Fighting between al-Qaeda-linked extremists, self-defence militias, and government soldiers has displaced tens of thousands of people this year in central Mali and left hundreds dead, the International Federation of Human Rights said last week.
The unprecedented scale of violence in a previously peaceful part of the country has many wondering whether the 2015 peace agreement, signed between the Malian government and armed groups, is still fit for purpose…
Meanwhile, key elements of the accord such as the devolution of power and economic development in the north – as well as justice, reconciliation, and the demobilisation of combatants – have barely begun….
As the agreement stalls and violence spreads, the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, says 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The number of internally displaced people has doubled since December last year, from about 38,000 to more than 75,000 in August.
OCHA also recorded 146 security incidents affecting humanitarians in Mali between January and August this year, a 60 percent increase compared to 2017, while UN peacekeepers continue to be killed by Islamist groups in higher numbers than any other ongoing peace operation.
Conflict spreads to the centre
Once confined to the desert north, conflict spread to central Mali with the arrival of Islamist militants led by the radical, marabout preacher Amadou Koufa – killed last week by French forces, according to the Malian army.
Since late 2015 the militants have: banned music, weddings, and baptisms; veiled women; closed schools; and conducted a string of targeted assassinations in areas under their control.
“There is now no village left where you can play the drums or flute or even listen to music,” said one village chief who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
The violence was initially overlooked by the Malian government and by the UN mission in Mali, known by its French acronym MINUSMA, whose latest mandate makes reference to the centre for the first time but does not offer any additional resources.
„New violence eclipses Mali’s plans for peace“