After 30 years of civil war, the people of Senegal's Casamance region want peace. This means rebels must return to village life. Led by local women, this project helps rebels find peace and begin reintegrating. Drawing on deeply felt cultural traditions, priestesses from 23 villages will "call the rebels home." They will ritually cleanse them of violence, release them from the duty to fight, and help them reconcile with their home villages. Our similar project in a nearby area ended rebel raids.
In 1982, a movement in the Casamance region of Senegal began a protest for economic and cultural rights. As the national government cracked down on these protests, the situation escalated into a 34-year war for independence. A national peace process is now politically possible. However, rebel fighters assumed sacred vows and spiritual protections at the beginning of their cause, and breaking these vows is believed to bring about death. In this project, village priestesses will "undo" those vows.
This project will allow rebel fighters to lay down their weapons, return home, and contribute to peace. In 2014, we convened a similar gathering of priestesses in the Oussouye area, followed by community meetings with combatants and villagers. Over 500 women came together; as a result, rebel raids on their villages stopped. This time, we are gathering priestesses and women in the Blouf area who are eager to lead this effort. This is a proven step toward reconciliation, based in local traditions.
These community meetings and rituals will ultimately allow rebel fighters to lay down their arms and to contribute to long-term peace. The Blouf area, where this initiative will take place, is home to the rebel faction that is most reluctant to negotiate. The ceremonial removal of wartime vows and protections is a courageous step to pressure both rebel and government leaders to reach a peace agreement in good faith. We also expect rebel raids to decrease, reducing violence for 23 villages.
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Further info on our website regarding this project