that approximately 14 civilians, including persons of refugee and internally displaced status, have been killed since February. The continued destruction of human life despite the three-year-old cease-fire illustrates that the conflict still seriously threatens the stability of the nation.
  4. The Senegalese government reports that the MFDC has repeatedly looted local villages to fund its military campaigns. However, the only official report on this comes from a readily biased Senegalese account, illustrating that the control of information is perhaps detrimental to the nation’s democracy.
  5. According to the most recently conducted study, there are an estimated 62,638 internally displaced people (IDP) in and around Senegal as a result of this civil strife.
  6. While physical displacement is the most severe form of displacement, less extreme forms of displacement, including the postponing of infrastructure development, has decreased post-war job opportunities and caused economic stagnation.
  7. Stigmatization of the entire Casamance region has also had impacted civilian life and citizens’ ability to relocate and establish themselves within the larger Senegalese economy.
  8. Humanitarian efforts to aid IDPs have largely focused on conflict resolution and the rebuilding of infrastructure and have not necessarily addressed the most basic and urgent needs of returning IDPs.
  9. The number of non-military landmine deaths was estimated to be around 748 as of December 2008. Efforts to remove landmines exist but are typically run by the Senegalese government, which is more or less unresponsive to the needs of Senegalese refugees and IDPs located in war-torn areas.
  10. Corruption within the MFDC led to a largely war-based economy, which has since devolved into drug trafficking and has initiated a new wave of terror for the people of Casamance. Drug trafficking is especially heavy between Casamance and Guinea-Bissau, and some Senegalese refugees in this area have looked to the notoriously violent narco-trafficking trade for work.

While the recovery statuses of the Casamance region and the Senegalese refugees’ areas are problematic, political and social stability is slowly being reinstated. Approximately one-third of IDPs have returned home in recent years, and the worst of the bloodshed has subsided. Further international intervention seems to be required for complete resolution.

Spencer Linford

Photo: Flickr