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Casamance robbery risk
One expatriate and two Senegalese employees of a local firm were temporarily taken hostage by four armed assailants in Ounck village, Bignona department, on 16 June. One of their vehicles was set alight while another was stolen before the hostages were released. This is the latest of several recent attacks in the restive Casamance region of Senegal. On 14 May, five non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers were briefly abducted by two armed men in Bafatá, near the border with Guinea-Bissau, while others were robbed. On 23 May, Indian technicians working on a power line between Kaour and Signhére were robbed by armed men. The attacks have followed several statements by the Northern Front (Front du Nord: FN) faction of the separatist Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance: MFDC) accusing the government of failing to respect its commitment to peace negotiations. These talks have been mediated by the Sant'Egidio religious community in Rome sporadically since 2012, but no official negotiations have taken place since 2017.
Although Senegalese President Macky Sall has repeatedly declared brokering peace in Casamance to be a priority, the latest attacks and threats are unlikely to spur progress in the one-year outlook. The MFDC is not only highly factionalised and difficult to negotiate with, but it lost a critical source of support when Gambian president Yahya Jammeh was forcibly removed from office in January 2017. Sall is likely to believe that engaging in serious negotiations with a very weakened MFDC would restore a credibility it no longer warrants, and he would rather let it wither away. However, recent activity and statements do indicate an increasing risk of sporadic armed attacks in residual MFDC rural strongholds unless the government shows some renewed commitment to the peace process, which is currently unlikely as it is not a priority for Sall. Subsequent attacks against soft targets, including expatriate mine workers, are likely to be limited to armed robbery and brief detentions to show that rebel factions, particularly the FN, have retained some military capabilities, but outright confrontation with army units causing death and injury is unlikely.
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