25 Malian Soldiers Killed In Bamba Military Base Attack

At least twenty-five Malian soldiers are dead after an attack on a military base in Bamba, a small town located in the north of Mali. According to Al Jazeera, twelve of the assailants were “‘neutralized’ during the ‘terrorist’ attack early on Monday morning, the government said in a statement, without specifying which group may have been involved in the assault.” As of now, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In the past few years, however, Mali’s army has suffered heavy casualties from different militant groups in the region affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS. Mali has witnessed a tremendous amount of violence in recent years, and this “attack comes despite attempts to reinvigorate the country’s political life in the hope of staunching the bloodshed,” according to Al Jazeera.

While the government did say that some of the attackers were neutralized and officially called it a terrorist act, they have not made any other public statements about the attack and did not speculate upon which group initiated the incident. A resident of Bamba, speaking anonymously to AFP news agency, said that there were armed men riding motorbikes around surrounding villages since Sunday before they gathered and launched the dawn attack. “We saw 23 bodies on the spot,” the resident said, describing what they saw in the wake of the attack. The resident also stated that the fighters destroyed the camp and stole equipment. “No civilian was hurt, this was an operation against the camp,” the speaker said.

Mali has been in a near-constant state of violence since 2012, when a localized revolt began in the northern region of the country, spreading into the heart of Mali and bordering countries Niger and Burkina Faso. In the past year, security in these countries has devolved amid what Al Jazeera calls a “fireball of conflict” that involves a variety of armed groups, military campaigns by national armies, international actors and local militias. Between the three countries in the last year alone, approximately four thousand people died, which according to the United Nations is a fivefold increase from 2016. The violence has become so prevalent that Mali’s former colonial ruler France has deployed thousands of troops in the Sahel region. However,  French officials have conceded that even their interference has failed to slow the toll of violence in these countries. Regardless, the French army remained in the area and helped oversee Mali’s belated parliamentary elections on March 29. According to Al Jazeera, there are hopes that this newly elected National Assembly “will implement reforms from a 2015 peace agreement brokered between the government in Bamako and several armed groups.” While the agreement stands, its implementation has not been a rapid one, although Mali did this year deploy units comprised of former rebels and regular soldiers, which was a key component of the agreement. Additionally, the Malian government has expressed its readiness to engage in talks with various armed groups. Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups have also expressed a willingness to negotiate but on the conditions that the French and United Nations forces leave.

The continued violence in Mali and surrounding countries must stop.  As the Malian government looks to put a stop to this bloodshed, they must find a peaceful resolution strategy. This includes the government taking peaceful rather than aggressive reconciliation approaches after the attack on their military base. Currently, a range of military actors within the country are willing to sit down and try to reach an agreement with the Malian government. This is a reconciliation option that the Malian government should pursue. Continually fighting and launching attacks back and forth will do nothing but prolong the conflict and cost more lives. Mali’s deficient political institutions are part of the problem. Ending this violence will ultimately happen when stability is established within the country. Given the support they currently have from the United Nations and France, Mali can focus on trying to stabilize the country, and reach an agreement so that they may better provide for their people and avoid prolonging this conflict any longer than necessary.

As Mali looks toward a peaceful future, they must take advantage of the willingness both of their government and that of the militant groups to discuss and reach an agreement. Given the tremendous bloodshed in the region, especially within the last year, Mali cannot allow this situation to go on. Given that there does exist a willingness and readiness on both sides to come to the table and talk, Mali would benefit by adopting this reconciliation strategy. In doing so, the country can work toward a peaceful future, strengthening government institutions in the process to prevent future destabilization and violence.

Breanna McCann