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Senegal: New displacement and challenges to durable solutions in Casamance

New clashes between the Senegalese army and members of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) have caused new displacements since 2009 and hindered durable solutions for long-term internally displaced people (IDPs). Estimates of the overall number of IDPs in Casamance in 2010 range between 10,000 and 40,000, and figures remain unreliable in the absence of a comprehensive survey. The vast majority of IDPs have sought refuge with family, friends and host communities. In line with wider rural-urban migration trends, many have found refuge in Ziguinchor, the largest city of Casamance. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 14,000 IDPs are sheltering in the city. 

Large return movements have also been witnessed since 2008. Anecdotal evidence shows IDPs’ wish to return but there has been no survey of their intentions nor data on how many have successfully locally integrated or settled nearby or elsewhere in the country.

Restricted access to farm land because of continuous rebel attacks has affected the livelihoods of both rural and urban IDPs as well as host communities. Women heads of households in particular have had to find alternatives to farming and in some cases have resorted to prostitution. Internally displaced children often fail in school or risk being abandoned by families facing poverty and stress, with many adults having been forced to look elsewhere for income. Social and psychosocial problems are also prevalent among IDPs.

In areas of return, the legacy of the long conflict has continued to hamper IDPs’ sustainable reintegration. Infrastructure and services remain limited, and the presence of mines has stopped people farming again. Extended humanitarian demining operations as well as increased access to basic social services and the inclusion of land grievances in reconstruction programmes are all necessary for the achievement of sustainable returns.