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Humanitarian Stories from Mali

Interethnic Violence

Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometers and a population of 14.5 million. It consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert. It has faced violent turmoil ever since the conflicts began back in 2012.

A brief history of Mali

Once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade, Mali was a cultural and academic center for advanced mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, the Mali Empire covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France and stretched to the west coast of Africa. France seized control of Mali in the late 19th century, making it a part of French Sudan. Shortly after achieving independence in 1960, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a coup in 1991 led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.

The Northern Mali Conflict involves many armed conflicts that broke out in January 2012 between the northern and southern parts of Mali. An armed conflict started in northern Mali, when the Tuareg rebels took control of that region by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The violence in northern Mali ever since has hindered aid workers from delivering food, water, and health care to millions of people in need.

Back in 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited the signature of a peace agreement between the Government of Mali and members of armed groups fighting for greater autonomy. This was regarded as a key step towards ending a decades-long cycle of uprisings and therefore bring stability and security back to the country. But unfortunately, it hasn’t proven to be entirely effective.

The situation turned somewhat more stable after signing the peace agreement, but last year it turned ugly again. The Tuareg-dominated Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and rival Gatia militia fighters clashed before pro-government fighters withdrew. Both groups signed the United Nations-backed deal a year ago, but it didn't prove to be a guarantee of safety and stability.

More than 135,000 Malians who had run from the conflict in their home country continue to flee to Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania. Security incidents in northern and central Mali continue to trigger sporadic forced displacement in the region, calling for a continued humanitarian response which often proves to be impossible due to the unstable and unpredictable safety situation in the region.

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