SENEGAL: Villagers mutilated by armed men in Casamance

Friday, May 9, 2008
Armed men claiming to represent the rebel group Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) attacked twenty villagers from Tampe 15 km east of the regional capital Ziguinchor on 7 May and hacked each of their left ears with machetes, according to the victims and the Senegalese army.

Malang Sane, one of the victims, said he and his companions were collecting cashew nuts in the forest when approximately 20 armed men approached them and started to attack them. He is currently receiving treatment at the regional hospital in Ziguinchor alongside the other victims.

Antoine Diamacoune, the head of the MFDC faction at Kassolol on the Guinea-Bissau border, condemned the “brutal” act, but did not state whether or not the MFDC claimed responsibility.

According to another victim, Dominique Mendy, who was also mutilated during the incident, the attackers gave them an order to stop collecting cashew nuts in future if they did not want to face further attacks.

Colonel Ousmane Sarr, Director of Public Relations at the Senegalese army (DIRPA), said a lack of communication between the local population and the army was partly to blame for the incident.

“We used to accompany people when went to collect cashews in this area, but this time the villagers did not inform us about where they were going,” he said, assuring that the Senegalese army will reinforce its troop presence and surveillance activities in the area.

In Ziguinchor, people voiced concern about a new cycle of violence that is hitting the region after a relatively calm year in 2007. Since the beginning of the year there have been three landmine incidents, the latest killing a man and wounding several others north of Ziguinchor.

Prior to this, on 28 February 100 men ambushed vehicle passengers north of Ziguinchor.

A representative from an international donor said he is concerned that the lack of progress on instigating a dialogue between the government of Senegal and the MFDC forces could act as a catalyst for more violence in the future.