Mali: Inter-Ethnic Violence Spikes - UN Calls for Probe

Malian military on patrol (file photo).

The United Nations Human Rights Office is calling on the government of Mali to investigate the killing of more than 150 people and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The agency says an attack Saturday in Ogossagou in the Mopti region of central Mali, marked a significant increase in violence.

The U.N. reports that over the past year, fighting between the Fulani and Dogon ethnic communities has resulted in the deaths of some 600 women, children and men.

Disputes over land and water between Fulani herders and Dogon hunters are common. But the fighting has grown increasingly violent. The U.N. Human Rights office says that survivors of Saturday's attack, most of them Fulani, said Dogon traditional hunters attacked the village of Ogossagou with automatic weapons and hunting rifles.

Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said that some members of the Dogon portray the Fulani as supporters of violent Islamist extremist groups.

“I understand that many of these communities - either they are using this as a pretext for intercommunal violence, or they are painting themselves as so-called defense groups. They are taking the law into their own hands and getting rid of what they perceive to be the threat of violent extremism which, of course, ends up meaning that many children are mercilessly killed, people’s bodies are thrown into wells, people are burned alive in their homes,” she said.

Shamdasani noted that the Dogon are the only group accusing the Fulani of supporting Islamist militants.

She said the Malian government has launched investigations and made arrests in the past aimed at stopping the cycle of violence. But she said none of the cases ever went to trial.

Shamdasani said her office has deployed a team of crime scene investigators and human rights officers to the affected villages. She said they will be conducting interviews to establish what happened. She added the U.N. rights office will support the government to carry those investigations forward.

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