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Mali Country Report 2023

Genocide Emergency Alert: Mali 


By Esme Matthews

In 2012 Touareg independence militias and Islamist militants affiliated with al Qaeda seized control of northern Mali, including Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. They declared independence for the Republic of Awazad. At the request of Mali’s President, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2085 authorizing a Chapter VII military intervention. French and Malian forces drove the rebels out of major cities in 2013. 


Beginning in 2015, Fulani jihadists attacked Bambara and Dogon farmers. In retaliation for Fulani attacks, the Malian Army has persecuted the Fulani (Peul) ethnic group in central Mali. Although they extend across West Africa, Fulanis are a minority of the population in Mali. Fulani herdsmen opposed Malian government grazing fees for their cattle herds. Islamists appealed to the Fulani tradition of jihadism to recruit Fulani militias. 

In 2017, four extremist Fulani groups merged to form the JNIM terrorist group. Conflict between the Fulani and Dogon resulted in the 2019 Ogossagou Massacre, in which a Dogon self-defense group murdered 130 Fulani herdsmen. The JNIM tries to use persecution against Fulani to justify self-defense by JNIM.  

Failure to stop the JNIM precipitated a military coup in 2021. Since then civil war in Mali has increased. Rebel forces now control a third of Mali.  One third of the victims of JNIM attacks have been civilians.

In counterattacks, Malian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries have killed hundreds of civilians. In 2023, the JNIM terrorist group targeted a passenger boat on the Niger River, killing 49 civilians. It also attacked an army base, killing 15 soldiers. 

In 2021, President Assimi Goïta asked for assistance from the Russian Wagner Group. In 2022, he demanded that France and its African Union allies leave Mali.  France withdrew its military presence after 10 years of deployment.  

Wagner Group mercenaries fight alongside Malian soldiers. Both have committed crimes against humanity, including escalating sexual violence against women. These are direct violations of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to which Mali has been a State-party since 2002. 

In November 2023, the Malian government denied affiliation with the Wagner Group and rejected accusations of war crimes by Human Rights Watch over targeted killings of civilians. 

The European Commission reported that 470,000 Malians remained displaced and 3.9 million people in Mali require protection because of increased human rights violations, including sexual violence.  

Genocide Watch considers Mali at Stage 5: Organization, Stage 6: Polarization, and Stage 8: Persecution of the Ten Stages of Genocide.  

Genocide Watch recommends: 

  • France should urge the UN Security Council to reauthorize a UN Peacekeeping Operation in Mali. 

  • The UN General Assembly should condemn the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization.  

  • Mali should expel all foreign mercenaries, including the Wagner Group. 

  • The International Criminal Court should prosecute Malian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

Mali Country Report by Esme Matthews 2023
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