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November 03, 2011

Two dead in Senegalese protest over Italian investor's disputed biofuel project

A disputed biofuels project in northern Senegal has triggered violent clashes between villagers, leaving two people dead and two seriously wounded, police said on October 27.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police officer said residents of Fanaye village “fought with sticks and machetes” in disagreement over the project. 

Fanaye is situated in the Senegal River valley, near the Mauritanian border, one of the country's main areas of agricultural production. 

Local media explained that some villagers were angry that thousands of hectares of land had been given to an Italian to cultivate sweet potatoes for the production of biofuels, sparking fears over the loss of grazing land and displacement of villages. 

A local organisation defending land rights in the village said the project would lead to "displacement of villages, destruction of cattle and desecration of cemeteries and mosques."

Senegal has in recent years pushed the idea of using its land for biofuel production, with the backing of Brazil and fervent support of President Abdoulaye Wade.

Wade said he "deeply regrets" the deaths and wants an explanation. A cabinet statement said Wade had asked the ministers of agriculture, environment and decentralisation for "a detailed statement on this situation."


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