Update May 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 4, May 2022
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Clashes between the government and allied forces against Islamist extremist groups continued throughout April. The Moura Massacre, which occurred in late March 2022, cost the lives of over 300 civilians, some of them suspected jihadists, who were executed during a military operation. The Malian armed forces, as well as Russian private military personnel, are suspected to be responsible.[1] Meanwhile Malian forces indicated they had killed 203 militants[2] and Russia indicated all claims of their participation to constitute “disinformation.”[3] However, survivors suggested Russian mercenaries were present during the executions.[4] The crimes reported include summary executions and other killings, rape, arbitrary arrests, looting and theft.[5]

Malian military investigators opened an investigation into the Moura massacre on 6 April.[6] Despite this, it is unclear if the investigation will bear fruit, research by Amnesty International suggests the existing insecurity, lack of resources and lack of protection for victims enable impunity to prevail. For example, the investigations into the Ogossagou and Sobane Da killings in 2019 have made little to no progress, leaving victims demanding justice while fearing reprisals in the absence of protection measures.[7] Malian authorities have also not allowed independent investigators to access the Moura.[8]

There has been an almost 70% increase in violent events by militant Islamist groups since the military takeover in May 2021 and civilian fatalities caused by militant extremists in the first quarter of 2022 are higher than any previous calendar year.[9] During the second week of April, several children and an older man were killed by military forces and Wagner Group mercenaries in Koro, Mopti Region.[10] The JNIM, an al-Qaeda-aligned group, claimed to have captured a fighter from the Russian Wagner Group in Ségou state. On 19 April, a Russian on an operation with Malian soldiers was killed in central Mali, the first confirmed death of a Russian in military operations since the military took over government in 2020.[11] Around the same time, Malian forces indicated over a dozen JNIM fighters were killed in the forest of Ganguel outside the village of Moura.[12] During the last weekend of the month, six soldiers were killed and 20 injured during simultaneous attacks by JNIM fighters against three army bases in Central Mali.[13]

The military government announced the launch of a two-year transition process for a return to civilian rule despite ECOWAS’ demand for a 12-to-16-month transition.[14]


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.[15] After the coup, Tuareg separatists and Islamist groups took control of the northern part of the country. Although they were dislodged, the region is still plagued by intercommunal and extremist violence and Islamist armed groups are taking control of villages and imposing sharia law.[16]

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”.[17] The move came after the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle, where leaders of the coup were removed.

International response:

On 6 April, Alioune Tine, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali, highlighted the problem related to impunity for Malian soldiers.[18] He requested Malian authorities grant unhindered access to MINUMSA to conduct an investigation on the Moura massacre and called on the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation as soon as possible.[19] France proposed a resolution to the UNSC requesting an independent investigation into the massacre, but the request was opposed by Russia and China, who argued that it was unnecessary as a Malian investigation was already underway.[20]

On 3 April, the US Department of State issued a statement condemning the massacre and expressed concern over the apparent involvement of the Russian Wagner Group and called for impartial investigations.[21]

After almost a decade, the EU will halt its training operations in Mali but will maintain a presence in the Sahel.[22]

[1] Human Rights Watch, “Mali: Massacre by Army, Foreign Soldiers,” 5 April 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/05/mali-massacre-army-foreign-soldiers

[2] VOA, “Mali Says 203 Killed in Military Operation in Sahel State,” 1 April 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/mali-says-203-killed-in-military-operation-in-sahel-state/6512181.html

[3] Africa News, “Mali: Russia blocks UN security council request for investigation into Moura massacre,” 10 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/10/mali-russia-blocks-un-security-council-request-for-investigation-into-moura-massacre/

[4] Reuters, “Mali massacre survivors say white mercenaries involved in killings,” 14 April 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/mali-massacre-survivors-say-white-mercenaries-involved-killings-2022-04-14/

[5] OHCHR, Mali: UN expert urges probe into grave rights violations in Moura, 6 April 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/04/mali-un-expert-urges-probe-grave-rights-violations-moura

[6] France 24, “Mali says it has opened investigation into alleged massacre in village of Moura,” 7 April 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20220406-mali-opens-investigation-into-alleged-massacre-in-village-of-moura

[7] Amnesty International, “Mali. A justice at loss with the crimes against civilians in the central regions,” 13 April 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/04/mali-a-justice-at-loss-with-the-crimes-against-civilians-in-the-central-regions/

[8] Radio France International, “UN investigators denied access to site of Mali killings,” 20 April 2022, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20220421-un-investigators-denied-access-to-site-of-mali-killings-moura

[9] The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “Debunking the Malian Junta’s Claims,” 12 April 2022, https://africacenter.org/spotlight/debunking-the-malian-juntas-claims/

[10] ACLED, Regional overview: Africa 9-15 April 2022, 21 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/21/regional-overview-africa-9-15-april-2022/

[11] Africa News, “Mali jihadist group claims capture of Russian Wagner group,” 25 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/25/mali-jihadist-group-claims-capture-of-russian-wagner-group//

[12] France 24, “’A dozen terrorists’ killed in air strikes in central Mali, army says,” 17 April 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20220417-a-dozen-terrorists-killed-in-air-strike-in-central-mali-army-says

[13] Africa News, “Mali: 6 soldiers killed, 20 injured in simultaneous terrorist attacks,” 24 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/24/mali-6-soldiers-killed-20-injured-in-simultaneous-terrorist-attacks/

[14] Africa News, “Mali junta says sticking to two-year transition,” 22 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/22/mali-junta-says-sticking-to-two-year-transition/

[15] 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

[16] Ibid.

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

[18] UN News, “Interview: Despite security and political crises, ​​​​​​​UN expert remains optimistic about Mali,” 20 April 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116572

[19] OHCHR, Mali: UN expert urges probe into grave rights violations in Moura, 6 April 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/04/mali-un-expert-urges-probe-grave-rights-violations-moura

[20] Africa News, “Mali: Russia blocks UN security council request for investigation into Moura massacre,” 10 April 2022, https://www.


[21] US Department of State, Press Statement, Reported Massacre in Mali, 3 April 2022, https://www.state.gov/reported-massacre-in-mali/

[22] France 24, “EU halts military training in Mali, German foreign minister to hold talks with junta,” 12 April 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20220412-eu-halts-military-training-in-mali-but-not-giving-up-on-sahel