The Senegalese army has ended a "clean-up" campaign it started on 21 June to restore security in Casamance, Southern Senegal, sources said on Tuesday. The military announced on 7 July that it had ceased operations, according to the sources, who added that the situation in Casamance had been calm in the past week.
The operation had been launched after a wave of armed attacks and seizures of passenger cars in Casamance. These acts had been blamed on the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) which has been fighting for self-determination for the area since 1982. While the army maintained that its aim was to protect the population, the MFDC said the operation had been an attempt by the military to engage the group and flush out its fighters.
MFDC spokesman Alexandre Djiba denied media reports that the MFDC had suffered casualties and that hundreds of its men had been arrested. He told IRIN from Banjul, The Gambia, that the group had suffered no loss in personnel nor in equipment because there had been no direct fighting between the MFDC and the army.
The 20-year conflict has caused many deaths, some due to landmines, and population displacement. Peace accords were signed in 2001 between the state and a section of the MFDC. The two sides have held meetings since then with a view to resolving the crisis peacefully. However, little has been achieved thus far. The MFDC said it hoped to have another meeting with the government in mid-August. "There is no war to be won in Casamance," Djiba said, adding that only peace negotiations could solve the conflict.
An NGO source in Casamance said the lack of credible interlocutors and the fact that both parties wanted to come out "with their heads high" were blocking the peace effort.