Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, urged citizens to refrain from violence as his government scrambled to deal with the fallout from an attack that left scores of people dead and raised the specter of
widespread civil conflict.
Extremist insurgencies that have plagued the impoverished West African nation for seven years are increasingly stoking tension between farming communities and groups that traditionally herd cattle.
At least 35 people in an ethnic Dogon village in the central Mopti region were killed in a single raid, marking the largest massacres since March, when 157 mostly ethnic Fulani herders were slaughtered.
Keita cut short a visit to Switzerland and was due to arrive home on Tuesday after issuing a statement urging people to refrain from reprisals and vowing to arrest the perpetrators. Initial reports that 95 people had been killed have been revised to at least 35, according to Mopti’s governor.
While his government earlier this year pledged to dismantle a Dogon militia it holds responsible for attacking and beheading Fulani villagers, the militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou said it considered the latest raid a “declaration of war” and called on young men to join the “fight for the survival of the Dogon.”
The government already replaced several high-ranking army commanders in March, but has not been able to stop the surge in inter-communal fighting.
Instead, it has so far tolerated the emergence of militias that claimed to defend local residents against extremists — a decision that now appears to have backfired.
“The threshold of what’s intolerable has been reached and it’s time for a national upsurge,” Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN special representative to Mali, said. “This drama reminds us unfortunately that there are no good guys on one side and bad guys on the other in this spiral of violence.”