Central Mali: Top UN genocide prevention official sounds alarm over recent ethnically-targeted killings

UNICEF/Maiga Local population in Ogossagou, a village in the Mopti region of Mali, which was attacked on 23 March, leaving over 160 people dead, 70 injured, hundreds displaced, and numerous huts and granaries burnt.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed on Thursday his deepest concern and strongly condemned recent attacks against villages in Mali, including mass-killings last weekend in the Mopti region, which left 160 dead, including some 50 children, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

The assault on the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara, populated with people from the Peulh – or  Fulani – ethnic group took place on Saturday 23 March. In addition to the killings, at least 70 were injured, allegedly by members of the Dogon ethnic group. It was the fourth major attack since the start of the year against villages populated by Peulhs/Fulanis. On 1 January, in Kolougon, at least 37 women, children and men were killed during the day.

The UN independent human rights expert mandated with monitoring the situation in Mali, Alioune Tine, said in a statement that he also received reports that, on 26 March, suspected Fulani armed elements two Dogon hamlets, Ouadou and Kere Kere, killing at least six people, abducting about 20 people, and burning several homes.

Mr. Tine noted that since January 2019 there had been reports of at least 22 incidents of human rights violations by community-based self-defense groups, which had resulted in the deaths of at least 230 people.

The UN prevention of genocide office confirmed “a serious upsurge in inter-communal violence as well as negative impact of counter-terrorism operations conducted by community-based armed groups on the civilian populations in the region”.

The office further noted that “there is growing ethnicization of the conflict in central Mali, in which entire communities are being stigmatized as terrorists or as affiliates of armed groups”.

The community-based armed groups and other armed actors have been carrying out targeted attacks against civilians in the context of the fight against terrorism, committing “serious violations and abuses of human rights including killings, destruction of property, arbitrary detention and de facto embargos on villages, restricting movement of civilian populations,” the UN genocide prevention office stated.

The statement deplored that these developments and dynamics are “not sufficiently recognized neither by national authorities nor by the international community, who are focusing mostly on the peace process in the North and on the threat posed by jihadist movements”.

“Over the recent months, violence has reached unprecedented level amid retaliatory attacks and serious violations of human rights in central Mali impacting on all communities,” Special Advisor Dieng said. “Unless these concerns are immediately addressed, there is a high risk of further escalation of the situation in which atrocity crimes could be committed,” he warned.

To prevent further escalation of violence, Mr. Dieng urged the Malian Government – with the support of the international community, and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA – to immediately address the current grave upsurge of violence in central Mali and to provide, with no further delay, protection as well as assistance to vulnerable population.

“I call on the Malian government to urgently investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the recent attacks as well as those responsible for serious violations and abuses of human rights.” he said, adding that the authorities and all Malians should “prevent and refrain from stigmatizing entire communities”.

The UN office on the prevention of genocide said it stands ready to provide support to local reconciliation and inter-communal dialogue processes, with the aim of promoting inclusivity, strengthening resilience and social cohesion.

Human rights expert Alioune Tine also called for “a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The protection of lives and the well-being of civilians is at stake.”

“It is crucial that these inter-communal tensions, and this cycle of violence, are addressed urgently if the risk of crimes against humanity is to be averted,” he insisted.

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