Senegal’s southern Casamance region has seen a low-level civil war for more than three decades. The Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de la Casamance (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance, MFDC) has been fighting for independence since 1982 in Casamance, which although connected to Senegal in the east is separated from the rest of the country by Gambia.
Although rarely mentioned in global analyses of armed conflict, the violence in Casamance has killed around 5,000 people and displaced another 50,000, according to commonly-cited figures. On-off talks between successive governments under Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade saw several ceasefire agreements signed, but the long-running dispute remains to be resolved decisively. Casamance therefore continues to be plagued by small scale conflict, which opposes the Senegalese government in Dakar and a now fragmented MFDC. Ambushes, trafficking, skirmishes and landmines pose a continuing threat to the area's stability. There have also been clashes between separatists and the army of neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, and it is commonly accepted that any solution will have to involve Guinea-Bissau as well as Gambia.
A recent warming of Senegalese relations with these two countries has given hope that the stalled peace progress can be restarted at national level, while Senegalese president Macky Sall has proposed a raft of measures to support agricultural and economic development in Casamance, the perceived marginalisation of which was one of the reasons leading to the outbreak of violence in the 1980s.
Last updated: July 2015