August 17, 2011 / 5:28 PM / 8 years ago

Senegal's Wade urges Gambia to help end rebellion

BANJUL (Reuters) - Senegalese President Abdulaye Wade has called on his Gambian counterpart help him end the rebellion in Senegal’s Casamance province, which authorities say uses Gambia as a base from which to launch attacks.

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade waves during his visit to the court house in Benghazi June 9, 2011. Abdoulaye Wade appealed to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday to step down, and offered to help ease his former ally's exit from power. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

Wade was speaking on a state visit to President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, a sliver of land engulfed by Senegal.

A low-level rebellion has simmered in Casamance for years and occasionally the rebels kill Senegalese troops in ambushes south of the Gambia river.

The Senegalese government has said that it is ready for talks, but there are several factions within the Casamance MFDC rebel movement, complicating the process.

“I have done my part to end the crisis in Casamance but to no avail. Senegal and Gambia are one people and that is why I want my brother President Jammeh to intervene so that there will be peace in Casamance,” Wade said late on Tuesday.

“Some of the rebels who have already laid down their weapons in Casamance want to engage in projects but because of the crisis they cannot do so. So I want your intervention to bring peace in Casamance,” he added, giving no further details.

Casamance, which lies in between Gambia to the north and Guinea-Bissau to the south, is known for its pristine white sandy beaches that were once a prime tourism destination.

The conflict there was thrown into the spotlight in January, when Nigerian authorities seized an Iranian arms shipment bound for Gambia in circumstances that many thought implicated the Casamance rebels.

Gambia and Senegal cut ties with Iran over it and the incident also hurt relations between the two neighbours.

However, Jammeh assured Wade of his support.

“Solving the crisis in Casamance is in the best interest of the two countries. Gambia will never be a safe haven for Senegalese dissidents,” Jammeh said.

Senegal has been largely spared the violence and military interference that has plagued politics in much of West Africa, although Wade is likely to face violent street protests ahead of elections in 2012.

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