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West African bishops ask Senegalese priest to leave rebel group

The bishops of Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Mauritania called on a priest to leave a regional rebel group he heads.

The priest, Fr Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, is secretary-general of the Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement, a rebel group that has fought since 1982 for independence for Senegal's Casamance region.

They bishops' statement said: "We understand that a priest wants to fight for justice and peace. But he may not do this as a member of a Political Party and certainly not of a Movement which uses armed force."

Public opinion, Muslims in particular, has criticised the Catholic Church for its silence on the issue of rights for the Casamance people.

Deploring the fact the "bloodshed continues in Casamance", the Bishops of the four countries urged the Senegal government and the Casamance Movement to sit down at the negotiation table until a stable peace is reached. They also advised the rebels to embrace dialogue.

Fr Senghor responded to the Bishops' appeal by saying that his sudden resignation would do more harm than good.

L'abbé Diamacoune reconduit à la tête du mouvement séparatiste (Afrique Express) 17/6/99
Senegal (Amnesty International)