Mali is facing an instability crisis with at least 40 people killed in three separate attacks. According to BBC, 31 civilians were killed in Ogossagou in an attack overnight. Ogossagou is a village in central Mali mostly home to the country’s Fulani ethnic group, a predominantly Muslim community. A group of eight soldiers died in an ambush and another soldier was killed in an attack on a military camp in the Gao region. “They came and shot everything that moved,” said Hamadou Dicko from Fulani association of Tabital Pulaaku. Ogossagou village chief, Aly Ousmane Barry, told AFP news that approximately 30 gunmen carried out the attack. “Huts and crops were set alight, livestock was burned or taken away.” The New York Times reported that Malian government officials blame the attack on Dan Na Ambassagou, an ethnic Dogon group. However, a government statement regarding this incident has failed to reveal the perpetrators of this attack.
A similar attack took place in Ogossagou in March 2019, where rival Dogon militiamen killed 160 people. This was Mali’s worst civilian massacre in recent memory, according to The New York Times. Ethnic tensions in Mali have fueled instability in the country for decades. Primarily, an ancestral conflict between the Dogon, who are traditional farmers and hunters, and the Fulani, who are semi-nomadic herders, has characterised life in the Sahel region of West Africa. The Dogon accuse the Fulani of trespassing into their farmland to feed their animals, while the Fulani accuse the Dogon of stealing and killing their animals, according to Aljazeera. In a more contemporary context, the Dogon accuse the Fulani of helping the jihadists in the region. While the Fulani allege that Dogon self-defense groups are armed by the government to commit atrocities against them, according to BBC. All in all, the conflict between these ethnic groups has resulted in unrest and weak governance in central Mali.
The Malian government has managed to regain control over large parts of the country taken over by jihadists with help from 4,500 troops that were deployed by France. In addition, according to UN News, UN’s MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) has also deployed a further 13,000 peacekeeping troops in the region, to help maintain peace. However, The New York Times reported that thousands of lives have still been lost with approximately 200,000 people displaced as a result of this conflict.
Mahmoud Dicko, a powerful leader of the High Islamic Council and a Fulani blames mutual distrust on outside interference as a catalyst for conflict in the region. “I am convinced that there are other invisible, obscure forces that are planning to destabilise the entire subregion. And to succeed in this destabilisation, it is necessary to create a war between the different ethnic groups,” he says. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State’s Sahel affiliate, according to Aljazeera, have been further fueling the conflict by stepping in and taking sides. While the chief representative of Mali’s Dogon community, Mamadou Togo, is more sceptical about the role of France in the region. According to Aljazeera, Togo alleges that France profits from the instability and “wants to recolonise again this country because of the wealth underground”.
Ultimately, combating militancy in the Sahel region is crucial because it will yield peace for the communities living there. This can only be achieved through effective governance, according to the UN. Perpetrators of previous attacks in the region have not been held accountable for their actions, which has created a sense of impunity. Many human rights experts allege impunity to be the primary catalyst for violence in the region. Therefore, until this sense of impunity is removed, instability in the region will continue, regardless of the number of troops deployed.
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