|ZIGUINCHOR, 3 February 2010 (IRIN) – Baraf village, in Senegal’s Casamance region, is empty but for a group of armed separatists – and the Goudiaby family.
Ousmane Goudiaby, his wife and five of their children tend to their crops each day, working past the fear that there could belandmines in the ground along with the cashew tree roots. Since the 1990s, landmines have been a common and devastating feature of the conflict between the Senegalese army and the Movement of the Democratic Forces in Casamance (MFDC), killing and maiming people and preventing thousands from farming their land.
Baraf’s 1,040 residents fled clashes in their village in August 2009 but in November Goudiaby decided to bring his family home, even though MFDC combatants were still there. Other villagers said they interpreted the MFDC’s warning “not to return to the village in a car or horse-driven cart” as a signal the road home was mined.
“We returned to Baraf because otherwise we would have nothing to eat,” Goudiaby told IRIN. “In the village we have a plot of land where we grow vegetables. I was afraid bushfires would destroy it.
« I returned here to save my crops because that’s my life. I am proud to be in my home. I experience no violence, with the military or the rebels. When I get up in the morning I just concentrate on my work.
« There could be landmines; I am not sure.
“I also have rice paddies but we are unable to go to them because of the danger of clashes between the army and rebels. I could take a stray bullet.
“Before people used to come from town to buy fruits or rice here in the village. But no one comes anymore.
« Even if one is afraid, one has no choice. In any case death is going to find us all, wherever we are. When one is at home, one is more at ease.
« But my children do not go to school. [The school in Baraf is closed due to the conflict.] This hurts me that they cannot go to school and learn. »