Date: Thursday, 11 July 2019
The fighting between Dogon and Fulani tribal militias continues in central Mali. The current cycle of attacks began with a spectacular March massacre where Dogon (farmer) militia attacked a Fulani village. That action left over 160 Fulani dead and it wasn’t just the Fulani who were enraged by this. The Fulani were the ones who started this violence years ago as they sought to force farmers off land and away from water supplies the Fulani coveted. But the Fulani raids were meant to terrorize, not exterminate. The Dogon tribe, one of the larger sedentary groups in central Mali, has always been the most organized and aggressive in confronting Fulani efforts to expand south to the better watered and more fertile (for grass and crops) Niger River Valley and beyond. After 2012 and the separatist/Islamic terrorist uprising in the north there was an increase in Fulani-farmer violence and the bloodiest incidents often involved Dogon militias fighting Fulani. Calls for the government to disarm the Dogon militias were popular for a while until police and army commanders convinced the government that attempting disarmament would be bloody and, in the long run futile. For the Dogon the Fulani all this feuding is a matter of life or death while the politicians are concerned about appeasing popular outrage (which tends to fade quickly) and critical foreign media (which influences foreign aid decisions and is more important, especially for corrupt politicians who steal much of that aid.) Getting the Fulani and Dogon (and other farming tribes) to settle the land and water disputes peacefully is more difficult but is the only lasting solution but also the more difficult one.
The Dogon/Fulani feuding in central Mali has been the main cause of over 200,000 civilians being forced from their homes during the first six months of 2016. That is more than five times as many refugees created in the first six months of 2018. Most of the 600 terrorism and outlaw related deaths so far in 2019 have occurred in central Mali. There is still violence in the north but the Islamic terror groups, even ISGS (Islamic State in Greater Sahara), the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) franchise, has been avoiding combat and concentrating on staying alive.
For the al Qaeda affiliated groups that means tending to the lucrative smuggling operations that moves illegal drugs and migrants north. The people smuggling business is not as lucrative as it used to be because more European nations are making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get the illegals into Europe. This is bad for business in Mali because the local Islamic terror groups depend on smuggling income to survive. An additional problem is the growing threat from local and Western (mainly French and American) counter-terrorism forces. The French have taken the lead in these operations and have been more successful in finding and attacking the various Islamic terror groups in the region (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger).
The 14,000 peacekeepers in the north are mainly from other African countries and many of these troops have served multiple tours in Mali and become more familiar with the local situation. Then there is the fatigue factor. The north has been in turmoil for over eight years and most of the locals want more peace and less violent chaos. So the troublemakers have less local cooperation and support while the peacekeepers are more welcome. Even with that, serving in Mali has become the most dangerous UN sponsored peacekeeping operation on the planet.
July 10, 2019: The UN has imposed personal sanctions on five Mali men (three Islamic terrorists and two government officials) who have played a key role in preventing the peace deal with the northern Tuareg rebels to be implemented. The travel and financial bans make it difficult for these five to travel outside the country as well as carry out financial transactions.
July 9, 2019: Britain has agreed to keep its helicopters in Mali for another six months. The three British CH-47 Chinook helicopters arrived a year ago along with 90 troops to operate and maintain them. These versatile helicopters were needed to support counter-terror operations in the north and proved so useful that France persuaded the British to keep them in Mali longer. The widely used Chinook has been around for decades and the current version has proved its usefulness in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East. Britain is a major user of the Chinooks, modifying these American aircraft to suit British needs.
June 30, 2019: In the northeast (Mopti), near the Burkina Faso border, Dogon tribesmen attacked three Fulani villages killing 30 or more villagers and stealing or destroying property.
June 20, 2019: In the northeast (Menaka) across the border in Niger a joint force of French and Niger troops killed 18 ISGS men. The Americans apparently supplied aerial surveillance and other intel. The Americans denied having any personnel on the ground for this operation. The Americans have been expanding their UAV operations in Niger and just completed construction of a new “Airbase 201” outside Agadez, which is 730 kilometers northeast of the Niger capital (Niamey). U.S. aircraft have been operating of Niamey, which is close to the current operations in Mali, for about five years. The armed American UAVs will soon be operating in Niger and that will be useful along the Mali border. France also has some large UAVs operating in Niger and Mali but not have as many of them in the region as the Americans. France does have fighter-bombers and helicopter gunships in the region and permission from the locals to use them as needed.
June 17, 2019: In the northeast (Mopti), near the Burkina Faso border, Fulani gunmen attacked two Dogon villages, killing 38 villagers and wounding many more.
June 16, 2019: In the south (Sokolo) two policemen were killed by a bomb set off near the entrance to an army base. This was probably al Qaeda affiliated Islamic terrorists intimidating local security forces.
In the north (south of Timbuktu) a convoy escorted by soldiers was ambushed. The attackers fled after being fired on but not before one soldier was killed and another wounded. Armed escorts are essential on some roads because of the many local bandits as well as Islamic terror groups.
June 14, 2019: In the northeast (Menaka) near the Niger border French and Mali forces located dozens of ISGS men and called in air strikes. A combination of the airstrikes and several clashes with ground forces left about twenty of the Islamic terrorists dead over several days of attacks. Patrols along the border continued for another four days and coordinated with a similar operation taking place across the border in Niger.
June 10, 2019: In the northeast (Mopti), near the Burkina Faso border, Fulani gunmen attacked Sobane Da, a Dogon village, late on the 9th and continued the violence until near dawn, killing at least a hundred villagers, including over twenty children. The village was looted and many of the structures burned down.