After 32 years of fighting for independence, the people of Senegal's Casamance region want peace. This project creates reconciliation among rebels and communities and helps a peace process move forward. In 2014-16, we worked with priestesses from 42 villages to call rebel fighters home, spiritually cleanse them, and prepare them to resume village life.
In 1982, a movement in the Casamance region of Senegal protested for economic and cultural rights. As the national government cracked down on them, the situation escalated into a 32-year war for independence. There is now a tentative ceasefire and a national peace process is possible. However, rebel fighters face barriers to reintegrate with their home villages--and the government is only negotiating with one faction of rebel forces. Without a more inclusive process, peace is unlikely to last.
This project partners with local leaders who guide combatants to stop fighting, return home, and participate in peace negotiations. We have focused on the role of traditional village priestesses and women leaders, whose efforts to re-integrate combatants have successfully put a stop to rebel raids on their villages.
The collective leadership of local villages in the Casamance could be a deciding factor that keeps rebel forces involved in the peace process and prevents them from taking up arms again. In the short-term, we expect project initiatives will continue to bring about a decrease in rebel raids. This project is developed and led by Senegalese peacebuilders who understand how to support and leverage local leadership, so that rebel combatants and villagers can cooperate to bring peace to communities.