Mali’s ethnic violence has reached new heights as recently released reports detail how over 160 people were found to have died, with a further 73 wounded, in an attack in the village of Ogossagou in the Mopti region. Since a militant Islamist uprising in the north of Mali in 2012, conflicts have been on the rise due to lacking government control, a rising instability and the dispersion of weapons. Following news of the situation in Mali, the UN Security Council has arranged for a meeting to be held to address the event and in an attempt to prevent further ethnic violence in the region.
Following an announcement of the attack, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta released a statement ensuring that “the protection of the population remains and will remain solely in the hands of the state,” the BBC reports.
Contradicting President Keita’s reassuring words, a Human Rights Watch report released in December confirmed a warning had been released regarding further potential conflict in the area, noting that “militia killings of civilians in central and northern Mali are spiralling out of control,” the Guardian reports. Similarly, Adama Gaye, a West African analyst and former director of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), emphasized the need for a call to action. Gaye pleaded for the state to fulfil its duties, stating that “(t)he state is no longer there; there is no state protection to ensure safety and its presence in those areas,” Al Jazeera reports.
International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, guaranteed that regardless of the efforts of the national government, her office would continue working with Malian authorities as it has done since the uprising in 2012 and “take all necessary steps” to ensure the investigation and prosecution of those responsible.
Although long-term strategies must be implemented to prevent further ethnic violence, the initial response of Mali’s government must be applauded. Following the attack, the government announced its decision to remove top military officers from their positions and to dissolve the Dan Nan Ambassagou association, an association formed from local self-defence groups and comprising of members of the ethnic group allegedly responsible for the attack.
The UN has responded to the violence by deploying ten human rights officers, a child protection officer and two crime scene investigators to the region. However, its efforts risk being weakened as many countries have begun to withdraw their troops from the UN Peacekeepers. History shows that removing the presence of peacekeepers and international assistance during times of crisis only leads to the further deterioration of an already vulnerable state. More so than ever, the international community must continue to contribute its resources in order to end the violence in Mali.
The deadliest attack since the end of French-led military intervention in 2013, Al Jazeera reports that in the Mopti region alone such violence has been responsible for approximately 600 deaths since March 2018. It is suspected that Dogon hunters were responsible for the attack. The Fulani, known locally as the Peulh, is a largely Muslim ethnic group comprised of semi-nomadic herders whilst the Dogon people are a more settled agricultural group. The violence between the two groups is believed to be provoked by land disputes as well as the influence of armed militia groups in the region linked to extremism.
The Malian government and international community must act now to ensure that the Fulani people and other minority groups are protected and that counterterrorism teams are dispatched to address the growing extremism across the country. As the nation prepares itself for the possibility of genocide, the international community must act now or regret their absence when reflecting on the events in Mali in decades to come.
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