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Peace in the Casamance

Dates: 2009-2011

Country: Senegal

Client(s): USAID

Service: Capacity Building

Expertise: Civil Society Development

After 29 years of internal conflict, Senegal's Casamance region experienced a brief cessation of violence with the fragile 2004 Peace Agreement. In 2010, this period of peace was interrupted by a new outbreak of violence reflected both in attacks on travelers on main highways and in villages, and in clashes between the Senegalese army and combatants from the opposition group, Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance. While underlying unemployment, poverty, poor social services and land tenure issues challenge the realization of long-term progress, community-level antagonism and inequalities remain the largest obstacles to reconciliation in this region. The latest attacks and clashes signal the urgency of renewed efforts for appropriate and targeted peace interventions to guard against intensifying conflict and sustain ongoing peacebuilding activities.

Peace in the Casamance is a two-year USAID-funded initiative aimed at reducing the threat of conflict and promoting peaceful resolution of differences among and between communities in the three regions of the Casamance: Ziguinchor, Sedhiou and Kolda. To achieve this goal, the program supports collaborative community initiatives that bring people together to promote mutual understanding and reduce risk of violence; strengthens the capacity of civil society and local authorities to plan and problem-solve using conflict transformation techniques; and harnesses mass media and key opinion leaders to influence attitudes and perceptions about forgiveness and reconciliation. A central strategy of the program is to establish and train Peace Committees in target communities to strengthen social cohesion within and between communities and support peace and reconciliation activities. Peace Committees will work to foster relationships between groups and between individuals that are built upon consensus, dialogue, cultural norms, and non-violent resolution of differences values largely destroyed during the conflict. Social cohesion is often one of the first things to disappear during conflict and one of the last and most difficult things to reconstruct. The Committees will play a vital role in this process by assuming responsibility to facilitate and supervise targeted forgiveness and reconciliation activities between mandated community and opinion leaders and village leaders, religious and traditional authorities. In addition, the Committees are supported in organizing various community events, such as community cultural weekends; traditional rites ceremonies for peace; trans-border dialogues; and an international youth festival that further foster social cohesion and contribute to the restoration of peace.