On the basis of a question notice issued last weekend by the Malian National Assembly, the Government faced parliamentarians on Monday, January 7th to explain itself over the continuing deadly violence in central Mali.
This constitutional exercise between the Executive and the Legislature follows the interethnic massacre which occurred on January 1st and left nearly 40 dead in the central region of Mopti. President Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita personally visited the site of the killings on Friday, January 4, meeting the bereaved families and bringing them the moral and material support of the Malian State. He also announced the imminent construction of a military base, in a region where sectarian clashes and jihadist attacks have seriously affected social cohesion between ethnic groups in recent years.
Who are those armed men in traditional hunting gear responsible for the killings? Where do the weapons of war come from? Are we facing an inter-communal conflict? When will all the militia be disarmed and the national armed forces deployed? These were some of the questions put to the Government by members of various parliamentary groups in the National Assembly. Having raised concern about the spectre of "ethnic cleansing" against the Fulani community, deputies have all stressed the seriousness of the security situation prevailing in central Mali, while calling on state authorities to quickly find a definitive solution.
In its response, the Government, through the Prime Minister, Souméilou Boubeye Maïga, announced several policies including "more active measures" against the bearers of arms. But first of all, to "efficiently" fight against the scourge of insecurity in central Mali, Maïga insisted on the need to obtain a consensus between all parts of Malian society. He also invited national opinion to avoid "local approaches" to the conflict and instead promote a "unified vision" of the Malian territory while "breaking away from any of feeling of affiliation.”
Regarding the specific case of the Fulani village of Koulogon, in the central region of Mopti, where dozens of civilians were killed early last week during an armed attack by a tribal militia, Prime Minister Maïga explained to parliamentarians that during the incident, many foreign fighters were present on Malian territory, especially in the Circle of Bankass near the border with Burkina Faso where the tragedy occurred. To this end, he announced the strengthening of military cooperation between Mali and Burkina Faso and pointed out the approach and analysis that Mali’s government has adopted about the context in which the violence has occured.
"It is impossible to understand what is happening in Mali, if one does not restore it to forces that are contrary to us and that have not changed their agenda, specifically, disintegrating our country. In this agenda, the exacerbation of violence between ethnic groups is an operational way of promoting the territorial expansion of these obscurantist forces. Therefore, there is necessarily a link between the events in central Mali and those that led to the occupation of northern regions in 2012,” Maïga told deputies.
"As long as we are not going to integrate and definitely understand the fact that violence between ethnic groups is aroused, nurtured and exacerbated in ways that destroy our social cohesion, we risk falling into the community trap that will destroy the consensus upon which lies our nation,” he added.
With regard to the actions concretely carried out as well as those technically planned by the government in the conflict areas, the PM said, "Since the disarmament process was initiated by the Government in early November 2018, we have so far been able to withdraw 444 weapons including weapons of war, in the regions of Mopti and Ségou, where we are also planning to open 16 new checkpoints for the National Guard and Gendarmerie. After this month, we will be forced to take more active action against gun bearers and motorised vehicle users in several areas.”
He added that other measures are already under way to increase the number and capacity of the Malian Defence and Security forces as well as strengthening the presence of the judicial administration on the ground.