Central Mali: 27 civilians killed in less than 24 hours

UN peacekeepers return to their helicopter, Mopti region, central Mali. UN peacekeepers return to their helicopter, Mopti region, central Mali. MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

27 May 2020

Local officials have reported the killing of 27 civilians in three different attacks carried out between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening

In less than 24 hours, armed men on motorcycles attacked three Dogon farming villages, leaving 27 civilian casualties behind. As reported by Reuters, local officials believed the attacks were perpetrated by jihadist groups’ affiliates, who claim to be acting in defense of the Fulani community. The victims, according to local authorities, were either shot or burned to death.

The attacks targeted three Dogon villages, located in the areas of Bandiagara, Bankass and Koro, in central Mali. Currently, the region of Mopti is the epicenter of the dramatic conflict that has been ravaging the country since 2012. Here, jihadist groups have been capitalizing on the existing tensions between the Dogon and Fulani communities. While the Dogons are mostly sedentary farmers, the Fulanis (or Peuls) retain a long pastoralist tradition of cattle herding and trading. The consequences of climate change, land grabbing and conflict have exacerbated communal disputes over land ownership and livelihood security. In such context, jihadist groups have concentrated their recruitment among the Fulanis, tapping into the community’s feeling of marginalization and claiming to act in their defense against rival Dogons. In turn, the latter have organized a self-defense militia, named Dan Na Ambassagou, allegedly responsible of last year’s massacre of about 160 Fulani villagers in Ogossagou and soon after outlawed by the government. However, as Fulanis were widely identified as terrorists, violence kept mounting, spreading fears of genocide among the community. In 2019 only, the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) recorded 488 victims among the Fulanis. Conversely, since January 2018, 63 civilians were killed by armed Fulanis. As reported by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), during the first three months of 2020, 300 civilians lost their lives due to the conflict, marking a 90% increase over the previous quarter. If more than half of civilian deaths are attributed to communal militias, the government’s military tactics were responsible of a rising civilian toll, especially among the Fulanis.

As for the role of international actors, the French military operation Barkhane has recently been reinforced with additional troops, despite rising criticism over the counterterrorism strategies adopted so far. Alongside the French army and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, MINUSMA has been operating in the country since 2013 and it is considered as the UN most dangerous mission, with 125 peacekeepers killed since deployment.


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Auhor: Ester Zangrandi

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