Another taster of some of the remarkable work by MOAS‘ Phoenix crew (and various documentarians – through video and photography – including Jason Florio) – rescuing people in distress, from the Mediterranean Sea, as they endeavour to make the treacherous crossing, from Libya to Italy, on seriously overloaded fishing boats and dinghy’s,
Late last year, Jason Florio and I traveled the short distance, south, across the border from our home in The Gambia, into the Casamance region of Senegal, West Africa – on assignment for a local NGO, Concern Universal; who we had worked with on previous projects. The purpose of the assignment was to document a celebratory ‘Festival des Forêt‘, taking place in the village of Koudioubé; a juddering (hold-onto-something-fixed-down-and-mind-your-head-whilst-you’re-at-it) 20 minute drive down a deeply rutted ‘road’, through the bush – which, we were told by the driver, is often impassible during a heavy rainy season – from the small Senegalese border town of Diouloulou.
The festival was particularly important, in the fact that it brought people together, from neighbouring communities whereas previously, due to a 30 year old civil war, they had been too afraid to mix and gather, in large numbers.
We were also accompanied by our friend, and adroit writer, Louise Hunt, who was covering the story for The Guardian:
“We have been dancing all night together. In the past, people did not even attend funerals in neighbouring villages,” says a community leader, Bakari Jallou.
Casamance is Senegal’s most ethnically diverse region, separated from the rest of the west African country by Gambia. But it is not ethnic or even religious differences that have divided people for decades, it is whether they are pro-government or support a separatist movement to become an independent state.
The 30-year civil war, Africa’s longest-running conflict, has killed thousands and displaced many more. Senegal’s extensive hardwood forests were battlegrounds for the rebel Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) and the army.’ Louise Hunt for The Guardian – read the entire feature here.
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‘I was wearing a white protective suit and had my cameras; I looked like a spaceman. I shook their hands and tried to make eye contact, then I climbed on to the engine cover. This is maybe a quarter of those on board. It was only when there was a scuffle that I realised there were people under the decks. I looked down into a black hole, and you could just see people sat on each other’s laps. They were calling: “Please get us out, it’s so hot, we’re suffocating.” It was like the old pictures you see of slave ships. They’d been like that for 14 hours… .’ Jason Florio – read the full interview here