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Sant'Egidio Community Helps Free Senegalese Hostages

Written by Bah Abdoulaye · Translated by Will Masters On 17 January 2013 @ 16:24 pm | 1 Comment

In Citizen Media, French, Governance, History, Human Rights, Indigenous, Italian, Italy, Podcasts, Politics, Religion, Senegal, Sub-Saharan Africa, Weblog, Western Europe

Negotiations started in Rome around [1] mid-October between representatives of the Senegalese Government and the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) [2] [it]. On 9 December, 2012, through the mediation of the Sant'Egidio Community [3], 8 Senegalese prisoners were freed, amongst them are 6 soldiers, a policeman and a civilian, according to [4] the website scoopsdeziguinchor.com [5].

The MFDC, divided into various factions, has led Guerrillas towards independence in Casamance [6] [it], the most southern Senegalese region and a strip of land between Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia, since 1982.

Mappa del Senegal, con il Casamance

The blog fattodiritto.it summarises [7][it] the events:

Nell’ultimo anno, diversi soldati senegalesi sono stati uccisi e altri rapiti nel territorio del Casamance, a seguito di attacchi dei ribelli separatisti. La Comunità cattolica di Sant’Egidio, mediatrice ufficiale tra il governo senegalese e i separatisti, ha iniziato i negoziati a Roma, il 14 Ottobre 2012. Come prima cosa, ha chiesto la liberazione dei soldati senegalesi al leader dell’MFDC, Salif Sadiò, il quale ha aderito positivamente alla richiesta. Ieri, 9 Dicembre 2012, i soldati sono stati liberati alla presenza dei rappresentanti della Croce Rossa Internazionale e la Comunità di Sant’Egidio, composta da don Angelo Romano e Mauro Garofalo. I soldati, sono stati riportati nel territorio della Repubblica del Gambia.

Last year, numerous Senegalese soldiers were killed, and others taken hostage in the region of Casamance, following separatist rebel attacks. The Sant’Egidio’s Catholic community, the official middleman between the Senegalese Government and the separatists, opened the negotiations in Rome, on the 14 October 2012. To begin, there were calls for Salif Sadiò, leader of the MFDC, to release the Senegalese soldiers. Salif Sadiò agreed to the request.  Yesterday, 9 December 2012, the soldiers were released in the presence of representatives of the International Red Cross and the Sant’Egidio Community, comprising Don Angelo Romano and Mauro Garofalo. The soldiers have since returned to the Republic of The Gambia.

Massimo A. Alberizzi adds [8] [it], on the website africaexpress.corriere.it:

Grazie alla comunità di Sant’Egidio che ha trattato a oltranza, otto soldati senegalesi nelle mani dei ribelli che lottano per l’indipendenza della Casamance (la regione più meridionale dell’ex colonia francese) sono stati liberati oggi. Alcuni erano prigionieri da poco meno di due anni, altri da un anno. In realtà uno di loro non è un militare ma un pompiere. I guerriglieri del MFDC (Movimento delle Forse Democratiche della Casamance), secondo la comunità di Sant’Egidio, non hanno chiesto nulla in cambio. Probabilmente però un po’ di visibilità gli è più che gradita. La loro lotta dura dal 1982 e solo rarissimamente ha avuto l’onore di apparire sui giornali.

Thanks to the Sant’Egidio Community, eight Senegalese soldiers in the hands of the rebels fighting for independence in Casamance (the most southern region of the ex-French colony) were freed today. Some had been held hostage for little under two years, other for a year. In reality, one was not a soldier, but rather a fireman. The guerrillas of the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance), according to Sant’Egidio Community, have asked for nothing in exchange. More than likely they will relish the increased visibility. Their fight, despite having been on-going since 1982, has only occasionally appeared in the press.

The release has sparked great reaction throughout Senegal. The blog ferloo.com, while interviewing Jean Marie Biagui, MFDC general political secretary, writes [9] [fr]:

 Les huit (8) soldats libérés le dimanche grâce à l’intervention de la communauté chrétienne de Sant-Egidio, ont été capturés par le Mfdc d’abord lors de l’attaques du cantonnement de Kabeum (Sédhiou) et ensuite quelques semaines plus tard de Brigade de gendarmerie d’Affiniam (Bignona). Le Président de la République qui a accueilli dimanche les ex-otages à la base militaire de Ouakam (Dakar) a réaffirmé son engagement à tout mettre en œuvre pour le retour de la paix en Casamance où une crise à l’irrédentisme a commencé en 1982.

The eight (8) soldiers who were freed on Sunday, thanks to the intervention of the Sant’Egidio Catholic Community, had been taken prisoner by the MFDC during the course of the first attacks against the Kabeum (Sédhiou) regiments and then, only a few weeks later, against the Gendarmeria in Affiniam (Bignona). The President of the Republic, who on Sunday welcomed the ex-hostages to the military base in (Dakar,) reiterated that they are making every effort to restore peace in Casamance, where problems first started in 1982.

