Help 500 Women End War in their Villages

by Karuna Center for Peacebuilding Vetted since 2011 Site Visit Verified
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages
Help 500 Women End War in their Villages

Thank you for supporting peace work in the Casamance region of Senegal! We have some updates to share, in response to events that affect ongoing progress toward peace.

Current overview of the conflict

Because Senegal’s national government is only holding peace talks with one faction of rebels, the more moderate majority faction (85%) is excluded from the formal peace process. This lack of engagement, combined with the hesitancy of some key leaders within that faction to move toward a peace process, creates a tense situation in which small clashes could lead to a return to violence. However, there is hope: many of the rebels maintain connections with their families and home communities, even if those ties have become strained. A negotiated peace process remains possible if pressure toward peace remains constant on both sides--if on one side, rebel factions are pressed to engage in negotiations by community members who earnestly desire peace and if, on the other side, the government agrees to shift its position to include all combatant factions in peace talks.

As we mentioned in our last report, 14 people collecting firewood were attacked and killed in a Casamance forest in January. Suspecting rebel involvement in the attack, the national army bombarded rebel encampments in the area. Tensions were heightened, especially because the rebel forces present in that area of the Casamance are among those excluded from the formal peace process. Unfortunately, since that time, there have been other small incidents of violence in which blame is unclear, including a reported (but not yet confirmed) clash between individuals aligned with the MFDC rebels and Senegalese army soldiers on July 13.

This project report focuses on our response to the January violence, since that response was our most recent GlobalGiving-funded action. Unlike many of Karuna Center’s other peacebuilding programs that are funded at least in part through grants, this work in Senegal depends on exactly how much money we receive from individual donors. Once we have raised enough money for a peacebuilding intervention, we develop a collaborative plan of action, and wire the full amount to our Senegalese peacebuilding associate (as a lump sum, to minimize bank fees).

Our Senegalese peacebuilding associate, Joachim, worked with the leadership of APAC (Alliance pour la Paix en Casamance: a peace coalition formed out of earlier Karuna Center workshops) to advocate directly with key actors in the Senegalese government as well as with political representatives of the relevant MFDC rebel factions.

Meetings to influence government

Originally, the intent of the meetings with the government was to advocate for peace talks with both military branches of the MFDC. However, based on the changing context, we also advocated the national army cease its bombing campaign of the area in January, in order to avoid falling back into the violence that previously characterized the Casamance conflict.

In meetings with those positioned to influence President Sall, Joachim and APAC conveyed their close knowledge of community concerns. They asked government negotiators to include both major factions of the rebel forces in the peace process, even if this requires two tracks of negotiation. This advocacy is a very important link between national-level and community-level work for peace. Like our community-based efforts, these meetings can have a large impact but require only a small amount of funding to cover transportation and meeting costs.

Joachim and the head of APAC met with the maribou (spiritual advisor) to the President of Senegal, who listened intently and asked questions about the potential impact of excluding the largest rebel faction from peace talks. Following a long and productive meeting with the maribou and religious authorities, Joachim’s team met with members of the National Assembly, as well as a state negotiator who is in dialogue with rebels.

The national army’s retaliatory attacks stopped after our meetings with these officials, who had pledged to work for an end to the bombing. However, it would be naive for us to claim sole credit for this outcome, because there were others who also advocated strongly for an end to the escalating violence.

Meetings to influence rebel forces

Joachim and representatives from APAC also met with people in a position to influence rebel leadership directly, through a groupe de contacte established during previous Karuna Center programs to help rebels listen to community concerns. This allowed us to have indirect communication with the rebel faction that is excluded from national peace talks. Through these meetings, we were able to communicate that local villagers want the rebel forces to maintain a ceasefire despite being excluded from the process.

