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Mali – update April 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor No. 3
April 2022. Read full newsletter here

Civilian casualties increased throughout 2021, especially in the northern and central part of the country, due to increasing attacks by armed groups and intercommunal violence.115 The Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on Mali, Alioune Tine, warned of rising violence.116 Since the start of 2022, an increasing number of arrests, executions and looting by the Malian army, as well as ongoing attacks against civilians by non-state armed groups have been reported.117

Violence between jihadist groups and government security forces continues. Human Rights Watch reported that 107 civilians have been killed since December 2021 due to these clashes, at least 71 deaths were linked to government forces and 36 to jihadist groups. Among the deadliest attacks, Islamist fighters opened fire on a bus killing 32 civilians in December 2021. They also killed up to 27 soldiers during an attack on Mondoro on 4 March 2022.118

Grave allegations of violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by the Malian Defense and Security Forces have been reported.119 On 2 March, 37 bodies were found near Diabaly commune, the victims had allegedly been arrested by the Malian army.120 They were accused of executing 35 suspected militants in Danguèrè Wotoro in March as well as 14 ethnic Dogon in what appeared to be retaliation for the deaths of two soldiers. Between 27 – 31 March over 300 civilians were killed during a government-sanctioned operation carried out against suspected militants.121 Violence between Islamist groups and government forces has displaced over 320,000 people.122

On the other hand, violence between the local fraction of the Islamic State, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Tuareg separatists known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) broke out in the northern part of the country on 8 March. At least 335 civilians, mostly from the Daousahak ethnic group, have been killed and 8,000 have been displaced. 123 In recent weeks, the security situation in the Tri-border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, has deteriorated considerably due to attacks by jihadist groups. At least 500 have been killed in March in the regions of Gao and Menaka. UN peacekeepers have been deployed to the region.124

2021 was characterised by a deterioration in the humanitarian situation mostly due to growing insecurity in the central region of the country which is now expanding south. Currently the need for humanitarian assistance in the country is at its highest since 2012, with about 7.5 million people in need of assistance.125 The growing insecurity in the country has had a particular impact on girls and women with an explosion of gender-based violence, including forced marriages and rape.126

Peacekeeping operations in Mali are considered the most dangerous UN peacekeeping operation in the world, 2 blue helmets were killed at the beginning of March and over 250 have died since 2013.127

Context

 In March 2012 a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government led by Amadou Toumani Toure, triggered by the government’s poor handling of the Tuareg rebellion.128 After the coup, Tuareg separatists and Islamist groups took control of the northern part of the country. Although they had been dislodged, the region is still plagued by intercommunal and extremist violence and Islamist armed groups are taking control of villages and imposing sharia law.129

Mali has suffered two military takeovers in the last two years, the last one took place on 24 May 2021, when members of the armed forces, led by Assimi Goïta, arrested the transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane in what was called a “coup within a coup”.130 The move came after the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle, where leaders of the coup were removed.

International Response

 The country has been suspended from the African Union since June 2021.131 Tensions are increasing as the junta of Mali resists pressure from the international community to establish a viable timeline for the restoration of civilian rule. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) re-imposed sanctions on the country as well as on the Republics of Burkina Faso and Guinea. The transitional government in Mali had requested 2 years to call for elections but the block only gave them 16 months and warned the current sanctions imposed will remain until steps are seen towards normalcy.132

The European Union has imposed sanctions on 5 members of transitional interim President Assimi Goita’s inner circle after the military cancelled plans to hold elections on 27 February 2022.133

In February 2022 France, its European partners and Canada said they would begin a coordinated withdrawal of their military resources in the fight against Islamist insurgents in the country, this is due to “multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities” which made it impossible for France to continue its mission there.134 The military government has however, reportedly welcomed militias from the Russian Wagner Group.135 Recent information suggests the Russian group fighting alongside Malian soldiers have committed abuses in the country, a United Nations investigation is ongoing136

The UN peacekeeping operation MINUMSA has been operational since 2013. Two of their peacekeepers suffered an attack during the first week of March, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and requested the government identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.137

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115 UN News, “Mali Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $686 million,” 17 February 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/02/1111962

116 OHCHR, Press Release Human Rights Council: Concerns about Continued Reports of Localised Violence Involving Community-Based Militias in South Sudan, and in Mali the Deterioration of the Overall Security Situation Has Passed the Critical Threshold, 29 March 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press- releases/2022/03/hrc-continued-localised-violence

117 European Commission, “ECHO Daily Flash of 09 March 2022,” 9 Mach 2022, https://erccportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ECHO-Products/Echo-Flash#/daily-flash-archive/4444 118 Al Jazeera, “Mali rebel attack leaves dozens of soldiers dead,” 5 Marzo 2022,

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/5/mali-rebel-attack-leaves-dozens-of-soldiers-dead

119 Ibid.

120 European Commission, “ECHO Daily Flash of 09 March 2022,” 9 Mach 2022, https://erccportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ECHO-Products/Echo-Flash#/daily-flash-archive/4444

121 All Africa, “Mali – UN Expert Calls for Independent Probe Into Moura Massacre,” 6 April 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202204070046.html

122 Human Rights Watch, “Mali: New Wave of Executions of Civilians,” 16 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203160214.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link

123 Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Atrocity Alert No. 294: “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ukraine and Mali,” 30 March 2022, https://www.globalr2p.org/publications/atrocity- alert-no-294/

124 Reuters, “U.N. peacekeepers deployed to northeastern Mali amid spate of killings,” 31 March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-idAFKCN2LS2G2

125 UN News, “Mali Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $686 million,” 17 February 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/02/1111962

126 OHCHR, Press Release Human Rights Council: Concerns about Continued Reports of Localised Violence Involving Community-Based Militias in South Sudan, and in Mali the Deterioration of the Overall Security Situation Has Passed the Critical Threshold, 29 March 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press- releases/2022/03/hrc-continued-localised-violence

127 UN News, “Two UN peacekeepers killed in Mali, four wounded,” 7 March 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113442

128 All Africa, “Mali’s Crisis Hits 10-Year Mark,” 30 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203310452.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link 129 Ibid.

130 The Conversation, “Inside Mali’s coup within a coup,” 26 May 2021, https://theconversation.com/inside-malis-coup-within-a-coup-161621

131 African Union, “African Union suspends Mali from participation in all activities of the African Union and decides to constitute an evaluation mission to engage with all concerned stakeholders,” 16 June 2022, https://au.int/en/articles/african-union-suspends-mali-participation-all-activities

132 Eurasia Review, “ECOWAS Re-Imposes Sanctions On Burkina Faso, Guinea And Mali,” 28 March 2022, https://www.eurasiareview.com/28032022-ecowas-re-imposes-sanctions-on-burkina-faso-guinea- and-mali/

133 DW, “Mali: EU Sanctions Prime Minister, Other Junta Members,” 4 February 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202202050006.html

134 DW, “France announces military withdrawal from Mali,” 17 February 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/france-announces-military-withdrawal-from-mali/a-60808218 135 France 24, “US army confirms Russian mercenaries in Mali,” 21 January 2022,

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220121-us-army-confirms-russian-mercenaries-in-mali

136 Bloomberg, “UN Probes Allegations of Russian Mercenary Rights Abuses in Mali,” 11 March 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-11/un-probes-allegations-of-russian-mercenary-rights- abuses-in-mali

137 United Nations Secretary General, Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary- General – on Mali, 8 March 2022, https://www.un.org/sg/en/node/262268

 

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