From January to March of this year, army forces and Islamist organisations killed over 500 people in Mali, according to a report released by the United Nations on Monday that showed the rapid deterioration of an already dire security situation.
The killings constituted a 324 percent increase over the previous quarter and showed the failure of Mali’s military junta to curb human rights violations or prevent al Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated factions from conducting violent campaigns.
They occur precisely as Mali severes ties with former colonial power France and as Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, arrives to assist in defeating terrorists who have carried out attacks in the centre and north of the country for nearly a decade.
The military of Mali, which seized control in a coup in 2020, did not reply to demands for comment. Wagner Group was not reachable.
The U.N.’s Malian mission, known as MINUSMA, stated in its report that “Malian Armed Forces, assisted on occasion by foreign military components, expanded military operations to combat terrorism… some of which resulted in significant claims of human rights breaches.”
Western nations vehemently opposed Wagner’s action, expressing concern that it could inflame bloodshed in Mali and neighbouring countries, where communities confront escalating drought, starvation, and poverty.
MINUSMA identified 320 violations of human rights by the Malian military between January and March, compared to 31 during the preceding three-month period.
The most egregious incident was in the town of Moura, where, according to witnesses and human rights organisations, the Malian army, assisted by white fighters, massacred dozens of locals they assumed to be terrorists.
MINUSMA stated that, in addition to summary executions, security personnel allegedly raped, pillaged, arrested, and arbitrarily detained a large number of civilians during the military operation.
MINUSMA is conducting an investigation, but access to the town has been denied. After the government has undertaken its own inquiry, MINUSMA will evaluate the request.
Violence has plagued Mali since 2012, when terrorists gained control of the northern region. In 2015, they had regrouped and unleashed a wave of attacks in the centre after France had defeated them. Since then, they have extended to Niger and Burkina Faso, causing regional instability fears.