US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — “Every day we are facing a very serious incident, and each of them is bringing in more displaced people,” says Mamadou Lamine Diop, a United Nations official in central Mali.
This region has been plunged into a cycle of violence five years ago, and Mamadou is preparing for Maine Diop, who runs the UNHCR office there, in a position to shorten the scene, saying it is “getting worse.”
Central Mali has long been relatively untouched by separatist insurgencies in the north of the country. However, after the outbreak of the crisis in 2012 following attacks by Tuareg rebels allied to jihadi groups, it did not exclude the vast northern desert areas.
As a result, armed groups, some of whom belong to the jihadi factions, took a foothold in the center, around the city of Mopti, not far from the border with Burkina Faso or Mauritania. These groups grew there under the old disputes associated with controlling fertile but disputed land between livestock keepers and farmers, as well as ethnic and other conflicts within the same components that make up the region.
In particular, these groups benefited from a locally rooted feeling of state neglect, and offered a religious, but also social and economic discourse, to population groups that often suffer from poverty. It also provided protection to groups against one another and recruited men on the grounds of religious convictions or simply opportunism.
Since 2015, the region has been the scene of various atrocities: attacks on the country’s few remaining presence, village massacres, settling accounts and atrocities. The violence took on an escalating societal character, especially between the Fulani and the Dogons. As a result, self-security militias were formed.
A pro-Al Qaeda group, led by a Fulani named Amadou Koufa, is spreading terror in the region. It also accuses the Dan An militia of Sogo, which developed under the slogan of defending the dogun component, of committing atrocities.
Almost no few days pass without attacks. The civil violence emptied scores of Fulani villages, especially near the border with Burkina Faso. “It is ghost villages, after only the huts were left. Everyone is gone,” a humanitarian activist told AFP, asking not to be named.
As a result, the cities of Mopti and its sefars are overcrowded. Of the approximately 200,000 people displaced by the conflict in Mali, nearly half of them have moved towards the center.
“Before you can put out a fire, another breaks out,” says Dion.
Purima Bari, 56, is one of those displaced after he fled his village a few kilometers from the town of Bandiagara, hoping to return to it one day without fear of reprisals.
“In our village, we were the first to flee in April 2019, but after that everyone was forced to flee,” he tells while sitting under a tent in a camp for the displaced at a soccer field in Sevaré. “About a year ago, the situation did not improve at all.”
Alon Teneh, an independent expert sent by the United Nations to the region in February, explains that “the truth” is that neither the Malian army nor the UN mission to Mali “can properly protect civilians”.
It offers events in the town of Ogosago as a guide. About 30 civilians were killed there in February, less than a year after the massacre of about 160 Fulani villagers, at a time when the Malian army and the UN mission were aware of the seriousness of the threats.
He notes that “a new attack in Agasajo a year later means that protection of civilians is not available.”
– Negotiating with the enemy? –
Civilians who have opted to stay at home face the threat of food shortages. The United Nations notes that food insecurity affects two out of five people in central Mali.
Regional governor Abdullah Cisse admits that the situation is “worrisome”, but he remedies that “it is not impossible to solve.” It reveals agreements reached to prevent hostilities at the village level.
He explains, “Whatever we do, we will sit (at a table of negotiations) someday. So why wait for thousands of deaths before returning to negotiations? The problem is not only military.”
Finance chief Ibrahim Abu Bakr Keita had reopened this debate, recognizing in February that the government had sought to open channels with some financial jihadists, including Amadou Koufa.
“It is possible to negotiate something with Amadou Koufa,” said a source close to the government, referring to the group’s “local stabilization”.
Last week, the group linked to the al Qaeda network affiliated with Coffa expressed its openness to negotiation, only on the condition that France and the United Nations withdraw their forces from Mali.
Violence by jihadists, as well as conflicts between local components, have killed thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Mali since 2012. This scene has spread from central Mali to the adjacent Burkina Faso and Niger.
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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.