Ethnic clashes in Mali leave 13 dead


At least 13 people were killed in central Mali at the weekend in inter-ethnic clashes between Fulanis and Bambaras, the interior ministry said on Monday, escalating a conflict over resources in a region increasingly outside state control.

Other sources put the death toll higher, including the head of a Fulani rights group who said 45 people were killed and fighting was still going on.

The Fulani, or Peul in French, are a cattle-herding people who have long co-existed peacefully with farmers from Mali’s largest ethnic group, the Bambaras, but economic pressures and Islamist militant infiltration have stoked tensions.

The clashes began when a Bambara storekeeper was killed in a town near Macina, about 300 km north-east of Bamako, said Modibo Dicko, head of a group of associations defending the rights of Fulanis.

Villagers took up arms the next day and burned down the huts of Fulanis they blamed for his death, he said.

The security ministry said 13 people were killed and a number of houses set on fire, but calm returned on Monday and security forces were patrolling the area.

Dicko said at least 45 people were killed and fighting continued on Monday, with over 100 families having fled by foot and on motorbikes.
“Everyone who didn’t flee was assassinated,” he said.

Kader Ba, a retired politician from Macina, said he had reports of 30 people killed on Sunday and five on Monday, including at least two burned alive. Members of his family were among those killed.

Violence in Mali, once confined to the desert north, has spread south in recent years partly due to jihadist recruitment among marginalised Fulani mostly in the centre of the country.

Rising violence and ethnic tensions have led many state officials to flee the area.

French forces intervened in 2013 to drive back Islamist fighters who had taken over the northern part of the country. Despite 13,000 UN peacekeepers deployed since then, Islamist militants regularly launch attacks across Mali and its neighbours.