Casamance Rebels Lose Two Key Strongholds To Senegalese Army
The Chronicle has reliably learned that the Casamance rebel base in Sikoum of the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC) has fallen on Wednesday into the hands of the Senegalese army. Located on the border with Guinea Bissau, Sikoum was abandoned by the rebels after intense bombardments (combined artillery and air force) by the Senegalese soldiers who succeeded to dislodge the men led by Ibrahima Kompass Diatta and Adama Sané from their stronghold nicknamed “La Deux” and “La Neuf“.
For weeks, the Senegalese army has launched a military offensive on the border with Guinea-Bissau, and the capture of Sikoum was one of its major objectives. After intensive shelling, MFDC fighters were forced to leave this mythical sanctuary of the Casamance rebellion.
Located in Senegalese territory, Sikoum was a backup bastion of Guinea Bissau’s African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) during the liberation war with the Portuguese colonial master. PAIGC fighters had built bunkers in Sikoum turning it into a stronghold where the Casamance MFDC rebels relocated taking advantage of its facilities and its sacred war shrine. As such, Sikoum has since become a very important basement in the mystical preparation of the Casamance combatants, exactly like Baraka Mandioka, another stronghold and hideout of Salif Sadio, where the rebel leader was dislodged in 2006 by a military operation backed by Bissau-Guinean Army General, Tagme Naway.
The combatants dislodged from the MFDC bases of “La Deux” and “La Neuf” under the commanded of Ibrahima Kompass Diatta and Adama Sané still have a border strip of more than 200km with the Republic of Guinea Bissau. It’s a wide area with lots of forests and swamps which is the ideal topography for the rebels to look for another hideout. Yet no new base can match Sikum that earned its reputation as a fortress after years of the Guinea Bissau war of independence and over three decades of the rebellion in Casamance.
Meanwhile, the capture of Sikum by The Senegalese clearly spells the relevance and the strategic nature of Senegal Macky Sall’s support for Guinea-Bissau’s Umaro Sissoco Embaló. The Casamance rebellion will sorely miss the support of the Guinea Bissau army as the MFDC combatants lose their backup base of retreat.
In Casamance however, it is more than thirty years of exile and suffering that will perhaps come to an end for the peaceful inhabitants of Sikoum. Military cantonments are needed to secure the return of the displaced people from that area.
In Senegal, many believe that this is a historic opportunity to move towards a peace agreement, between the Senegalese government and the Casamance rebels, that integrates the specificity of the region and repairs the injustices of history.