The sudden rise in the number of recent killings in central and northern Mali is now of major concern to human rights organizations. They have called on the government to shoulder its responsibility to protect lives, and they are demanding a political response to the various cases of human rights violations in Mali. The UN human rights organisation has estimated that 300 Malian civilians have been killed in fighting between rival militias this year.
On November 19, 2018, at around 6 am, in the village of Koromatintin in east-central Mali near the border with Burkina Faso, the Malian army fired on attackers and nine assailants were killed, about twenty others arrested and several motorcycles burned by soldiers. According to Sidi Alassane Toure, Governor of Bankass, the area has become an important flashpoint where jihadists have taken advantage of local conflicts between farmers and cattle herders.
Despite a peace agreement signed in late August under the leadership of the Malian Government, between the village chiefs of the tribal communities who are in conflict, the security situation is still in turmoil as armed conflict continues between the Malian army and various factions in the civilian population.
On 20 November 2018, an armed militia identified as traditional hunters affiliated with the Dogon ethnic group, who mainly live in central Mali, attacked a detachment of the Malian army in Mopti region’s village of Koulogo, killing six soldiers and wounding several, according to the Malian Army’s Directorate of Information and Public Relations, (MADIPR).
On the same day, the government militia, mostly based in the Malian northern region of Ménaka, said 11 civilians from the Tuareg community had been killed on 18 November 2018 by unidentified gunmen.
On November 21, 2018, forces on patrol made the discovery of 33 dead bodies near the Algerian border. The dead, all civilians, were buried on November 22 under the supervision of UN forces, and local authorities in the region.
On Wednesday, November 22, 2018, 16 civilians were massacred in central Mali by heavily armed assailants, according to Check Harouna Sankaré, former presidential candidate and mayor of the administrative district. Check Harouna Sankaré has directly accused the Dogon militia of being responsible for the massacre. This predominantly animist and Christian tribal militia has been active in central Mali for almost three years. The religious and ethnic tensions, as well as conflicts between different ethnic groups over land, grazing ground and water rights, between different groups, have ensured surging inter-communal violence in Mali.
In one week, more than 70 people have died in Mali in this upsurge of bloody attacks, specifically in the central and northern regions of the country.
The Malian Human Rights Association (MHRA) and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (IFHR), held a news conference on 24 November, 2018 to paint a picture of the prevailing security situation in Mali, especially the cases of human rights violations by presenting a report drawn up on the basis of the incidents of recent months.
"The security situation in Mali, particularly in the centre of the country, is characterized by the rootedness of terrorist armed groups, the intensification of inter-communal conflicts and the abuses committed during various anti-terrorist operations," said Moctar Mariko, chairman of the MHRA. "40% of jihadist attacks are now concentrated in the centre of the country where, in the last two years, more than 1,200 civilians were killed, about 50 villages burned and at least 30,000 people have fled their homes," he said.
Human rights organisations have accused the Malian army of committing severe violations of human rights. "The units of the Malian armed forces, during the last anti-terrorist operations, have arrested and executed 67 individuals shown as jihadist fighters and whose bodies disappeared in mass graves. The majority of the victims were actually Fulani civilians assimilated to Islamists," said Drissa Traoré, Coordinator of the MHRA-IFHR Joint Programme.
"The 'integrated security plan' of the central regions, which was planning to deploy 4,000 Malian soldiers and launched by the government since February 2018, has resulted in real punitive expeditions. Nearly a hundred people were summarily and extrajudicially executed. These abuses against unarmed civilians have largely contributed to exacerbating violence as well as the marginalization and radicalization of some communities. Having so far not given rise to any condemnation, the crimes are unfortunately likely to continue if the Malian state does not tie its military strategy to political objectives by playing its full role of protector and save the populations’ lives," he went on.
The following day, 25 November, the government of the Republic of Mali, through its spokesman, Amadou Koïta, promptly responded to the accusations by human rights organisations during a press briefing, describing them as "allegations mounted from scratch to undermine the state's unrelenting efforts in the return of peace."
"There is no evidence to these allegations accusing the Malian army of abuses against civilians. We are a conscientious, professional and republican government having always conducted investigations to pinpoint responsibilities whenever we were seized by cases of human rights violations. No instructions were given to the Malian defense and security forces to target any ethnic group," said Amadou Koïta.
The government, in turn, accused human rights leaders of failing to "maintain ethics and good conduct" by failing to wait for an answer before publishing their report, which "is not corroborated by any facts made available to it", but which the Malian authorities have only known of its existence through the press.