Conflict in the Casamance: 24 Month Outlook



    Since 1984 the Senegalese government has been in a low-intensity conflict with a separatist movement known as the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). Geographically Senegal is almost cut in half by the Gambia. The southern half of Senegal is known as the Casamance. Over the past 40 years, the conflict killed over 5,000 people and displaced 60,000 refugees. Despite the current president’s efforts, it is unlikely that the conflict will end before his term is up in 2024. Additionally, it is highly likely that the number of refugees will increase. The anti-separatist operation that began in January 2022 has already displaced over 6,000 people. Lastly, it is likely that conflict will push Senegal towards an alliance with Russia like numerous other African nations.

    Senegalese troops on parade on a dirt road.
    Senegalese troops on parade. (Source)

    KJ-1. It is unlikely that the conflict in Senegal’s Casamance region will end in the next 24 months.

    • The conflict in the Casamancestarted in 1982 and is one of the longest-running conflicts in the world. However, there have been multiple attempts to squash the separatist movement in the past. Despite this, the movement has continued to make infrequent attacks over the past 40 years. (Source, Source)
    • The MFDC has been able to fund its operations primarily through cannabis and timber trafficking to China. However, it is extremely difficult for the Senegalese military to put a halt to these trafficking operations without destroying their own natural timber resources. (Source, Source)
    • The Senegalese president, Macky Sall has stated that achieving peace in the Casamance region is a priority for his second term. However, his second term is set to end in two years. Three years into his second term, there have been no substantial improvements in the conflict. (Source, Source)

    Fighters walking along a dirt trail.
    Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance fighters. (Source)

    KJ-2. It is highly likely that the number of refugees from the Casamance will grow, and the conditions will worsen over the next 24 months.

    • For Sall to achieve peace in the Casamance, there will need to be greater military intervention. An increase in conflict will lead to a greater number of displaced people. The latest fighting has displaced over 6,000 villagers in both Senegal and the Gambia. (Source)
    • The UNHRC hasn’t made any postings about the conflict since 2019. The UNHRC is the component of the UN responsible for dealing with refugee crises. Neither the conflict nor the refugee crisis in Senegal and the Gambia are a priority for the UN currently. (Source)
    • The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and The Gambia Red Cross Society (GRCS) completed the distribution of critical non-food items to over 1,700 refugees. However, this is nowhere near enough supplies. Additionally, the refugees are more in need of food than supplies. (Source, Source)

    KJ-3. It is likely that Senegal will turn to Russia as an ally in the next 24 months.

    • Amid the conflict in Ukraine, Sall has tried to position himself as an intermediary between Russia and the African Union. Sall met with Putin in Russia to discuss grain shortages due to the conflict. After meeting with Putin, Sall claimed assurances regarding grain delivery were made and was outspoken about lifting sanctions on Russia. (Source, Source)
    • In 2019 Sall accused Moscow of interfering in the Senegalese presidential elections by funding his opposition candidate. Three years later Sall and Putin have become impromptu allies. This shift in Russian-Senegalese relations indicates that the two have decided they have more to gain by working together. (Source)
    Jordan Smith
    Jordan Smith
    Jordan is currently working on his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He is majoring in International Politics with a concentration in Security Studies and a minor in Russian language.

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