Of Peace and of Humanism
This Giant, pioneer of the fight for peace in Casamance has tremendous motivation and is courageous!
At the age of sixty-nine and mother of eight, Halimatou created in Ziguinchor a unit for processing dried agricultural products in an artisanal manner by the women of her Economic Interest Group: banana to thiakry (a senegalese millet pudding), mangoes, fonio (a type of millet), and so on. This entity also serves as a training center and receives young trainees from various technical high schools, the University of Ziguinchor and other universities in Senegal. Since 2018, the Senegalese State has sent a dozen trainees from training schools, and universities for an 18-month internship in their processing unit.
Halimatou was living peacefully between her village Badem and her town Ziguinchor, when in 1981, the "conflict in Casamance" broke out, as well as the macabre countdown which accompanied it... She was distraught! One day, on her way back from the village where she had gone to harvest the crops
she met the rebels and held up a sign for peace. This first citizen and patriot act, at first motivated by a mother's fear for her children, marked the beginning of her commitment to peace! Aware of the urgency to stop the violence, she devoted herself entirely, transporting and distributing food around the battlefield, caring for the wounded, gathering the victims, the refugees fleeing their villages and risking her own life at every moment in this dangerous environment. Yet, she handled her fear, in faith with her inner leitmotiv: "We risk nothing, because we are doing good, God will protect us!" She is deeply moved by the lives sacrificed to these fratricidal struggles. “A weapon doesn’t know the difference between a father and a son,” she says.
In 1995, when twenty-five soldiers died, many women at the regional and national level joined her struggle for peace, "It is not only sons from Dakar who are dying but our brothers and fathers too". The Casamance conflict caused her to lose land and sources of income. In 1983, she created the Association for the Promotion of the Mother and Child Kagamen which aims at helping displaced women like her, assisting and training landmine victims, encouraging women to return to their communities and to create income generating activities.
In fact, from the first tumults that heralded the conflict in Casamance, the "founder" of KAGAMEN, Halimatou SOUARE has been very considerate by initiating already in 1983, the first march for peace, accompanied by 5 men, namely: Aba Diatta, a former deputy of Robert Sagna at the town hall of Ziguinchor, a former gendarme named Malamine Mané, Kémo Sané, Malamine Diémé and Moussa Sadio. Several marches took place afterwards, all of them calling for the definitive return of peace in Casamance.
Along with the marches and long processions accompanied by traditional and holy songs, several other awareness-raising activities have been initiated by KAGAMEN to bring back peace in the southern part of the country. The launch of the latest major march, a very successful campaign to raise awareness for peace across the three departments in the region, was chaired in 2005 by the Prime Minister, Macky Sall who was then at the head of a strong ministerial delegation. The launch took place on 12th, 17th, 20th and 22nd of November 2005 respectively in Niassya, Cabrousse, Bignona and Niaguis with the topic: "Women and Armed Conflict". The Minister of Women and Family, Ndioro Ndiaye had supported Halimatou from the beginning in her initiatives. The Minister of Environment at the time had come to meet with the actors of the rebellion. Halimatou thus gained legitimacy as the peoples' voice with the authorities.
Despite his desire for political neutrality, Halimatou was elected deputy mayor of Mangagoulack, a commune made up of eight villages near Bignona, which gave him more influence at the local level. In the region of Ziguinchor, women organized in several groups (GIE) are asking her to find donors to solve their problems of irrigation, fencing, marketing their products, etc. They are aware that working for food security, improving their living conditions, is essential to keep their children in the region. Yet they still feel abandoned, they and their beautiful region, this feeling that was at the origin of their support to the conflict in its early stages, persists ... Convinced that the easing of tensions requires the development of the region,
Halimatou works tirelessly to this end, initiating numerous projects with the support of international organizations.
Until today, the displaced are numerous, the handicapped, victims of mines, are trained by Mrs. Halimatou, even if the accompaniment of the latter does not follow. Similarly, for the rebels who have laid down their arms. Today, one of Halimatou's flagship projects is the establishment of the Museum of African Women in Casamance. Through this project to enhance the status of women, KAGAMEN has set itself the goal of promoting peace in Casamance, the sub-region and Africa in general through a forum for dialogue, a framework for exchanges on issues that shake African households with a strong mobilization of women leaders from all over Africa.
It continues the fight for peace and development!