Why Can't You People Just Talk?!?!

Trip Start Apr 27, 2010
Trip End Oct 26, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel La Relais

Flag of Senegal  ,
Friday, July 16, 2010

When the power eventually returned the previous evening – I do what I always do when I am away in hotels – watch the trashy foreign TV – Unfortunately I think I took it too far by staying up most of the night flicking between TV5 Monde Afrique, some bollywood film with English subtitles and some bizarre but highly addictive Portuguese soap! This is probably not the best preparation for a day of intensive interviews to come. We had made no prior arrangements to meet or interview anyone so today was really a hope that we can arrange some interviews. As it turned out we were very lucky. Our first stop was a local NGO called ProCas who are the local branch of the German agency GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit). Their mission in the region of Casamance is to give support for decentralisation and local development, taking into account the need to build peace within the area (http://www.gtz.de/en/weltweit/afrika/5678.htm). Luckily for us we were able to speak with Abdoulaye Diallo who is the technical expert on conflict and development. He explained that the key issue in regards to return development and reconstruction is the willingness of the communities to facilitate the return. Procas stressed that they act alongside returnees on projects and are not a dependent partner – once return has been successful Procas pull out in order for the villages to become self-sufficient. It was really interesting to understand the assistance given to returnees and development this side of the border. There has been much negotiation in the Sindian area of Casamance which is along the Gambian border between Procas, MFDC rebels and the Senegalese military because there is still violence in the area although the conflict has been low level for a long time. I was given some really useful documents (ok they are all in French but I'm sure once I have over stepped that barrier I will be fine!!) I am sure that this will definitely facilitate my research – especially in regards to understanding motives behind repatriation, assistance given to returnees and cross border communication/activity between agencies in Gambia and Senegal!

After our impromptu/ useful interview with Procas it was time for a brief tour of downtown Ziguinchor and of course my favourite time of the day – lunch!! Ziguinchor is very similar to many urban areas of Gambia like Brikama or in some cases downtown Serrekunda (which is not always a great place to be) but it again highlights the important issue of how Gambia and Senegal are culturally, economically and historically linked! After Lunch at the Alliance Franco-Senegalaise we went to the UNICEF country office and were lucky enough to meet and interview Christina De Bruin who is the Chief Field Officer. In relation to the safety and protection of children in the region, Christina understands the fluid migration movement between Gambia and Casamance and children are particularly vulnerable because in many cases they are sent to school in either Gambia or Ziguinchor and then commute back on a weekly/ termly basis. There is a need to continue to monitor this situation especially as there has been an increase of violence in the Northern Casamance area in the past year. Christina also highlighted for me the most important issue; a lack of cross border communication and or activity between agencies in Casamance and agencies based in Gambia (and also triangulation with Guinea-Bissau agencies). In order to monitor the security and migration situation across these porous borders it is essential to link up with sister agencies over the border and it is completely naive that NGOs and UN agencies believe they can successfully implement refugee/ returnee integration programmes when they have no idea what is being done 10km over  the border. The fact that UN agencies do not communicate is purely foolish but gives some indication of the political regional strategy implemented direct from Dakar in regards to the Casamance conflict. One way in which my thesis will aim to inform policy is to encourage and emphasise the importance of cross-border communication.

There are no plans for the weekend as  no offices will be open in and around Ziguinchor so it will be a weekend of  meeting friends of Martins/ watching really bad but highly addictive Portuguese soaps and reading Harry Potter (Voldemort has just returned and its getting good!!) On Sunday we are travelling to the village of Bambidinka which is a village near the Guinea Bissau border and was at the heart of the conflict and as a result suffered mass displacement. We are only allowed to travel there as we have contacts!! Security/ military presence will be a major issue. It will be a real eye-opener to explore the devastating effects of the conflict from the ground.
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daddy ray on

You will go far - keep up the good work

Liesl on

Trash Portuguese soaps are the best! The one you speak of is in a class of its own! I was hooked in Ghana...big men in the internet cafes were hooked...I wish we got that on TV here...it is soooooooooooo bad its good...and you realised everyone hd double barreled names????

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