Over the past seven years, Mali has been entangled in an insurgency, military coup and international intervention. Since then, multidimensional conflict has extended from Northern to the Central regions of the state. Today the violence is not limited to but is concentrated in the central Malian provinces of Mopti and Segou. The main actors in the conflict include militant groups from Bambara, Dogon and the Fula populations whom are all agricultural communities that have historically been at odds for resources and land. The Dogon and Bambara have taken up arms as a means to protect themselves from the Fula. Such violence has been compounded by the emergence of militant groups belonging to the Islamic State (IS) as well as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) affiliations. These groups have been proliferating throughout the region the past 7 years. That said, the historical continuum of ethnic violence alongside the accompaniment offundamentalist groups has created the perfect storm in an already vulnerable nation. The words “counter-terrorism” have been thrown around by all sides of the conflict seeming to be a justification for further violence by these groups, as well as Malian troops and United Nations personnel. Together, the multitude of oppositionary combatant groups and redundancy of terrorist claims have blurred the lines of the perpetrators of violence, making it hard to determine responsibility. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stated that ‘everyone wants peace’; however, it is the conflicting visions of a peaceful Mali which drives the violence forward. Many human rights watch groups have warned the increasing ethnicization of the conflict. Intercommunal violence in Mopti amongst Fula and Dogon militant groups has resulted in collective punishment of civilians related to distinct ethnic populations.
Today, the spread of terrorist groups has engulfed central Mali in a perpetual violence risking spill over throughout Sahal. The targets of terror attacks include government troops and United Nations peacekeepers, but are largely concentrated towards Malian civilians. The attacks are correlated to a fundamentalist spread throughout Mali since 2012. As a result, central Mali has become a hotbed of intercommunal violence amongst Al-Qaeda related terrorist groups, the Malian government and the United Nations. Both the international community and the Malian government have failed in their efforts to contain the violence. The continual growth of these groups has caused a spread throughout the rest of Mali and West Africa. The spillover has threatened the peace and stability of a number of Niger and Burkina Faso. A recent United Nations Security Council report notes that “despite significant international efforts, the security situation has continued to deteriorate with an increase in the number of terrorist attacks.” In addition to such statements a 100 page Association Marocaine des Droits Humans (AMDH) report released last November has detailed the series of horrific events which have resulted in the massacre of thousands of civilians. A recent report in stated the killing of 53 soldiers and one civilian The crippled government and rising poverty have made Mali increasingly conducive to Jihadist militant groups to push the country into deeper chaos.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has played a vital role in the mediation of violence in Mali. Since deployment in 2013, over 200 peacekeepers have been killed rendering it the deadliest peacekeeping mission in all of history. The casualties of the intervention and new dynamics of terrorism have threatened the viability of United Nations peacekeeping as a whole as Troop Contributing Countries grow with reluctance. However, the importance of the mission remains as the UNHCR reports “3.4 million Malians are in need of humanitarian assistance, approximately 2.9 million of whom are in areas of the country affected by the ongoing conflict.” Furthermore, the efforts from parties at national, regional, and international levels is essential to restoring the security of central Mali. The status of central Mali, and the growing complexity of the issue warrants significant international attention.