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Movement in Mali

Coen van Wyk

Posted on August 7, 2019 14:43

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A historic ceasefire agreement was signed in Mali last weekend. This may be a small but important building block in restoring this troubled nation to unity.

The history of warfare between nomads and settlers is as old as human farming practices. The Cowboy and Indian conflicts beloved to Western fiction is just one aspect of this battle for resources. Frequently complicated by religious and social differences, these conflicts can be hard to resolve.

In central Mali the Dogon people have lived since time immemorial on their plateau and hidden in their mountains. Archaeologists found evidence of Dogon settlements going back six millennia and more. Visitors today can see the art work and witness rituals that date back, the people will tell you, to when their ancestors descended from heaven.

Dogon rock paintings in Songho village


Farming is done in the traditional way, in harmony with nature. In Borko, villagers live peacefully alongside crocodiles, with whom they say they have a mutual protection agreement.

 

Neighbors


On the vast plains along the Niger river, various nomadic peoples herd their cattle according to the seasons. Among the ancient nations are the Fulani people who have been here for a mere two thousand years, according to some opinions. Their lifestyle brings them into frequent conflict with the settled Dogon villagers.

 

Niger plains as seen from Dogon country


Of course, religion is not absent. The Fulani are mostly Muslim, while many of the Dogon follow pre-Islamic beliefs. During the 2015 insurgency of Islamic militants into this region, they recruited Fulani members and left weapons in the region.

 

Fulani youngsters love their cattle


A bit of geo-strategy: the Dogon plateau is not far from the strategic crossroads between the west-to-east flowing Niger river and the north-south road that links Ghana, Guinea, and the coastal states to Algeria. An immemorial trading hub at Mopti and Sevare, as well as the fabled Timbuktu, are on this nexus, and it is an important point in the smuggler’s route towards Europe.

 

Mopti, Venice of Africa


The United-Nations-supported stabilization in Mali has helped little in the remote reaches of this country. Conflict between settlers and nomads has continued, culminating in a massacre of some 160 Fulani villagers on March 23 this year, apparently in retaliation against raids on their villages. 

 

United Nations peacekeepers


The Government of Mali took decisive steps and, after protracted discussions, were able to announce the signing of a cease-fire agreement between a dozen armed groups. Fulani and Dogon fighters agreed to cease hostilities and to allow the free movement of people, goods, and humanitarian help.

Mali Premier Boubou Cisse, who witnessed the signing on his second official visit to the area since June, hailed the signing and expressed the hope that, this time, the people really want peace and were going to make it work. 

 Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse in Sevare. Photo Marco Longar/AFP

 

The nation of Mali has seen a fragmentation of its society into warring factions. Agreement on solving conflicts peacefully is critical to enduring peace. This ceasefire agreement may be a step on the road back.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on August 7, 2019 14:43

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Source: FOX Sports
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