On Monday, Mali witnessed a deadly attack against its military forces. At least 25 soldiers were killed in an attack on the military base of the northern town of Bamba, according to the government. This attack came just a few days after four soldiers and 63 jihadists were killed in a fight between Niger’s army and armed extremists in the west of the nation. In recent months, nations across the world have been battling with COVID-19, but it seems Islamic militants are not asleep and are still bent on disrupting local and international peace. The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali predicted a worsening security situation in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it has urged coordinated efforts to contain the virus and insecurity in Mali.
On April 8th 2020, the UN Security Council urged Mali’s government and armed groups to accelerate the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace Accord and called for the “swift liberation” of kidnapped opposition leader Soumaila Cisse. The Council also encouraged the government to end violence in the center of the country and ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses and violations of international law are brought to justice. In retaliation for the militant attack, Malian forces have now launched a joint operation with Burkina Faso and French forces in the region.
Mali is located in West Africa and is a member of the Economic Community of West African States. A former colony of France gaining its independence in June 1960, Mali had since been a peaceful country – until an attack by an Islamic militant group in the northern part of the country in 2012. This attack came after an uprising where mutinous soldiers overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré, who had been in power for over a decade. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. However, the country has since been under threat from a number of extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State.
Mali has thus suffered jihadist violence and ethnic rivalries since 2012, after Islamist armed groups took over the north the country and France launched its military intervention. The G5 Sahel – made up of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania – is the anti-insurgency force supported by France to end these attacks. The five nation group blamed suspected members of Ansarul Islam for the attack at Boulkessy. Ansaru Islam, meaning “Defenders of Islam” was created in 2016 by radical and popular preacher Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who has since been a thorn in the flesh of the Malian and G5 Sahel coalition.
With over 100 recorded positive cases of COVID-19 and a recent attacks by jihadist groups, the UN Security Council has urged its peacekeeping forces to continue doing their job despite the pandemic, while ensuring the safety and security of its staff and peacekeepers. Mali’s current situation, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, is concerning; Mali’s government and the UN’s peacekeeping forces must do as much as possible to ensure the situation does not escalate further.
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