After Ten Days Of Pillonnage, Senegal Army Chase MFDC Rebels From South-East Casamance
The last four historic bases of Casamance rebels of Mouvement des forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), located on the southern front of the region, along the border with Guinea Bissau, are now under the full control of the Senegalese National Army. On Tuesday, Senegal’s army Colonel Souleymane Kandé, commander of Ziguinchor’s military zone 5, took journalists on a visit tour of the bases stripped from the Casamance rebellion.
“These are the bases of Bamoune-Bilass, Boussoloum, Badiong and Sikoune, the first historical bases of the MFDC that we have now neutralized” Colonel Kandé said.
The command of Senegal’s military in zone 5 of Ziguinchor launched a major operation on January 25th to dislodge the rebels. According to the army, the aim is to create favorable conditions for the return of displaced populations to the home villages abandoned for some thirty years.
To this effect, Senegal deployed a strong military force made up of the 3rd Commando Battalion from Thiès, the 3rd Infantry Battalion from Kaolack, a detachment of Military engineers from Bargny, the 5th Infantry battalion from Ziguinchor and a Parachute Battalion to combat the rebels. It took about 10 days to these troops to dislodge the rebels in the area and dismantle the large hectars of cannabis fields they’ve developed over the dozens of years staying in the bush to sustain their economy.
Visiting the MFDC lost areas, the Senegalese soldiers took a group of journalists from Senegal’s National Road RN6 which leads to Kolda via Balantacounda. The group went near the village of Agnack Petit, a laterite track that crosses the villages of Niabina, Mawa and Camaracounda.
Through a bumpy way, the Senegalese Military Engineers detachment opened a path to an access route through the buffer zone before the embedded journalists reached to what was the MFDC combatants’ bases.
Samick and Niadhiou are two villages that recently suffered armed incursions by armed men suspected to be MFDC rebels. These two villages are the only signs of a human presence in the area. In the middle of a luxuriant and dense forest appears debris of makeshift dwellings.
What has become for decades the ancient mythical rebel base of Badiong is now left with sections of palisades yellowed by time, worn mattresses, pieces of faded clothes, empty cans, a few stones, grenades, rows of ammunition, old cases, holes and bunkers form the backdrop. The surroundings of these “bases” were punctuated with burnt surfaces, traces of the fighting according to Senegalese officers. The “bases”, relatively intact, belonged to the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has been leading an armed independence rebellion since 1982.
“Here is the historical rebel base of the MFDC. This is one of the insurgents’ first stronghold. Some of their leaders like César Atoute Badiate and Salif Sadio have all stayed here before heading for the North Front. It is a sanctuary. It was the command center. This is the site that housed all of the rebellion’s weaponry. This base is now taken by the Army“, said Colonel Souleymane Kandé.
Senegalese forces said they seized mortars, rocket launchers, rifles and motorcycles, which they showed to the press. They also said they took control of several hectares of cannabis fields. “These are industrial farms of Indian hemp that fed the criminal economy of the armed gangs,” said Colonel Kandé.
The Senegalese top Army officer called on the displaced populations to “return to their villages quickly because the security conditions are now in place”, he said.
‘’This process is irreversible. The State of Senegal will soon proceed with the establishment of basic socio-economic infrastructures such as schools, health centers, boreholes etc. Development partners, NGOs and public projects like PUMA, PUDC and others will also intervene here very quickly’’, Colonel Kandé added. He also announced the creation of military posts along the border line with Guinea-Bissau as a result of the recent amendment of the military agreements between the two countries.
He also praised the “great help” of the Bissau-Guinean Army in the recent operations to secure the area. “There was a great cooperation (of) the Guinea-Bissau Defense and Security Forces (FDS), operational and military cooperation,” said Colonel Kandé.