Mali militia death toll


Nearly 300 Malian civilians were killed in fighting between rival militias this year, the UN human rights office said, as inter-communal violence across the country threatens a presidential election due later this month.

Malians head to the polls on July 29 for a vote meant to halt six years of political unrest, jihadist attacks and ethnic clashes. The situation has degenerated in recent months and spilled into neighbouring countries.

Mali’s government repeatedly said the polls, in which incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is seeking re-election, will go ahead as planned, but violence threatens to significantly lower turnout.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said at least 289 civilians were killed in 99 incidents of communal violence since the start of the year, according to investigations by peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.

More than 75% of incidents occurred in central Mopti region, he told a news briefing, with more than half taking place since May 1.
“MINUSMA has documented an escalation of attacks allegedly carried out by Dozos (traditional hunters) and elements of Dogon militias against villages or parts of villages occupied primarily by the Fulani community,” Colville said.

Dozos, also known as Donzos, are enmeshed in a long-running conflict with Fulani herders over land, grazing grounds and water rights.

Earlier this month, Dogon militia fighters allegedly killed 16 Fulani civilians during a raid, with some reportedly shot inside the local mosque and others burned alive in their houses, Colville said.

Fulani militia and an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group with close ties to Fulani communities have in turn targeted Dogon and Bambara civilians, he said.

The jihadists’ exploitation of ethnic tensions to win recruits and use Mali as a springboard for attacks into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso alarmed former colonial power France and the United States, who deployed thousands of troops to the region.

France intervened in Mali’s desert north in 2013 to drive back Islamist militants threatening to march on the south’s main population centres, but they have since regained a foothold in the north and semi-arid central area.