In February, talks between the government and the Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement (Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance, MFDC), an armed group seeking independence for the region, were again postponed because of violent clashes between rival MFDC factions.
Political tension between supporters of President Wade and opposition leaders intensified in the run-up to a presidential election scheduled for February 2007. Opposition parties protested against a constitutional amendment adopted in November abolishing the minimum percentage of votes required for a President to be elected. Tension escalated after the arrest of Jean-Paul Dias, leader of the Gaïndé Centrist Block (Bloc des centristes gaïndé, BCG). He was accused of insulting the head of state and calling on opposition leaders not to respond to court or police summonses. His son, Barthélémy Dias, was arrested on similar charges in August. Both were sentenced to prison terms. Jean- Paul Dias was provisionally released in September on health grounds while his son benefited from a presidential pardon in November.
Harassment of political opponents
In February, former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck was released after seven months in jail after most of the charges against him - including threatening state security and embezzlement - were dropped. Nevertheless, some of his supporters continued to be harassed and some were arrested on charges of complicity in money laundering.
Arrests and repatriation of migrants
Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, continued to transit through Senegal. Many sought to reach the Canary Islands (Spain) and hundreds were arrested by Senegalese security forces. Coastal surveillance was reinforced after an agreement in August between Senegal and Spain to implement joint security measures to curb the flow of clandestine migrants. In September and October, more than 90 Pakistani migrants, including at least one minor, were arrested, charged with attempted illegal immigration and repatriated.
Fighting in Casamance
The resumption of fighting in Casamance led to the displacement of more than 8,000 people in the border region, of whom some 6,000 fled to neighbouring Guinea-Bissau and 2,000 deeper into Senegal. In April forces of the Guinea-Bissau army entered Senegalese territory to attack the base of the MFDC faction led by Salif Sadio, claiming that he was a major obstacle to peace in Casamance and was threatening the security of neighbouring countries. Many people fled their homes at this time. However, Salif Sadio remained at large and his forces reportedly retreated into northern Casamance. In August, another wave of more than 6,000 people fled to neighbouring Gambia following clashes between rival MFDC factions in northern Casamance.
Freedom of expression
Threats to freedom of expression continued, targeting journalists and writers critical of the government. Customs officers were reportedly disciplined for allowing several books published in France and written by Senegalese authors, including Abdou Latif Coulibaly, to enter Senegal. As a result, other books were blocked at customs and could not be distributed in Senegal.
• In January, six staff members of the private radio station, Sud FM, who had been briefly detained in October 2005 after an interview with Salif Sadio, were acquitted after charges of "complicity in endangering the security of state" were dropped.
Progress was made in the fight against impunity. In July, the African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government required Senegal to try Hissène Habré, Chad's former President, who had been living in Senegal since he was ousted from power in 1990. This decision followed Senegal's request that the AU indicate who had jurisdiction to try Hissène Habré. He has been subject since 2005 to an extradition request and international arrest warrant issued by a Belgian judge for torture and other crimes committed during his rule from 1982 to 1990. In November Senegal's Council of Ministers adopted a draft law to permit Hissène Habré to be tried. In December, the government set up a working group to be in charge of organizing Hissène Habré's trial.