By BA, Pape Mamadou, GADJIGO
Manaél is a Peulh village in the Tambacounda region in Eastern Senegal, situated on the Senegales-Mauritanian border, about sixteen kilometres from Bakel. One of the unique features about this village which made it stand out was undoubtedly its strong wish for integration. For example, the Senegalese of Manaél had fields on Mauritanian land including the section pf Mauritanian land adjacent to the river which was not populated and which the Senegalese developed and exploited. Similarly, the Mauritanians also had land on Senegalese territory. The populations of both communities crossed the river wherever they wanted, even to go for walks, either on Senegalese or Mauritanian territory. No demarcation was visible, all the more so as each population had relatives on the other side.
A Mauritanian fisherman who had settled near Manaél, on the Mauritanian side, had found a ready market in this village for his catch. Once a year he filled his dugout with fish which he offered for free to the villagers of Manaél. In return, these same villagers who went across the border to build the fisherman a house as an act of solidarity and good neighbourliness.
Unfortunately, in 1989, on the Northern side of the border, a conflict started between the Senegalese and Mauritanian communities. This conflict, reported by the press, increased in scope and transferred to the capitals of both countries, resulting in many deaths on both sides. In each country, the other country's nationals were set upon, beaten and even killed. An airlift was organised between Dakar and Nouakchott and the survivors repatriated. Following this crisis and for the first time, a border police post was installed at Manaél, facing its Mauritanian counterpart.
Since the crisis and the arrival of the two police posts, nothing has remained the same. One can no longer cross just anywhere. It is obligatory to pass at the two frontier posts. The movement of the two populations has therefore been hampered, making it almost impossible for the Senegalese to exploit the fields on Mauritanian territory and vice versa. An atmosphere of reciprocal mistrust and suspicion now reigns in the region which tends to accentuate and perpetuate the two border posts.