600 Killed in Mali, as South Africans Go to Polls

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

A political risk consultancy, Menas Associates says the massacre of no less than 160 Peul (Fulani) in the village of Ogossagou in the southern Mopti Region of Mali, in late March constituted the largest single killing in the country since the French military intervention in 2013.

This, according to them, has brought the civilian death toll in Mopti Region to more than 600 since March 2018.

Menas has been helping multinational companies operate in the Middle East, Africa, and other emerging markets since the late 1970s. They also provide actionable intelligence for their clients, from country entry strategies, to due diligence, stakeholder analysis, political risk reports, market assessments, problem solving and exit strategies.

Their report is coming as South Africans are heading to the polls next week to vote during the national and provincial elections, all amid a context of increased political uncertainty for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), heightened violence across the country and subdued economic growth.

There is little doubt that the ANC is gearing up for its most challenging post-apartheid election yet. Recent polls have been contradictory. Most predict a comfortable win for the still-dominant ANC, but some – including this poll from the South African Institute of Race Relations – suggest they could see their support drop to just shy of 51%. Such a drop would be disastrous for the ruling party, that has struggled to recover from the damage brought about by former President Jacob Zuma.

According to Menas, ‘’while we predict a decrease in ANC support potentially to below 60% — for the first time — we also believe that the ANC will maintain their dominance at the national level.

‘’The picture is less certain at the provincial level. Businesses should be prepared for the possibility of coalition governments in economic hubs such as the northern province of Gauteng, especially following the respectable record of the current moderate opposition Democratic Alliance-led coalitions in both Johannesburg and Tshwane.

‘’Equally important will be the performance of the Economic Freedom Fighters, which hopes to break the 10% mark for the first time. This would make it only the third party to win more than 10% of national vote since the end of apartheid, and would likely intensify the party’s attitude of behaving like the main opposition – significantly changing the landscape of South African politics going forward.’’

The political risk consultants however, say the Malian village was attacked by about 100 armed men who are alleged to be members of Dan Na Ambassagou (a.k.a. Dozos) — an association of traditional Dogon hunters — which was created in December 2016. The massacre was brutal. Some were shot but most were killed with ‘cold steel’ — machetes and knives — with some being burnt alive and even dismembered. Two days later, six inhabitants of two Dogon villages — Ouadou and Kere Kere in the same Bankass district — were killed in a retaliation attack.

‘’The Dozos were originally hunting associations that were responsible for the management of bush spaces around the villages. The current groups have been largely diverted from this primary function to become paramilitary groups.

‘’They have acquired sophisticated military equipment including heavy weapons and bulletproof vests whose provenance remains unknown. They have established bases in the region’s towns and villages despite the full knowledge of the Malian authorities. These armed groups say they are mobilising to protect their communities and to fill the gaps of the Malian security forces in the face of the growing jihadist groups.

‘’The Dan Na Ambassagou militia is often accused of responsibility for the attacks against Peul populations in Central Mali. This latest massacre is the culmination of the violence which has led to allegations of ethnic cleansing. In between these killings there have been retaliatory attacks on Dogon communities, albeit usually with a lower number of deaths.

‘’The Dozos have an ambiguous relationship with the Malian security forces. When Dan Na Ambassagou was created in 2016 some of Mali’s regional political and military authorities tolerated and even encouraged its development. The hope was that the militia would help curb the advance of the jihadist groups into central Mali where the State has been, and continues to be, vulnerable.

‘’The political and military authorities were then overwhelmed by the activity of these groups which quickly took advantage of their position to settle inter-communal accounts and establish their influence in local areas.

‘’The withdrawal of the state from much of northern and now central Mali has allowed these community groups and their militias to assert themselves’’, Menas said.

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