Militias ravage central Mali killing hundreds

French soldiers in the Gourma region of Mali French soldiers in the Gourma region of Mali Benoit Tessier / Reuters

13 February 2020

As massacres in the center of the war-torn country increase, authorities need to hold armed groups accountable

Armed militias have increased attacks against civilians in central Mali. A mother from Ogossagou reported armed men setting her house on fire and shooting her son as she attempted to flee. They spared her daughter’s life when they realized she wasn’t a boy. The militant groups have also burned villagers alive, executed men on public transportation based on their ethnicity, and used explosive devices to ravage towns. 

“Armed groups are killing, maiming and terrorizing communities throughout central Mali with no apparent fear of being held to account,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The human toll in shattered lives is mounting as the deadly cycles of violence and revenge continue.” 

Dufka authored a report in 2019 that compiled witness accounts from dozens of attacks by armed groups in Mali. Her study concluded that at least 456 civilians were killed and hundreds more wounded within a one-year time span. Unfortunately, attacks against civilians and government security forces have become commonplace since 2015, when Islamist groups allied with Al-Qaeda began moving from the north into central Mali.

The Malian government has failed to prosecute the parties responsible for these massacres against civilians. Since 2015 almost 800 civilians have been murdered in Mali by ethnic militias. Only two murder trials have taken place. Dufka, in a statement, called for the government, and its international partners, to dismantle the abusive groups that are ravaging the country’s center. 

“The Malian government’s failure to punish armed groups on all sides is emboldening them to commit further atrocities,” Dufka said.

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Author: Teagan Foti; Editor: Noelle Musolino

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