An attack on a Mali military base by fighters in an unidentified group killed 12 solders early Sunday morning in a convoy of 11 vehicles. Mali’s armed forces confirmed that the attack occurred at five A.M. in Guire via Twitter, according to Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera additionally reports that Mali’s army sent reinforcements to the Nara sector, which is located about 230 miles from the nation’s capital of Bamako. Although no specific group links have been made to the attack, Mali has experienced violence from groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, according to the New York Times. Both Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso have experienced religious, territorial violence over the Sahel region, an arid space between the northern Sahara Desert and the southern savannas of Africa, as reported by the New York Times.
An unnamed local source relayed to Al Jazeera that “The terrorists came out of the forest. They were on motorcycles and pick-up trucks. They burned vehicles and took away others.” He added, “The new toll is at least 12 dead, including the post commander, a captain.” Another local resident told Al Jazeera that there was “heavy gunfire, and the military was taken by surprise by the attack.” According to the New York Times, local lawmaker Niame Keita expressed that “they burnt the camp and took equipment.” A source for Africa News further asserts that “The shots were like rain … [They] came from the east and south of the military camp.” Amongst little elite commentary on the attack, the grassroots press response has exemplified the exact opposite response.
The understanding that such violent attacks are categorized as antithetical to a mission which promotes a movement toward the actualization of world peace, must be situated within both geographical and historical frames of knowledge required for accurately conceptualizing the state of a nation from the outside; as much as that is even possible at all. Colonial histories should perhaps spark conversations about the ethics and inherent neo-imperialism of international, hierarchically-based reporting. Philosophical meanderings aside, these instances must call the legacies of United Nations “peacekeeping” strategies into question. They further beg questions concerning whether it is the UN practices, international diplomatic style, or structure itself which contributes to its continued hegemonic international power despite their arguably frequent failings internationally, philanthropically.
These attacks must be additionally considered not as isolated but rather as a continuation of numerous similar violent instances. 21 soldiers were killed in a similar raid in central Mali last month, and last week a UN peacekeeper was killed, and four others were wounded when a mine exploded in central Mali, according to Al Jazeera. These are to say that Sunday’s attacks represent an ongoing presence of violence in certain regions of Mali. Al Jazeera reports as well that the UN presence in Mali was originally established in 2012 when militias seized the north of the country, before being pushed back by French forces the following year. The same source conveys that a peace agreement was signed in 2015 between the government and armed groups, with the intention of restoring stability in particularly historically violent regions of the nation. The agreement, however, has not played a significant role in ending frequent violence. Further national context situates these events against the recent full-cabinet resignation of Mali’s government amidst a lack of successful policy implementation to address the issue. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, therefore, is pursuing consultations to choose a new Prime Minister, according to Al Jazeera.
These recent attacks and consequently rising death tolls point to numerous problems, both nationally for Mali, and internationally, for proclaimed peace-spreading organizations. Because this display of violence was one unfortunate instance among many of its kind, it is important to first endeavour to address root causes of national and international violence when pursuing sustainable peace strategies. It is additionally important to expansively conceptualize violence, in order to reach agreements which validate the needs of all involved parties.