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Senegal, Casamance rebels set talks agenda: mediation

by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Nov 10, 2013
Senegal and the Casamance separatists have agreed on an agenda for peace talks aimed at ending the three-decade rebellion, Catholic mediators in the process said Sunday.

The deal was reached during a November 3 meeting brokered in Rome by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a charity with ties to the Vatican specialising in peace mediation.

The consultations, which took place at Sant'Egidio's Rome headquarters, "yielded a joint draft agenda for the negotiations", a statement said.

The Senegalese government envoys and the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) delegation led by Salif Sadio "agreed on the issues to be discussed and the order in which to discuss them".

Sant'Egidio, which had relaunched the peace process between the two sides in October last year, described the outcome of this second meeting as "an important step towards peace".

"Both sides agreed on a timeframe in which to decide a date for the next meeting," father Angelo Romano, who is involved in the talks, told AFP.

Dakar's interest in ending the deadly separatist rebellion in the south of the country has grown since Macky Sall took over from Abdoulaye Wade as president last year.

In December 2012, the MFDC freed eight hostages -- including six members of the Senegalese military -- following a Sant'Egidio mediation.

The MFDC has been fighting for the independence of Casamance, which is separated from the rest of Senegal by Gambia, since 1982 in a conflict that has defeated several peace initiatives and cost thousands of lives.

The Community of Sant'Egidio was founded in Rome in 1968 and got involved in sponsoring peace negotiations in the 1980s when it found that its humanitarian action in Mozambique would be largely useless without peace.

The community has close ties to the Vatican and for many years has made a speciality of parallel and discreet diplomatic activities, earning the nickname of the "little Trastevere United Nations", from the district of Rome where it is situated.


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