Senegal: A Non-International Armed Conflict in Casamance

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window showing the NIAC in Senegal Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window showing the NIAC in Senegal

3 October 2019

The Senegalese government is engaged in a decades-old non-international armed conflict (NIAC) in Casamance, the southwestern limb of Senegal, with the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC), a decentralized non-state armed group aspiring to complete independence of the region.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of this NIAC, including information about parties to the conflict, its classification as a NIAC and applicable international law.

Criteria to Classify the Armed Violence in Casamance as a NIAC

‘We use two criteria to assess whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a NIAC under international humanitarian law: the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions, and at least one side to the conflict must be a non-state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization’ explains Tadesse Kebebew, Researcher at the Geneva Academy.

‘In this case, we considered that both criteria are met for the armed violence between the Senegalese armed forces and the MFDC, notably its core military force the Front Sud, a well-organized group which has operated south of the Casamance River with its rear bases mainly along both sides of the Casamance’s porous forested border with Guinea-Bissau’ he adds.

An Ongoing NIAC despite Several Ceasefire Agreements

Several attempts to end the conflict – including the ceasefire agreements on 31 May 1991, 8 July 1993, 27 December 1999, 30 December 2004 and 2014 - were not effective nor durable. Apart from occasional lulls in the fighting due to these ceasefire agreements, the conflict has been active since the 1990s and at times extremely brutal, causing the death of thousands of people, humanitarian crises and significant destructions.
‘The existence of a ceasefire agreement does not in itself put an end to a NIAC: violence frequently continues after the conclusion of such agreements and a NIAC. Similarly, a decrease in the intensity of violence does not imply that international humanitarian law (IHL) ceases to be applicable. Indeed, a NIAC continues until hostilities have ended with a certain degree of permanence and stability, or a peaceful settlement has been achieved. Accordingly, IHL continues to be applicable regardless of the oscillating intensity of violence’ explains Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

No Foreign Interventions

While the conflict has been concentrated in the Casamance region, it has spillover effects in the neighbouring countries of the Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

Throughout the conflict, the Senegalese government has also accused Gambia and Guinea-Bissau of supporting the rebels and allowing them access to their territory. Though Guinea-Bissau has continuously denied the allegations, there are numerous reports indicating the opposite.

The Senegalese government also accused former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of allowing the MFDC to maintain bases in the Gambia and support cross-border timber trade, in particular by illegally taxing companies operating in the timber trade.

‘However, even if substantiated, the logistical support provided by Gambia and Guinea-Bissau to MFDC in itself is not sufficient to transform the conflict into an International Armed Conflict by virtue of overall control’ explains Tadesse Kebebew.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Diplomatic Conference in Geneva leading to the signature of the 1949 Geneva Conventions News

Seventy Years of the Geneva Conventions: How we Uphold Respect for International Humanitarian Law

12 August 2019

The Geneva Conventions turn 70 today. As an academic institution, we work every day to uphold knowledge of and respect for international humanitarian law and thus protect people affected by armed conflicts.

Read more

A LLM class News

LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights: It’s Time to Apply for the 2020–2021 Academic Year!

18 November 2019

Applications for the 2020–2021 academic year of our LLM just opened today and will close on 31 January 2020 (applications with scholarships) and on 28 February 2020 (applications without scholarships).

Read more

Photos taken from the Norse Attack Map.     The map shows in realtime attacks that happen on the Norse honeypots. Event

ESIL Lecture: Disruptive Military Technologies

26 February 2020, 14:00-16:00

Robin Geiß, Swiss Chair of IHL at the Geneva Academy, will explore the disruptive potential of new military technologies with a focus on those areas where these technologies could fall through the cracks of the international legal order.

Read more

Cover page of the book Event

International Humanitarian Law and Non-Sate Actors: Debates, Law and Practice

16 March 2020, 18:00-20:30

This event marks the launch in Geneva of the book International Humanitarian Law and Non-State Actors: Debates, Law and Practice.

Read more

Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

2 April - 8 May 2020

This short course discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

Read more

A wide view of the UN Security Council Short Course

Sanctions in Public International Law

14 February - 13 March 2020

This short course provides an introduction to the regime of sanctions under international law and their effectiveness in addressing contemporary forms of conflict. It addresses the questions related to state responsibility, the pacific settlement of international disputes and the role of the International Court of Justice.

Read more

Libya, Misrata, Tripoli Street. After a battle between members of the armed opposition and government forces. Project

The War Report

Started in December 2013

As an annual publication, The War Report provides an overview of contemporary trends in current armed conflicts, including key international humanitarian law and policy issues that have arisen and require attention.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

published on December 2019

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard, Ezequiel Heffes

Read more