12 December 2012

Gambia: Senegalese Papers On Release of Eight Prisoners of War

Foroyaa has decided to monitor what is being said in the Senegalese media regarding the release of 8 prisoners of war. We do not know what Salif Sadio hopes to gain by making the statements he made. It appears that the issue of negotiating without conditionality is off the table. As one could trace from the following reports,

Salif Sadio has not abandoned his strategic objective of having an Independent Casamance while Macky Sall maintains that the unity of Senegal is not negotiable. There is very little to celebrate so far. The following is from the Senegalese Media:

Casamance rebels say hostage release not sign of reconciliation

By TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW in Dakar | Monday, December 10 2012 at 18:31

The commander of one of the rebel factions in southern Senegal that released eight hostages Sunday says the move was "not a sign of reconciliation" with the Senegalese government.

Salif Sadjo warned that the gesture should not be misconstrued to mean that the separatist movement was giving up on its ambition for an independent nation of Casamance in the south of Senegal.

"I can see that the gesture has been applauded by all, but it is in no way a sign of renunciation of the independence of the southern region of Senegal (Casamance)", he warned.

He was speaking on the Sud FM local radio on Monday and ostensibly in reaction to President Macky Sall's expression of appreciation of the gesture.

Explaining why his group released the eight hostages, he said it was because they consider President Sall as "a new type of young president".

He expressed regret for the violence that the 30-year armed secessionist conflict has caused and blamed part of it on the international community.

Mr Sadjo lauded President Sall's openness in dealing with issues, but insisted that independence for Casamance cannot be compromised.

The eight men released include six gendarmes, one soldier and one fire brigade officer who were taken hostage in Casamance in December 2011.

The release followed a spirited intervention by the Catholic Sant' Egidio Community, the Gambian government and officials of the Senegalese government.

Meanwhile, Mr Sadjo's reaction to the initial joy surrounding the release of the hostages has sparked skepticism and apprehension in Senegal and among the parties facilitating a dialogue in the conflict.

Mr Sadjo had offered to end the conflict last year following President Sall's election by suggesting the involvement of the Sant'Egidio Community and agreeing to discussions between the rebels and government delegations.

Separatist rebels in Senegal's restive Casamance region have released eight hostages in an area close to the Gambian border following talks with Catholic mediators, sources said.

A delegation from the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MDFC) handed over the hostages -- six members of the military, a member of a paramilitary police unit and one civilian -- to Gambian authorities shortly before 1:00 pm (1300 GMT), said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a statement.

ICRC representatives witnessed the release, Angelo Romano, a member of the Rome-based Sant'Egidio community, told AFP.

Senegalese President Macky Sall hailed the hostages' release and stressed his engagement to find "a peaceful, durable and definitive solution" to the rebel conflict.

He thanked his Gambian counterpart Yahya Jammeh and the Sant'Egidio Community for their roles in resolving the problem.

The eight had been captured in December 2011 and January this year.

The Sant'Egidio community said seven members of the military and a firefighter had been released but checks to establish their identity were underway.

Romano said five army members who had been captured in December last year in an attack on an army camp at Kabeum, 60 kilometres (40 miles) northwest of Ziguinchor, were among those freed.

Fighting for independence

One of the MFDC's military chiefs Salif Sadio, a member of the group's most hardline wing, clad in white for the occasion, said the release was a sign of the movement's "goodwill to resolve this conflict peacefully".

But he also warned that the "release does not mean the end of our battle and even less the renunciation of our option of independence. The fight for national independence continues."

The freed hostages were to be handed over to a representative of the Senegalese embassy in Banjul before their repatriation.

The Senegalese government began peace negotiations in Rome with representatives of the Casamance rebel movement in October.

The MFDC has been fighting for independence since 1982 in a conflict that has defeated several peace initiatives.

Over the past 30 years the conflict has cost thousands of military and civilian lives and displaced thousands of people and refugees though no accurate figures exist.

The Sant'Egidio Community was founded in Rome in 1968 and got involved in sponsoring peace negotiations in the 1980s when it found that its humanitarian action in Mozambique would be largely useless without peace.

The community has close ties to the Vatican and for many years has made a specialty of parallel and discreet diplomatic activities, earning the name of the "little Trastevere United Nations" from the district of Rome where it is situated.

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