25 March 2013

Mali: Power Struggles in the South and North Lead to a Fear of Further Escalation of the Crisis

Photo: Ministère de la Défense Française
Malian soldiers along with their French counterparts (file photo).

Following recent clashes in Bamako, FIDH and its member organisation in Mali, the Malian Association of Human Rights (AMDH), are deeply concerned about this new stage of the crisis in Mali, characterised by the struggle for control of the political transition in the South and growing opposition between the rebel groups for control of the North. Our organisations call upon the international community to act to prevent the spiralling of the crisis and further clashes.

On Monday, April 30, several units of paratroopers - the Red Berets, faithful to Amadou Toumani Touré - attacked several strategic locations in the capital and its surroundings, including the garrison city of Kati, Bamako-Senou International Airport, and the headquarters of the national television station ORTM. It seems that this attack was precipitated by the rumour of the impending arrest of Abidine Guindo, the leader of the paratroopers.  Violent and heavily armed clashes ensued and continued through the morning of 1 May 2012, opposing the Red Berets to soldiers loyal to the junta, mainly the Green Berets, and the gendarmerie.  According to most media reports, there were about two dozen victims, however AMDH projected a much larger number. Hundreds of injured flocked to hospitals in the capital. A dozen armed men, purported to be foreign mercenaries fighting alongside the Red Berets were arrested and are still held in the Kati camp by members of the junta.

"Calm has returned to Bamako, but bodies are still lying here and there in the streets," said Mr. Moctar Mariko, AMDH President. "The civilian population is the main victim of this conflict between military factions," he said. "The West African community and, more broadly, the international community must intervene, particularly by providing assistance to the Mali national army, and by interjecting itself between the opposing sides before the situation turns into a settling of accounts. The civilian population is being held hostage, as much in the North of the country as in Bamako. Violence and tensions have lasted too long, casualties are only increasing. We again condemn these acts and call for a sustainable cease-fire that will allow a civil government to complete the transition, " he added.

"The manoeuvres to grab power and control the political transition must stop immediately," said Souhayr Belhassen FIDH President. " We must be able to guarantee to the civilian transitional government that it can carry out its mission without a constant risk of a coup d'etat, or a counter-coup," she added.

The situation in the north of the country is experiencing new pressures despite apparent calm. Ansar Dine seems to control the big cities and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) their suburbs. Other movements have arisen and joined the struggle to seize power in this region. On April 25, the Azawad National Liberation Front (FNLA) a new rebel group consisting of Arab tribes, opposed Ansar Dine in Timbuktu. Ansar Dine ordered them to leave, but at the same time seemed to get closer to the MNLA to ensure control of the region and thus deter any other group from taking the city.

After a summit of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Dakar, our organisations call upon the international community to mobilise more strongly in favour of the management of the political transition by a civil authority free from any pressure from the military. "We must stop being passive actors. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the Security Council of the UN should insist that parties comply with the roadmap for an exit to the crisis through the organisation of elections," said Sidiki Kaba FIDH Honorary President.

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Malian soldiers along with their French counterparts (file photo).

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