The Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM for its acronym in Arabic) has released a new video where you can see the dramatic situation in Mali. The video, recorded somewhere between the towns of Torminian and Benena, near the border with Burkina Faso, shows the corpses of four Malian soldiers being cremated while a JNIM combatant explains what happened throughout the recording. He mentions the previous confrontation with the Malian soldiers and appeals to the victory obtained against them, going so far as to indicate that the victims were shot dead and later burned in retaliation. It should be noted that the Islamic religion does not allow desecrating the body of a deceased, not even that of an enemy, so this video shows without a doubt the level of uncontrol to which the jihadists located in this part of Africa are subjected and the high risk that the Malian Armed Forces run when fighting against the Islamic extremism that plagues the region.
790 civilians killed in a month
After the dissemination of the images nothing has happened. No member of the Malian government has offered to make statements in this regard and no international media outlet has been heard to echo the barbarism. It is the silence that feeds the fire igniting the corpses. Because in Mali it hasn’t affected anyone too much for years that four soldiers have died, four more, four less, where the numbers of soldiers killed are an asymmetric avalanche within the unreliable Malian statistics: two were killed on August 30, 42 died on August 7 in Tessit, 15 soldiers were killed in the Mopti region on July 27, 4 on September 14, another 7 fell on September 13, 6 more at the end of April, 27 more on March 4, etc. To this we could add the 317 civilians killed between July and September 2022, according to data provided by the UN, or the 790 civilians who died only during the month of March.
Experts agree that the security situation in Mali and Burkina Faso is the worst in almost a decade. For the first time in years, the French embassy in Ouagadougou and Bamako advise French citizens to travel anywhere on the map of both countries, including their capitals (which are historically safe places for Europeans), and, if kidnappings have been reduced, that’s because there are no longer whites moving around northern Mali without being armed. Access to the cities of Gao and Kidal is impossible for journalists because their commercial flights have been canceled and the only way to access these destinations is to travel for several days along a highway infested with bandits and jihadists. But the Malian Army prohibits European journalists from entering the north and detains those who try, accusing them of espionage.. Likewise, the European forces deployed in the territory, including the Spanish ones, categorically refuse to collaborate with the press to adequately report what happened. The north of Mali and Burkina Faso is today a huge black spot on the maps, like a black hole. Everything that happens here arrives (if it arrives) several days late and with the versions of what happened intertwined.
Refugees and revenge
Almost 1.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes in the center and north of the country since the start of the conflict in 2012, according to data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 800,000 of them in the last three years. They are fleeing from the fields ravaged by flames, from death, from the massacres perpetrated by the jihadists but also by the Malian military themselves, from chaos, from oblivion, from radical Islam, from rape, from the home of their ancestors. Eyewitnesses from the Mopti area assured this reporter that the greatest agent of terror in the territory is the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (EIGS), whose lethal modus operandi is well known to all: every time SIGS militants take over a new village, it is common for several men to be beheaded and their homes burned down as proof of warning to others. The rapes of young women in the center of the country have reached a point where there are no reliable statistics to rely on. Violations that can last days in a row, until the broken women are returned to their parents and their husbands.
Barbarism grows and grows and grows in the shadow of other tragedies that corrode the world. Sectarian violence against citizens of the Peul ethnic group is spreading in Mali but also in other countries in the region, since a significant number of jihadists belong to this ethnic group and the frightened civilians desperately seek someone to blame for their misfortune. This has led to deadly clashes between members of the Dogon and Peul ethnic groups, the massacre of 300 Peul perpetrated in March 2022 by the Malian military and Russian mercenaries, and even the burning of homes and physical attacks against Peul residents in northern Côte d’Ivoire.
And meanwhile the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country continues, accelerated to new speeds after the recent announcement by Emmanuel Macron end of the Barkhane operation in the Sahel. The United Kingdom, Germany and the Ivory Coast have announced in the last week their withdrawal from the UN mission in the country (known as MINUSMA) before the end of 2023, while other European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Italy and Spain began to reduce the number of troops deployed in Mali months ago. The black hole on the map gets darker every time and only screams and smoke come out of it. Like all black holes, it only knows how to grow: the president of Ghana already said this Tuesday in a meeting held with other African leaders in Accra that jihadist violence risks “engulfing” all of West Africa if measures are not taken soon timely. Measures that are increasingly difficult to carry out due to the political isolation suffered by Mali and Burkina Faso as a result of the four coups d’état they have suffered in the last two years, and the black hole grows and with it the emptiness and ignorance of what can happen inside it.