Escalating Violence Continues in Northern Mali
Following the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, northern Mali has witnessed a drastic surge in violence, with over 150 fatalities reported.
The escalating unrest includes a significant attack on a passenger boat which resulted in 49 civilian deaths. This has led to a mass exodus from the city of Timbuktu, as residents flee the growing unrest.
The Malian military, which assumed power following two coups since 2020, is grappling with the escalating crisis. Furthermore, a 2015 peace agreement with ethnic Tuareg rebels has seemingly failed, adding fuel to the security crisis.
The violence is perpetrated by jihadi groups and former rebels, who are attempting to seize control over more regions. Malian security analyst, Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara, emphasizes that the frequency and intensity of these attacks are unprecedented.
According to the Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project (ACLED), Mali has witnessed an average of four violent attacks daily in 2022, a 15% increase compared to the same period last year.
The Situation in Northern Regions
The situation is particularly severe in northern regions like Gao, where violence has more than doubled since the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers.
The Tuareg rebels have claimed responsibility for a major attack on a Malian army base, signaling a breakdown of the peace agreement. The rebels have also temporarily captured parts of Bourem in the Gao region.
Despite being a major gold producer, Mali is one of the least developed nations globally, with nearly half of its 22 million population living below the poverty line. This escalating violence further exacerbates the humanitarian crisis, with a third of Mali’s citizens requiring humanitarian aid.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has registered over 33,000 people fleeing the violence in northern Mali for Mauritania and Algeria.
Effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping Force Questioned
The effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, has come into question as affiliated groups of al-Qaida and the Islamic State have nearly doubled their territory control in less than a year.
MINUSMA, considered the most dangerous UN mission globally, was asked to vacate Mali by the country’s military government in June. Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has been assisting in combating the violence, but it has been deemed insufficient to fill the security gap left by MINUSMA’s withdrawal.
The departure of the UN peacekeepers is expected to deteriorate the already fragile security environment in Mali, potentially impacting the economic and political landscape of the country. The situation poses significant challenges, particularly regarding Mali’s intended political transition.
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