Mali sacks top army chiefs, dissolves militia after scores killed

Mali‘s government has announced the sacking of top military officers and the dissolution of a militia, a day after the killing of more than 130 people.

Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said on Sunday new military chiefs would be named, and that the Dan Nan Ambassagou association, comprising Dogon hunters, had been dissolved.

“The protection of the population will remain the monopoly of the state,” Maiga told journalists.

Survivors of Saturday’s attack said ethnic Dogon hunters carried out the raid in Ogossagou, a village in central Mali inhabited by the Fulani community.

Later on Sunday, Reuters news agency reported that army chief of staff General M’Bemba Moussa Keita was removed and replaced by General Abdoulaye Coulibaly, while chief of land forces General Abdrahamane Baby was replaced by Brigadier-General Keba Sangare.

The developments came hours after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita called an emergency meeting in response to the attack, in which at least 134 men, women and children were killed.

The victims were shot or hacked to death with machetes, a security source told AFP.

It was the deadliest attack since the end of the 2013 French-led military intervention that drove back armed groups who had taken control of northern Mali.

“The state is no longer there; there is no state protection to ensure safety and its presence in those areas,” Adama Gaye, West African analyst and former director of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc, told Al Jazeera, warning that attacks on the Fulani had become a recurrent problem which needed to be addressed by the Mali government and at the regional level.

“People have concluded that there is even a risk of genocide – they are using the word genocide regarding the Fulanis … it’s a very serious situation.”

UN chief ‘outraged’

Saturday’s attack came as a United Nations Security Council mission visited Mali to seek a resolution to the violence that saw hundreds of civilians killed last year.

“The secretary-general is shocked and outraged by reports that at least 134 civilians, including women and children, have been killed,” Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said in a statement, late Saturday.

The UN chief called on the Malian authorities “to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement added.

Guterres’s spokesman said the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, provided air support to deter further attacks and assisted with the evacuation of the injured.

Ethnic tensions

Donzo hunters are part of the Bambara, Mali’s largest ethnic group. The semi-nomadic Fulani people are dispersed throughout the Sahel and West Africa.

Saturday’s attack is believed to be the latest in a series of clashes between the communities of Donzo and Fulani that have left dozens dead in recent months.

In January, Donzo hunters were blamed for the killing of 37 people in a Fulani village.

The violence is incited by accusations of grazing cattle on Donzo land and disputes over access to land and water, but the area is also troubled by the influence of armed groups, who the Fulani are accused of being tied to.

Armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours, Burkina Faso and Niger,  to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory in the Sahel region virtually ungovernable.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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