It was late morning when the bullets burst by the corrugated roof of Maimouna Kujabee’s farmhouse. First, she hit the bottom. Then she took off, operating from her village in Ziguinchor, in Senegal’s Casamance area, as quick as her youngsters may handle.
By way of fields and forest, with solely the garments on her again, Kujabee didn’t cease till she reached Bajagar, within the Gambia, a couple of mile north of the border. “The solar was sizzling. I ran till my sandals have been minimize up,” says Kujabee.
She managed to discover a room to sleep in, and gracious hosts who gave her and others meals, however says: “I don’t know anybody right here.”
In latest weeks, tons of of individuals like Kujabee have fled the most recent flare-up of one in every of Africa’s oldest steady conflicts – between the Senegalese navy and separatist rebels within the south, within the small sliver of the nation beneath the Gambia. In some locations, complete villages have fled.
The latest preventing has additionally displaced 1000’s of Gambians as gunfire and shelling spilled throughout the border. Alongside the Gambia’s West Coast area, villages have swelled with folks in search of shelter, generally amongst household, others with strangers.
Regardless of plenty of ceasefires over the previous 40 years, the Senegalese military continues to conflict with separatist rebels of the Motion of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC).
Separated bodily, culturally and linguistically from the remainder of Senegal, Casamance has traditionally suffered from a scarcity of consideration from the capital, Dakar. Senegal’s financial downturn within the Seventies is seen by some as the basis reason behind the insurgency within the Nineteen Eighties. Although a lot of the violence peaked within the Nineteen Nineties, small insurgent factions nonetheless camp alongside the porous borders with the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, partaking in hashish and timber smuggling.
A lull in preventing lately has led to extra improvement within the area, and the resettlement of those that fled earlier preventing. However on 13 March, the military launched an assault towards rebels led by Salif Sadio after the kidnapping of Senegalese troopers on a mission within the Gambia.
In keeping with the Gambia’s Nationwide Catastrophe Administration Company (NDMA), greater than 5,600 Gambians have been displaced over the previous two weeks, together with 691 Senegalese. “Very harmless persons are struggling,” stated Binta Sey Jadama, NDMA coordinator for the area.
The NDMA is delivering meals and mattresses and assessing the state of affairs within the villages. The Gambian president, Adama Barrow, has pledged 5m dalasi (£70,000) for the reduction effort.
Edi Bah, supervisor for the Foni Ding Ding Federation, an area youngsters’s charity, says: “Kind of, it’s simply the border that differentiates us … so we’re all the time able to host them [Senegalese refugees].”
However he provides that many host households whose households have all of the sudden expanded want money and meals: “Their fundamental wants are beneath stress. Anyone who has a household of 10, now you’re having a further 20. So the burden has elevated.”
Shelling lower than two miles from the Gambian border disrupted final week’s go to by authorities officers to villages. The federal government in Banjul has pledged that the Gambia is not going to “be used as a launching pad [for attacks] nor permit anybody to enter the nation with arms and ammunition”.
On Tuesday, after the destruction of a number of insurgent bases, the Senegalese military stated in a press release: “These felony gangs will probably be hunted all the way down to their final entrenchments, contained in the nationwide territory and in every single place else.”
Mariam Bojang is staying within the village of Kampant, 2.5 miles south of the border, for the second time in three months, after preventing in January pressured her to go away her village. “We left our stuff, we left our garments, we didn’t have time to go seize them,” she says, standing beside two massive NDMA vans full of mattresses, rice, dates, beans and child meals.
Different Gambians inform how livestock was shot and fields burned within the preventing. Some stayed behind to guard what they might at their farms.
“We thank the folks [of Kampant]. They’re serving to us loads. After we got here, we would have liked one thing to eat, they gave us one thing,” says Bojang, who worries the onions in her area will rot with nobody to have a tendency them.
“Struggle isn’t simple,” says Sajar Baje, an imam in Bajagar, north of Kampant. “The federal government has to do one thing.”
Absolutely ending the battle will probably be troublesome, says Vincent Foucher, a analysis fellow at France’s Nationwide Science Analysis Centre. “There has lengthy been a dialog throughout the Casamançais society … in regards to the relationship to the Senegalese state – whether or not it was honest, constructive, or not,” he says.
He says there’s waning help for independence however provides: “It’s sustainable for these folks [in the MFDC] who preserve preventing, or preserve minimally preventing. A dispute like this, a dispute about identification, could be very troublesome to resolve.”
The previous Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh was accused of turning a blind eye to rebels once they crossed into the Gambia. Nevertheless, final week, his aunt hosted scores of displaced folks in her mansion in Bwiam, south-west Gambia, nonetheless hung together with his marketing campaign posters.
Sira Camara needed to go away her Gambian village. “We simply took our kids and ran,” she says. “We’re staying right here, however my thoughts is again there.”
Join a special view with our International Dispatch publication – a roundup of our high tales from world wide, really useful reads, and ideas from our staff on key improvement and human rights points, delivered to your inbox each two weeks: