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SENEGAL: HAS THE SENEGALESE GOVERNMENT’S CONSPIRACY ASSOCIATING OUSMANE SONKO WITH MFDC BEEN EXPOSED AS FALSE?

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The Senegalese government has on many occasions made statements associating the Pastef opposition leader (Ousman Sonko) with MFDC in Casamance, the rebel movement led by Salif Sadio. They have also issued reports alleging that the MFDC rebels have taken part in the recent riots and demonstrations in the capital city, Dakar, alongside Pastef supporters demanding Ousman Sonko’s freedom. The MFDC was accused of intensifying the riots without evidence supporting their allegations. Several people were arrested and released without appearing in court.

As recent as a couple of months ago, the Senegese law enforcement agencies arrested the Gambia by the name Omar Sannneh (Baitulai), in Casamance and their mouthpiece journalists and PR agents embarked on an evil smear campaign associating Omar Sanneh with the MFDC rebels and linking him to Ousman Sonko. Since Sanneh’s arrest, no evidence or charges have been brought forward.

It’s interesting to note that in the current waves of protest triggered by the arrest of Ousman Sonko, the rioting youths have besieged, on an unprecedented scale, the principal Cities and Towns in the Southern region of Casamance without any sight of MFDC or reported incidents of firearms being used by demonstrators.

The protesting Youths have been using improvised devices and strategies to cause near-total lockdown in the commercial cities and towns in Casamance, bringing the flow of traffic and movement of goods and services to a halt, causing an economic blockade.

The law enforcement agencies were overwhelmed by the situation in Casamance. They lost control of the cities and towns, and as a result, the army had to intervene, firing live bullets at protesters, killing two youths and inflicting injuries on many children and youths, some life-threatening. Still, there are no reports or evidence of demonstrators returning fire, which clearly shows that the demonstrators are not armed!

Given the prevailing circumstances, if Pastef or Ousman Sonko had any affiliation with the MFDC, this would have been an opportunity for them to come out of the forest to join the fight. But they have not because Ousman Sonko and Pastef HAVE NO association with the MFDC rebel.

The Pastef Political Ideology is entirely devoid of any form of separatist agenda. The arrival of Ousman Sonko into the political arena has taken away the little sympathy or appeal the MFDC might have had on the ground because the people of Casamance have now found a democratic, progressive movement that embodies their aspiration for inclusion and equitable share of the national resources and benefits of national development.

There can be another logical explanation for the absence of MFDC rebels in the political turmoil, especially in the ongoing siege in Casamance town and cities. Over time, the insurgents might have been reduced to a petite rag-tag criminal gang operating along the border of the Gambia and Guinea Bissau, engaged in the Marijuana and illegal timber trade, extortion and racketeering. If they could inflict any damage on the State, they would have jumped at the opportunity, more so if they were affiliated or on standby.

The Senegalese government wouldn’t want people to see that there is no connection or ideological convergence between Ousman Sonko or Pastef and the MFDC. They want to use MFDC as a Bogeyman to gain support from the Senegalese people and their Western allies and alienate Ousman Sonko and Pastef. It is no surprise that President Sall singled out the Casamance border with the Gambia as his primary concern in his address to the Senegalo-Gambian conference.

The absence of MFDC in the political turmoil in Senegal is a good sign for peace and stability in the region. However, the Senegalese and all peace-loving people MUST be vigilant and alive to the ominous possibility of the Senegalese authorities manufacturing a terrorist attack to smear MFDC and link it to Sonko. President Sall has left no stone unturned to get rid of Ousman Sonko and Pastef illegally, regardless of the loss of lives and adverse effects on the economy, security, and social fabric of society. The recently staged arson attack on a public bus, in which the interior Minister claimed two lives were lost, is the latest attempt to portray the rioting youths as terrorists and use it as a pretext for a total clampdown and to postpone next year’s presidential election or force his way back on the APR ticket as a presidential candidate.

I believe that more people voicing their disapproval will increase the pressure on President Sall to step down and pave the way for free and fair elections before the tension in the streets escalates to significant unrest.

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Article contributed by Sulayman Ben Suwareh

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