Senegal launches military offensive against Casamance rebels
The Senegalese army on Sunday launched a military offensive in the southern Casamance region against rebels of the separatist group Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). According to Chief of General Staff Cheikh Wade, the offensive pursued three objectives: Dismantling the bases of the MFDC faction led by Salif Sadio, eliminating all gangs involved in criminal activities and armed in the region, and preserving the territorial integrity of the country. The deployment comes less than two months after the death of four Senegalese soldiers and the capture of seven others by the rebels when the two sides fought each other in the border area with The Gambia. Even then, the Senegalese army had launched an operation against MFDC bases in an attempt to stop the trafficking of illegal timber and cannabis, in which the rebels were said to be heavily involved. The seven soldiers have since been released. Due to the geographic proximity to The Gambia, several communities and villages there have also been subjected to heavy gunfire since the offensive began, and several dozen internally displaced persons and refugees have reportedly left the border region since then. The conflict with MFDC separatists dates back to 1982, when initially peaceful demonstrations for freedom resulted in a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence with the imprisonment of the organization’s then-leader. Since then, the conflict has claimed several thousand lives. The rebels have benefited from perceived marginalization in the region, which was once Portuguese and later French-owned until it became part of Senegal after independence in 1960. Not only geographically by Gambia, but also culturally and linguistically, the region is largely isolated from the rest of the country. In recent years, Senegalese authorities have sought to resettle those displaced by the conflict. Senegalese President Macky Sall has made resolving the conflict and achieving a final peace in Casamance a priority of his second term.
Delays in Chad peace talks in Qatar
Negotiations between Chad’s ruling Military Transition Council (Conseil militaire de transition, CMT) and representatives of various armed groups began last Sunday in Qatar’s capital Doha. The success of the meeting is considered central to the National Dialogue scheduled for May 10, which is expected to lay the constitutional framework for the transition to a civilian government. After the death of long-term President Idriss Déby last April, the military appointed his son Mahamat Idriss Déby as his successor without a constitutional mandate, and he announced a transition period to democratic elections lasting 18 months. The current meeting in Doha is the result of a series of diplomatic efforts. However, after the peace talks had been postponed twice before, the third attempt did not go smoothly either: On the very first day, during the opening ceremony, which was also attended by AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat, there was a 72-hour interruption after representatives of the main armed group, the Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT), left the hall. The FACT, whose offensive killed Déby in combat last year and whose relationship with the interim government is therefore considered particularly strained, was protesting the previous week’s replacement of former Chadian President Goukouni Weddeye (1979 – 1982) as head of the “special technical committee” tasked with mediating between the rebel groups and the military junta. In addition, for negotiations to be effective, FACT demanded that the number of participants in the talks be reduced and that Qatar’s role as official mediator be clarified. The demands were met: Qatar accepted the role of mediator and suspended the talks for three days to allow the delegations of some 44 politico-military groups to re-select their representatives. Tough talks are expected, at the end of which the National Dialogue could be postponed. Yet, the success of the talks is seen as pointing the way forward for the stability of the entire region: Chad, for example, is an important ally of Europe in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and has so far participated in the UN mission MINUSMA with 1,400 soldiers, but announced its withdrawal last month.
In other news
The 27-year-old Teddy Kossoko has set himself the goal of breaking down the still widespread negative clichés about Africa – with the help of video games. With his French-based company Masseka Game Studio, the Central African designs video games whose main characters are inspired by famous soccer players or other everyday African heroes. This is also the case with his latest game, “Golden Georges,” which is based on Liberian soccer legend and current president of Liberia, Georg Weah. With his games, Kossoko aims not only to break down negative stereotypes, but also to draw attention to the cultural diversity and beauty of the African continent. Two games from Masseka Game Studios are already available in Google Play Store.