April 18, 2019.- On 23 March 2019, more than 150 Fulani pastoralists were killed in their village in Ogossagou in Mopti region in central Mali. The attack started at dawn and was carried out with guns and machetes in a brutal manner. Men and women, young and old were killed, and the victims included many children and small babies.
The massacre is believed to be the deadliest incident of ethnic violence in Mali in a generation and is a result of escalating conflict over natural resources.
Amadou Diallo, a local councillor denounced the attack as "ethnic cleansing". He estimated that the death toll had jumped to 160 and "will probably be higher still". According to a list received by IWGIA, 173 people were killed - ranging from old people of 98 years to a 10 days old baby. According to Al-Jazeera, a 75-year-old survivor Ali Diallo testified: "I have never seen anything like that. They came, they shot people, burned homes, killed the babies".
An armed group from within the Dogon ethnic group – a hunting and farming community with a long history of tension with the Fulani pastoralists over access to land – is suspected of having carried out the massacre.
An escalating conflict over natural resources
The attack is believed to be the latest in a series of clashes between the communities of Dogon and Fulani - also known as Peul - with fatal consequences for the involved parties. Ravina Shamdasini, a spokeswoman from the UN rights office, said that attacks in the Mopti region alone had led to “some 600 deaths of women, children and men, as well as thousands of displaced persons since March 2018.”
The violence is incited by accusations of grazing cattle on Dogon land and disputes over access to land and water, but the area is also troubled by the influence of armed groups, whom the Fulani are accused of being tied to - charges which the Fulani deny.
Attacks on Fulani people have become a recurrent and ever more serious problem in Mali, which needs to be addressed by the Mali government and at the regional level. As stated by Adama Gaye, West African analyst and former director of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc, to Al-Jazeera: “The state is no longer there; there is no state protection to ensure safety and its presence in those areas”.
International pressure to investigate the massacre
The attack happened when a delegation from the UN Security Council visited Mali to discuss increased violence. UN has called on Malian authorities "to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice", and the UN has sent a team of investigators to the Mopti region.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Besouda says that the crimes could fall under ICC jurisdiction and that a delegation will be sent to Mali to investigate the incident.
Also, The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has called on the Mali government to restore peace, security, interethnic unity and peaceful co-existence. Read the press release here.
So far, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has responded to the attack on the Fulani villagers by sacking and replacing two generals and disbanding a vigilante group, whose fighters are suspected of being behind the killings.
The massacre has, however, led to widespread demonstrations in the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, where thousands of people are protesting against the intercommunal violence and killings and the failure of the Mali government to protect civilians.
IWGIA condemns the attacks on the Fulani people
IWGIA joins the UN and ACHPR in strongly condemning the horrifying and brutal attack on the Fulani people of 23 March – as well as the many other previous deadly attacks in the region.
IWGIA urges the government of Mali to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure peace and security for the Fulani and other communities in Mali.
Facts about the Fulani people
- The Fulani people are also known as Fula, Fulbe and Peul
- The Fulani population is around 38 to 40 million people
- Around one-third of the population are pastoralists
- They live mainly in West Africa and northern parts of Central Africa, including countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and also South Sudan and Sudan.
Read more about indigenous peoples in Mali here
Read more about the challenges facing the Fulani people in this 2011 IWGIA report from Niger