We also learned about additional barriers to peace on the rebel side. As we anticipated, some lieutenants within this faction do not want to negotiate, and they exert significant influence over the leadership. Even if the leader of the faction maintains the ceasefire, he does not have 100% control of his men; and if his lieutenants continue to feel ignored by the government, their frustration could lead to violence. (In fact, this may already be taking place.) We also learned about economic barriers to peace, especially the significant challenge of providing adequate legal employment to former rebel combatants who have profited from illegal trade.

We still believe that all these concerns could be addressed, beginning with inclusive talks--providing there is a will for peace. That will for peace is alive and well at the community level, and the task ahead is for both rebel and government leaders to listen.

We will keep updating you about this project as the context, needs, and opportunities change! If you have any questions, or if you would like to be kept more closely in the loop on our program planning and fundraising process, we would love to hear from you.

Again, thank you so much for your support!  

All of the money we receive through GlobalGiving goes directly to the work in Senegal; Karuna Center does not take overhead from these initiatives.

Please note: Photo is from an earlier Karuna Center program in Senegal, because it was not appropriate to take photographs during this phase of the project.

Karuna Ctr/APAC
Karuna Ctr/APAC's earlier work for inclusive peace

Thank you for supporting peace work in the Casamance region of Senegal! We have some updates to share, in response to events that affect the ongoing peace process.

Recent developments in the conflict

Because Senegal’s national government is only holding peace talks with one faction of rebels, the more moderate majority faction (85%) is excluded from the formal peace process. There is concern that this lack of engagement, combined with recent incidents in January, could lead to a breakdown in the ceasefire.

On January 6, 2018, 14 civilians who were collecting firewood were attacked and killed in a Casamance forest—likely by perpetrators connected with the illegal timber trade. Suspecting rebel involvement in the attack, the national army bombarded rebel encampments in the area. A man connected with rebel forces has been arrested for planning the attack, though rebel leaders deny any involvement. Tensions are high, especially because the rebel forces present in that area of the Casamance are among those excluded from the formal peace process.

Our response

Our Senegalese peacebuilding associate, Joachim Diene, has been working with the leadership of APAC (Alliance pour la Paix en Casamance: a peace coalition formed out of earlier Karuna Center workshops) to advocate directly with key actors in the Senegalese government. Through these meetings, they are conveying their close knowledge of community concerns in order to avoid a return to armed conflict. They are asking government negotiators to include both major factions of the rebel forces in the peace process, even if this requires two tracks of negotiation. This advocacy is a very important link between national-level and community-level work for peace. Like our community-based efforts, these meetings can have a large impact but require only a small amount of funding to cover transportation and meeting costs.

Joachim and the head of APAC recently began their advocacy by meeting with the maribou (spiritual advisor) to the President of Senegal, who is well-positioned to convey these concerns. The maribou listened intently and asked questions about the potential impact of excluding the largest rebel faction from peace talks. Even if the leader of the faction maintains the ceasefire, he does not have 100% control of his men; and if his lieutenants continue to feel ignored by the government, their frustration could lead to violence. In fact, this may already have contributed to the violence on January 6. Following a long and productive meeting with the maribou, Joachim’s next meetings are with one of the peace negotiators from the government side, and then with several members of the National Assembly.

We will keep updating you about this project as the context, needs, and opportunities change! If you have any questions, or if you would like to be kept more closely in the loop on our program planning and fundraising process, we would love to hear from you.

Again, thank you so much for your support!  

All of the money we receive through GlobalGiving goes directly to the work in Senegal; Karuna Center does not take overhead from these initiatives.

Project photo: women tell rebels to lay down arms
Project photo: women tell rebels to lay down arms
Women leaders gathered in Djiamande (Blouf area)
Women leaders gathered in Djiamande (Blouf area)

Dear Friends,

Over the past year, we have been grateful for your collaboration in our partnership with communities, to support concrete steps toward peace in the Casamance region of Senegal.

