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SENEGAL: Casamance fighting allegedly linked to elections

BIGNONA, 21 February 2007 (IRIN) - Following three attacks by armed fighters in northern Casamance since the start of presidential election campaigns on 4 February, local government officials and supporters of the candidates are concerned that the rebels are trying to undermine Sunday’s vote.

“Every election, the rebels try to sabotage the election process,” Cheikh Niane, the préfet of the department of Bignona, told IRIN.

Mamadou Diémé a local representative of the ruling Parti Démocratique Sénégalais said everyone is now worried that voting could be disrupted.

The attacks took place in Bignona department, in the rural communities of Oulampane and Sindian. All were reportedly perpetrated by one branch of the rebel Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC) led by Salif Sadio, who did not sign a 2004 agreement meant to end a 20-year campaign for secession by armed militias in the region.

The worst of the three attacks occurred on 14 February, when rebels ambushed 40 cars at the town of Bélaye on the road between Bignona and the border with Gambia.

The rebels killed three people, two of whom were MFDC members from a separate branch which did sign the peace accord. At least a dozen other people were injured.

Representatives of opposition parties in the area say they fear the rebel attacks will cause turnout to be low.

However the MFDC’s senior representative in the regional capital Ziguinchor Lang Djiba denied that the attacks are an effort to undermine the elections.

“The problem is that the government promised to give the rebels food during the election period but broke its promise,” he told IRIN.

In the regional capital Ziguinchor, the army told IRIN it would be deploying more troops to the area during the election while local civilian authorities in Bignona said contingency plans were being implemented.

“The most significant is that we are relocating the voting stations most vulnerable to attack,” said Niane.

But he also said the government cannot help voters get to the new voting sites. “Our role is limited to organisation and security. We cannot be responsible for transporting voters. That is a matter for the political parties,” he said.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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