The website senenews.com writes [10] [fr]:

 Depuis la capture de ces soldats plusieurs structures ou personnalités sont entrées en médiation pour leur libération. Il s’agit notamment du Cicr, de la Communauté Sant’Egidio. L’ancien ministre d’Etat, Robert Sagna, a été également très actif. Il a été l’émissaire de Macky Sall sur ce dossier. Sans tambour ni trompette, l’ancien maire de Ziguinchor se rendait très souvent dans le maquis, en passant par la Gambie pour rencontrer Salif Sadio pour libérer ces vaillants soldats.

Ever since the capture of these eight soldiers, various organisations and famous faces have played a part in working towards their release. Amongst these include the CICR and the Sant’Egidio Community. The Ex- Minister of State, Robert Sagna has also played an active role, as has the affluent Macky Sall in this report. Without fanfare, the former mayor of Ziguinchor often went into the woods through the Gambia to meet Salif Sadiò, so that they may negotiate the release of these courageous soldiers.

The Cardinal Theodore Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, has commented on the unfolding of events in an interview with Helene Destombes [11] [it], in a French transcript of Radio Vaticana:

E’ veramente una bella notizia per tutti i senegalesi: ne sono veramente molto, molto contento. E’ davvero un motivo di sollievo e contemporaneamente di speranza. E’ un primo passo: c’erano già stati contatti preliminari, a Roma, tra una delegazione del governo del Senegal e una delegazione del Movimento di Salif Sadiò, alla presenza della Comunità di Sant’Egidio che ha svolto le funzioni di testimone. Si è trattato sostanzialmente di preliminari, eppure questo atto è una grande prima tappa che consentirà il proseguimento dei negoziati e, come noi crediamo fermamente, un loro esito positivo. C’è una seconda ala del Movimento, l’Mfdc, con il quale è necessario prendere contatti e so che questo è un momento favorevole per farlo, so che è ben disposto al dialogo. Quindi, se veramente le due principali ali del Movimento iniziano un dialogo con il governo del Senegal, penso si possa dire di essere sulla buona strada per la pace.

This really is great news for all Senegalese people: they truly are very, very happy. It’s a reason to breathe a sigh of relief, and should inspire us all with great hope. It’s a first step:there has already been preliminary contact, in Rome, between the delegates representing the Senegalese Government and Salif Sadiò’s movement, all of which have taken place in the presence of the Sant’Egidio Community, who is acting as witness. Although still in the early stages, this act is a huge first step that will allow negotiations to continue and, as we firmly believe, a positive outcome. There is a second wing of the MFDC movement, in which it is necessary to make contacts, and this is the most opportune moment in which to do so, as people are still open to talk. For this reason, if the two main bosses from the movement are capable of starting up dialogue with the Senegalese government, then I believe it can be said that this is a step towards peace.

Fattodiritto.it still provides [7] [it] many other stories to better understand the reasons that motivate the Guerrilla movement:

Secondo gli storici, la guerra per l’indipendenza del Casamance è iniziata a causa di una mancata promessa del celebre presidente e poeta senegalese Leopold Senghor. Nel 1960 egli promise ai leader del Casamance, che, se si fossero uniti al Senegal per vent’anni, avrebbero ottenuto successivamente la loro indipendenza. Quando ciò non accadde, nel 1980, il Casamance insorse con manifestazioni violente per le strade della capitale, Ziguinchor. Manifestazioni represse brutalmente con violazioni di diritti umani. Da quell’anno, iniziò una guerra civile fatta di rapimenti, attacchi, rivolte, che ha comunque prodotto nel tempo circa un milione di profughi e migliaia di morti.

According to the stories, the Casamance’s war for indipendance started as a result of a broken promise, made by the President and the Senegalese, Leopold Senghor. In 1960, he promised the leader of Casamance that, if they were to be united in Senegal for 20 years, they would be granted their independence. When this failed to happen, in 1980, violent demonstrations broke out in streets of the Casamance capital, Ziguinchor. The demonstrations demonstrated such brutality that they violated human rights.  Since then, a civil war comprising kidnapping, attacks, uprisings broke out. This war, over time, has led to around one million people becoming refugees as well as leading to thousands of deaths.

The website diasporas.biz [12] [fr] describes the ways in which the Sant’Egidio Community has carried out its work:

 Salif Sadio, qui se présente comme “chef d’état-major général, commandant en chef des forces combattantes du maquis” du MFDC affirme, dans un communiqué transmis mardi à l’AFP à Dakar, qu’il reste “disponible au dialogue” à condition que le dialogue se déroule en terrain neutre, hors d’Afrique. Salif Sadio a ainsi rappelé que l’ancien secrétaire général de Sant‘Egidio, l’abbé Augustin Diamacoune, décédé en 2007, “souhaitait qu’après l’échec de la médiation conjointe de la Gambie et de la Guinée-Bissau, la Communauté mette sa propre médiation à la disposition” des parties. Ce souhait “reste en nous” parce que le MFDC “espère que celle-ci fera preuve de neutralité dans sa médiation”.

