Senegal - The Casamance Conflict: Small But Dangerous

Few of the European holidaymakers seeking winter sun in The Gambia can be aware that West Africa’s longest-running civil conflict rumbles on just a few kilometres south of the tourist beaches. Across the border in Casamance – Senegal’s southern limb, largely separated from the rest of the country by The Gambia – the conflict is in its twenty-second year. At a time when protracted civil wars elsewhere in Africa have reached some sort of conclusion – in Sudan, except for ongoing strife in Darfur, and Angola – why does the Casamance conflict continue in a country that sees itself as a model democracy?

The World Today Published 1 August 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 4 minute READ

Martin Evans

Although this is a small war by West African standards, an estimated three to five thousand people have been killed by attacks and landmines and tens of thousands more displaced.

More widely, livelihoods have suffered as insecurity has stifled agriculture, trade and tourism. Infrastructure under-investment worsened when guerrillas began the widespread use of anti-personnel mines in 1997, prompting several major donors to leave. Casamance’s transport problems became tragic international news in September 2002 when the Joola, the Ziguinchor–Dakar ferry, capsized with the loss of over 1,800 lives.

In recent years the security situation has improved, allowing the return of many of the displaced, and donors have been able to fund much-needed reconstruction. But such aid cannot outflank the political peace process, however great the momentum for return among the war-weary.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.