31 years ago, a conflict emerged in the Senegalese region of Casamance and it continues until today. It has been a “low-level” civil war between the Government of Senegal and the pro-independance Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFCD), with a long record of failed negotiations and cyclic outbreaks of violence. Casamance, a region with a potential wealth of resources based on fishing, agriculture and tourism, has suffered: more than 3,000 deaths directly linked to the conflict, 150,000 displaced persons and a hundred villages abandoned.
The conflict has its roots in the political struggle for the independence of Casamance, an unfulfilled promise of the first President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor. And this situation is a reaction to the situation of the Jola, the majority ethnic group in the region, that has always felt economic discrimination compared to the rest of Senegal. A stateless ethnic group, the Jola are also found in Gambia and Guinea Bissau. But Casamance is the only region in which they constitute the main population.
On September 2011, a new movement to end this conflict was born: thePlatform of Women for Peace in Casamance. Ndeye Marie Thiam, the coordinator of this organisation, explains in this article that all they want is “frank, sincere and inclusive negotiations between the Senegalese state and the MFDC”.
Their strategy is intense lobbying with both sides, expressed in marches, prayer vigils and meetings with the most powerful authorities. “We not only organised a campaign to get the largest possible number of candidates to sign a ‘memorandum for peace’ before the first round of the presidential elections in 2012, but held further meetings with the two successful candidates during the second round”, explains Thiam.
Women have always played an active role in the resolution of conflicts in Casamance. This fact, added to the failure of dialogue with the Government, has opened a space for civil society initiatives like this platform.
Also, their initiative can be regarded from a double perspective, women and Shared Societies, in which our Project is beginning to work. The problem of double discrimination: women that suffer discrimination due to factors relating to their social identity such as race, colour, ethnicity and national origin; and also gender discrimination. Some experts, Club de Madrid Members and other leaders working mainly on gender issues and on inter-community relations will join next october a working group meeting that will be hosted in Madrid. The case of this Senegalese Women will be an interesting example.
Photo: Platform of Women for Peace in Casamance