Salif Sadio from the MFDC, who is presented as “the head of generally the biggest state and commander for the armed forces currently fighting in Macchia”, stated in a press release issued on Tuesday to the AFP in Dakar, that he is still “open to dialogue” on the condition that the dialogue take place on neutral territory, outside of Africa. Salif Sadio he recalls that the ex-general secretary of Sant’Egidio, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, who went missing in 2007, “wanted the community to take its own steps,after negotiations failed in The Gambia and Guinea-Bissauche. This want “is ours”, as the MFDC “wants the Community to demonstrate its neutral status”.

However, in reality, it was the ex-President, Abdoulaye Wade [13] who indicated that the Sant’Egidio Community should act as intermediary, during an interview with Radio France internazionale [14] [it] on 5 January 2012, just before the elections, explaining the reason behind this suggestion:

Le 5 janvier dernier, lors d’un entretien à RFI, c’était le président sénégalais Abdoulaye Wade qui avait révélé avoir demandé à la Communauté de Sant’Egidio, proche du Vatican, de servir d’intermédiaire entre le gouvernement et la tendance du MFDC de Salif Sadio, afin de “régler cette question” de la crise en Casamance s’il est réélu.( ..) “je connais les gens de Sant’Egidio, parce que j’ai travaillé avec eux quand j’étais dans l’opposition (…) et je leur ai demandé d’être des facilitateurs entre le gouvernement du Sénégal et la tendance de Salif Sadio”.

On 5 January, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, revealed that  he asked the Sant’Egidio Community, near the Vatican, to mediate between the Government and the MFDC, in order to “resolve the issue” of the Crisis in Casamance, if he were to be re-elected. (…) I know the people of Sant’Egidio, because I worked with them when I was in the opposition (…) and have asked them to be faciliators between the Senegalese Government and Sadio’s MFDC.”

The Sant’Egidio Community has worked on various projects on African soil, including Mozambique, Algeria, Guinea and the Costa d’Avorio, having also received international [15] recognition for its activities. In addition to managing the DREAM [16] [it] programme in the fight against [17] Aids [it], which covers 10 African countries, 38 treatment centres, 20 labs, and 4,500 specialists. Andrea Riccardi [18], one of the founders of the community, is a Minister without portfolio [19] [it] for international cooperation and integration activitiesin the outgoing Monti Cabinet [20][it].


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/01/17/senegal-italy-8-senegalese-hostages-released-in-santegidio/

URLs in this post:

[1] around: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/10/25/senegal-casamance-region-hopes-for-peace-through-deal-in-rome/

[2] Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC): http://it.peacereporter.net/articolo/21065/Casamance,+il+conflitto+dimenticato

[3] Sant'Egidio Community: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/09/21/mozambique-santegidio-community-fights-back-against-hivaids/

[4] according to: http://www.scoopsdeziguinchor.com/article.php?id=2039&&id_rubrique=1

[5] scoopsdeziguinchor.com: http://www.scoopsdeziguinchor.com

[6] Casamance: http://it.peacereporter.net/articolo/2316/Casamance%2C+una+guerra+senza+voce

[7] fattodiritto.it summarises : http://www.fattodiritto.it/casamance-senegal-liberati-i-soldati-in-ostaggio-merito-della-comunita-di-santegidio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=casamance-senegal-liberati-i-soldati-in-ostaggio-merito-della-comunita-di-santegidio

[8] adds: http://africaexpress.corriere.it/2012/12/09/senegal-si-tratta-per-la-casamance-e-santegidio-media/

[9] writes: http://www.ferloo.com/Liberation-des-soldats-senegalais

[10] writes: http://www.senenews.com/2012/12/09/casamance-les-8-soldats-senegalais-liberes-par-le-mfdc/

[11] interview with Helene Destombes: http://www.news.va/it/news/il-card-sarr-il-negoziato-di-pace-in-casamance-e-s

[12] website diasporas.biz: http://diasporas.biz/fichiers/blog16-999.php?langue=fr&code=calb8569&pseudo=rub42&PHPSESSID=dde7d7f1d1444b227ed29a56e9ab5681

[13] Abdoulaye Wade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdoulaye_Wade

[14] Radio France internazionale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_France_Internationale

[15] international: http://dream.santegidio.org/public/news/x__newsreadpubNS.asp?IdNews=637&&Curlang=EN

[16] DREAM: http://dream.santegidio.org/public/News/x__newsreadpubNS.asp?IdNews=256&offset=0&Curlang=FR

[17] against: http://it.globalvoicesonline.org/2011/09/africa-i-successi-della-comunita-di-santegidio-contro-laids/

[18] Andrea Riccardi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Riccardi

[19] Minister without portfolio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_without_portfolio

[20] Monti Cabinet : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monti_Cabinet

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