Republic of Senegal

Head of state: Abdou Diouf
Head of government: Mamadou Lamine Loum
Capital: Dakar
Population: 9.4 million
Official language: French
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
1999 treaty ratifications/signatures: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Despite attempts to find a peaceful solution to the 17-year-old conflict in the Casamance region, tension remained high. Suspected supporters of the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement, an armed opposition group claiming independence for Casamance, were detained without trial; many appeared to be prisoners of conscience. The security forces in Casamance were responsible for torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions. Torture and ill-treatment by police were also reported in northern Senegal.


There were several attempts during 1999 to open negotiations between the Senegalese government and the MFDC. In January President Abdou Diouf met the Secretary General of the MFDC, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, for the first time. Although Father Diamacoune was under house arrest, he was authorized to travel to the Gambia on several occasions to consult MFDC members with a view to reaching a joint position, which would provide a starting point for negotiations with the Senegalese government. Finally in December, a first round of peace talks between the Senegalese authorities and the MFDC took place in Banjul, Gambia, and the opposing sides agreed to honour a 1993 cease-fire that had collapsed.

Political tension increased as the February 2000 elections grew nearer. The main opposition parties challenged the impartiality of the Minister of the Interior, General Lamine Cissé, who was responsible for organizing these elections. In July General Amadou Abdoulaye Dieng resigned from the presidency of the Observatoire national des élections (ONEL), National Observatory of Elections, after being accused by some opposition parties of being a supporter of President Diouf. There were also allegations of fraud in connection with national identity cards necessary for voting.

Detention without trial

Scores of suspected MFDC sympathizers remained in prison without trial throughout 1999. Most of these detainees appeared to be prisoners of conscience, arbitrarily arrested because they were members of the Diola community. They were charged with "threatening state security" but no evidence was ever produced as to their individual responsibility for acts of violence. In February and December some 160 detainees who had been detained since 1995 were released after years of detention without trial.

There were new arrests in Casamance throughout 1999 and, at the end of the year, at least 30 people were held without trial in the prisons of Dakar and Ziguinchor.


Many Casamance civilians arrested by the security forces were tortured during the 10 days' incommunicado detention allowed by law before they had to be presented before a court. A number of them were reported to have been burned with petrol-filled plastic bottles set alight. None of these allegations were investigated.

Torture and ill-treatment were also reported in northern Senegal. In April about 40 people were arrested in Tamba after demonstrations against electricity cuts. Most were severely ill-treated and some were reportedly shaved with pieces of broken bottles. The police authorities denied these allegations, but no independent inquiry was opened.

In June, police broke up a peaceful demonstration which had been banned by the government. The demonstration had been called by 14 opposition parties to request transparency in the electoral process. A leader of an opposition party, Samir Abourzik, was hit on the head by a policeman and suffered a broken nose. Some days later, a formal complaint was lodged and an investigation was opened, but it had not concluded by the end of 1999.

Extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances'

As in previous years, the security forces in Casamance were responsible for dozens of extrajudicial executions and "disappearances". Most of the victims appeared to be civilians arrested in roadblock checkpoints or denounced by neighbours as supporters of the MFDC.

  • In April, Moro Sadio, a 17-year-old schoolboy, was shot by a soldier in Thionck Essyl. The soldiers wanted to arrest his uncle, suspected of harbouring armed members of the MFDC.
  • In August, several men wearing military clothes arrested Jean Diandy at his home. A friend who was arrested with him and released shortly later said that Jean Diandy was taken to the military camp of Ziguinchor. He then "disappeared". His family lodged a formal complaint in September and an investigation was opened, but had not concluded by the end of 1999.

Ziguinchor shelled

In April the town of Ziguinchor, the regional capital, was shelled for the first time, reportedly by armed elements within the MFDC. These shellings, which were carried out on three occasions, resulted in at least six dead and dozens of wounded among the civilian population. They were forcefully denounced by Father Diamacoune, and appeared to have been carried out by armed groups within the MFDC opposed to peace negotiations or feeling excluded from the decision-making process.

AI country reports and visits


  • Senegal: Casamance civilians shelled by the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement (AI Index: AFR 49/005/99)


AI delegates visited Senegal in November to conduct research. The delegates met the Minister of Justice and the Secretary General of the MFDC. They visited Casamance to investigate human rights abuses.

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