Our most significant accomplishment over the past year has been bringing together leaders from 21 villages in the area of the Blouf to formally "call the rebels home" to their communities. Their actions included rituals, traditional song and dance, and community meetings to discuss the peace process. The rebels' spiritual obligations to fight for independence were formally removed by the regional priestess of the sacred forest, assisted by women from villages throughout the area. As a result of that action, rebel fighters were able to lay down their weapons and look ahead to reintegrating into village life. This removed a huge obstacle to peace that was largely invisible in national policy discussions. It was the kind of problem, and the kind of solution, that only becomes visible by listening closely to local communities.

Unlike many of Karuna Center’s other peacebuilding programs, this work in Senegal depends on exactly how much money we receive from individual donors. Once we have raised enough money for a peacebuilding intervention, we develop a collaborative plan of action, and wire the full amount to our Senegalese peacebuilding associate (as a lump sum, to minimize bank fees). Of the $6,356 we have raised so far on GlobalGiving, $5,800 has been sent to Senegal to the work in the Blouf described above, and $556 is now reserved for the next action. All of the money we receive through GlobalGiving goes directly to the work in Senegal; Karuna Center does not take overhead from these initiatives.

Peacebuilding in the Casamance is at a tipping point due to the current ceasefire. Our Senegalese peacebuilding associate, Joachim Diene, has been gathering information about community concerns in areas hard-hit by the conflict. We are also exploring opportunities to support community advocacy with specific national policymakers – so that even a very small amount of money to support community members’transportation costs could have a strategic impact on moving the peaceprocess forward. Our commitment is to make sure that the needs and wisdom of the communities caught in the crossfire remain at the center of the peace process.

We will keep updating our project as the political context, needs, and opportunities change! If you would like to be part of our planning, or would like to be kept more closely in the loop on our program planning and fundraising process, we would love to hear from you.

Again, thank you so much for your support!  

Gathering of priestesses in Oussouye
Gathering of priestesses in Oussouye

In our last report, we wrote about the successful gathering of women leaders from 21 villages, who convened in the town of Djiamande to formally "call the rebels home" to their communities (with your support!). Their actions included rituals, traditional song and dance, and community meetings to discuss the peace process. The rebels' spiritual obligations to fight for independence were formally removed by the regional priestess of the sacred forest, assisted by women from the villages throughout the area. In case you missed it, this local news report, from Senegal, includes footage of the event:

News report from Senegal: event led by women in Djiamande
(subtitled, 2 minutes)

Our current total raised through GlobalGiving since we began fundraising last year is $6,053. Thank you! We spent $5,800 of that money on the gathering of women leaders in Djiamande. Because local villagers donated bags of rice and people gave each other rides to the events, we were able to reduce costs of food and transportation so that each donation we received stretched a long way. 

Now, we have turned our attention toward next steps. Since the gathering in Djiamande, we have raised $253 through GlobalGiving which we have set aside to support a series of community meetings and peace advocacy with combatants. Our fundraising goal for this is $4,500. To plan the next phase of work, our Senegalese peacebuilding associate, Joachim Diene, has been gathering information about community needs in Goudomp Department, Casamance, which has been hard-hit by the conflict. In that area, there are a number of dormant rebel encampments, and nearby villagers recently became worried those encampments could be reactivated—by rebels returning from The Gambia due to the political changes, and by combatants who were not influenced by our previous programs with priestesses. 

The Casamance region of Senegal strongly values the traditional democracy of its local villages; it is said that each village is a republic. The collective advocacy of villages in Goudomp, together with our previous efforts with women in the areas of Oussouye and the Blouf, could be a deciding factor that keeps rebel forces involved in the peace process and prevents them from taking up arms again. 

In order to allow us to fundraise over a longer period of time, we have included this newest initiative as part of our overall project on GlobalGiving rather than as a separate microproject. As a result, we have increased the goal for our project. 

Thank you for your support of grassroots peacebuilding in Senegal!

