Update June 2023

In May 2023, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) issued a comprehensive report on the Moura massacre in March 2022. The UN report is based on interviews with victims and witnesses as well as forensics and other information as the team was not allowed to access the village of Moura.[1] They concluded that over 500 people were killed – at least 238 of which were summarily executed – by the Malian armed forces (FAMA) accompanied by foreign military personnel. It also reported that at least 58 women and girls were raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence during the five day attacks and those detained were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during questioning.[2] The killings took place during a five day anti-terrorist military mission in the Mopti region of central Mali and were accompanied by summary executions, rape and torture and could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to witnesses, a military helicopter flew over the village, opening fire on people while soldiers on the ground shot at those trying to escape. The following day, soldiers began going house to house searching for “presumed terrorists,” executing many. This was the most violent attack against civilians since the start of the conflict in 2012.

Military investigators opened an investigation on the instructions of the Defence Ministry and veterans in the aftermath of the attacks,[3] however the outcome is pending. The Malian authorities denounced the report.[4] However its release is building support for accountability. Amnesty International drew the attention of the International Criminal Court, which has an ongoing investigation into the Mali situation.[5]

The vote for the referendum to accept or reject constitutional amendments, a major milestone on the road to elections scheduled for 2024 took place on 18 June and was marred by irregularities. A local observation mission reported that voter turnout was only 27%, some election officials were abducted and ballot boxes were removed in several localities.[6] Among the most controversial changes, the amendment significantly strengthens the power of the president who will be able to appoint or remove the prime minister and other ministers and can also dissolve parliament.[7] Armed groups who fought for independence in the country’s north say the draft constitution doesn’t comply with the provisions of the 2015 peace agreement.[8] The opposition and civil society organisations denounced the referendum, citing organisational problems and questioning the junta’s legitimacy to call the poll. Some advocates fear that if approved this will concentrate all powers in hands of the president.[9] Although this is a step closer to holding elections there is still much to be done to meet the February 2024 deadline.

The International Crisis group listed Mali under its conflicts to watch in 2023, as last year was the deadliest ever recorded in the country. The organisation issued recommendations to the European Union (EU) in a context in of the country tilt away from France and Russia’s growing presence. They recommend the EU focus on governance reforms, economic development, civil society and an effective transition back to civilian rule. Above all the EU should insist on Mali exploring non-military solutions to the ongoing insecurity.[10]

[1] OHCHR, Malian troops, foreign military personnel killed over 500 people during military operation in Moura in March 2022 – UN human rights report, 12 May 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/05/malian-troops-foreign-military-personnel-killed-over-500-people-during#:~:text=Malian%20troops%2C%20foreign%20military%20personnel,UN%20human%20rights%20report%20%7C%20OHCHR

[2] OHCHR, Rapport sur les évènements de Moura du 27 au 31 mars 2022, May 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/countries/mali/20230512-Moura-Report.pdf

[3] RFI, “Mali opens investigation into alleged massacre in Moura village,” 7 April 2022, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20220407-mali-opens-investigation-into-alleged-massacre-in-moura-village

[4] VOA, “Mali Denounces UN Report on Army Killings,” 13 May 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/mali-denounces-un-report-on-army-killings-/7092473.html

[5] Amnesty International, “Mali: The perpetrators of the Moura massacre must be prosecuted and tried  by a competent court,” 17 May 2023, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/05/mali-les-auteurs-des-tueries-a-moura-doivent-etre-poursuivis-et-juges-devant-un-tribunal-competent/

[6] Anadolu Agency, “Vote count in Mali’s constitutional referendum marked by kidnappings, irregularities,” 20 June 2023, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/vote-count-in-mali-s-constitutional-referendum-marked-by-kidnappings-irregularities/2926332

[7] Al Jazeera, “Mali gov’t announces June 18 for referendum on new constitution,” 5 May 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/5/mali-announces-new-date-for-referendum-on-new-constitution

[8] Associated Press, “Mali’s junta releases timeline for constitutional referendum,” 5 May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/mali-constitution-referendum-june-0d335b0bed381c2601403873b28695ef

[9] RFI, “Campaign kicks off for Mali’s long-awaited referendum on a new constitution,” 3 June 2023, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20230603-campaign-kicks-off-for-mali-s-long-awaited-referendum-on-a-new-constitution

[10] International Crisis Group, Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, 12 May 2023, https://www.crisisgroup.org/global/watch-list-2023-spring-update