Casamance peace deal is a win for Sall and Embaló

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Casamance peace deal is a win for Sall and Embaló

History has been made in Senegal today for two reasons.

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Firstly, the presidential party failed to win a parliamentary majority for the first time ever, according to provisional poll results.

But secondly, rebels in the southern Casamance province have accepted the call to lay down arms, and bring a peaceful end to one of Africa’s oldest active rebellions that has claimed several thousand lives since 1982.

This breakthrough is regarded a boon for President Macky Sall, who made achieving "definitive peace" in Casamance a priority for his second term.

Rebels from the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) have over the years broken into factions and the conflict was mostly dormant, until Senegal launched a major offensive to drive out the rebels in March last year.

Thursday's peace deal - signed in Guinea-Bissau by an Senegalese presidential envoy and one of the MFDC rebel leaders Cesar Atoute Badiate - remains confidential for the time being.

However two regional experts are critical, telling the BBC they question this new development in the Casamance conflict.

Last year, Guinea-Bissau's President Umaro Sissoco Embaló denied any involvement of his nation in the conflict between Senegal's army and the Casamance rebels, saying:

"This speculation must stop. Everyone knows what my relationship is with the Senegalese President."

As the new chairman of Ecowas, this agreement looks like a very positive start for Mr Embaló.

Casamance is Senegal’s southernmost region, almost separated from the rest of the country by the tiny state of The Gambia, with a distinctive culture and language derived from its past as a former Portuguese colony.

Gambian President Adama Barrow says he’s "constantly in touch" with President Sall to ensure peace prevails in Casamance, mentioning its "impact on communities" and that "schools have been disrupted, families separated and property destroyed".