Gathering of priestesses in Oussouye
Gathering of priestesses in Oussouye
Women leaders gathered in Djiamande
Women leaders gathered in Djiamande

Links:

Women leaders gather in Djimande, 12/28
Women leaders gather in Djimande, 12/28

Now that our program's major gathering has taken place, we have planned some next steps. We want to keep you informed about what has been accomplished, and tell you about the new microproject we are launching as a result!

Background: Villages in the Casamance are afflicted by landmines, raids, and drug trafficking -- the results of over 30 years of low-intensity warfare between the national government and an armed independence movement. The people of Senegal's Casamance region are weary of this conflict. They want peace. This means rebel fighters will need to return home and readjust to community life. A national peace process is now politically possible, but after three decades of conflict, it will take work at the community level to make this peace a reality.

REPORT ON THE EVENT:

On December 28, women leaders from 21 villages gathered in the town of Djimande to formally "call the rebels home" to their communities. Their actions included rituals, traditional song and dance, and community meetings to discuss the peace process. This local news report, from Senegal, includes footage of the event:

News report from Senegal at our Dec. 28 event (subtitled, 2 minutes)

The rebels' spiritual obligations to fight for independence were formally removed by the regional priestess of the sacred forest, assisted by women from villages throughout the area. At the time when village men joined the fight for Casamance independence, the priestess accorded them sacred vows and spiritual protections. Breaking these vows is widely believed to bring about death for the fighters or their loved ones. That is why these women came together, with your support, to “undo” those vows and ask the men to dedicate themselves to the peace process.

As a result of the December 28 event, rebel fighters are now able to lay down their weapons, participate in the peace process, and look ahead to reintegrating into village life. When we held a similar gathering with priestesses in the region of Oussouye, rebel raids on those communities stopped. We hope that the same peace will hold in the area surrounding Djiamande!

Due to the post-election crisis in the bordering nation of The Gambia, it was important to act right away, even though our fundraising had not quite met its target. (We have reduced the project goal to reflect actual hard costs). Program participants and peace advocates brought their own bags of dry rice and other goods in order to help feed the hundreds of people in attendance. Karuna Center also made donations to this project, and we take no administration fees for this project.

NEXT STEPS:

Political changes in the neighboring nation of Gambia have created new worries for communities in the Casamance. Villagers are concerned that rebel forces that were sheltered in the Gambia will become active once they return to Senegal. In response, we are launching a new microproject that will help local villages unite to prevent further violence. Our goal is to raise $4,500 over the next 90 days.

The microproject: In one particular area, east of our gatherings with the priestesses, there are a number of dormant rebel encampments. Nearby villagers are becoming worried that fighters returning across the border from The Gambia will reactivate these encampments. They could potentially be joined by a small number of other rebels who did not take on sacred vows and were not impacted by our earlier peacebuiding programs with priestesses. Our microproject will reach out to these groups of people who did not participate in our earlier programs.

We will convene two series of community meetings, to help villages forge a local peace process and advocate collectively against further violence by rebel forces. We anticipate these villages will send delegations to the rebel encampments, to advocate against further violence. Because the area of Casamance served by this microproject has different customs, community meetings (with both women and men) are more appropriate than gatherings with priestesses.

The collective advocacy of these villages could be a deciding factor that keeps rebel forces involved in the peace process and prevents them from taking up arms again. This region of Senegal strongly values the traditional democracy of its local villages. 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 work together in the peace process so that the rebels in this area, like those impacted by our previous initiatives, will be able to lay down their weapons and return home.

Thank you for supporting grassroots peacebuilding in Senegal!

Dancing was part of the ritual actions for peace
Dancing was part of the ritual actions for peace
Women approach Djimande to lead the 12/28 rituals
Women approach Djimande to lead the 12/28 rituals
Singing was also part of calling the rebels home
Singing was also part of calling the rebels home

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Karuna Center for Peacebuilding

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Laura Anderson
Amherst, Massachusetts United States
$7,164 raised of $12,565 goal
 
95 donations
$5,401 to go
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