Sensitive topic this Friday on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Forced disappearances, summary executions … The accusations of atrocities on the local populations are increasing against soldiers from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger engaged against jihadists in the central Sahel. “Peace and security in Africa”: the theme of the meeting organized by the Security Council is broad, but one of the main topics expected “will be the accusations of violations of human rights by the armies of the Sahel”, assures a diplomat in Bamako. The concern has been expressed emphatically for several months, at the same time as the denunciation of jihadist acts and intercommunity violence.
At the beginning of April, the UN mission in Mali (Minusma) denounced the “multiplication” of misdeeds attributed to the national armies. The UN has counted 101 extrajudicial executions perpetrated by the Malian army between January and March, and around thirty others by the Nigerien army on Malian soil. “These figures, names and circumstances have been documented,” said Guillaume Ngefa, director of the human rights division of Minusma. Twelve people arrested for complicity with the jihadists died in gendarmerie cells in mid-May in eastern Burkina Faso. Relatives and NGOs say they were civilians, summarily shot. Justice has promised investigations.
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Excesses “here and there”
In Niger, 102 people were reportedly killed by the army in the Tillabéri region (West), according to the publication of a list of missing persons which circulated in April. The Defense Ministry said that an investigation would be carried out, while praising the “professionalism” of the troops. Each time, human rights organizations publish lists of names and photos, deploring the disappearance of those concerned after the passage of soldiers. The majority of the disappeared are Fulani, readily assimilated to the accomplices of the jihadists. “No matter how well we make reports, denounce that so many Fulani have been killed and thrown into a well, or show the world a mass grave, nothing is done afterwards”, deplores a member of the Malian Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku on condition of anonymity.
“It is undeniable that some Peuls have taken the path of jihadism, but it is to be naive to reduce jihadism to a single ethnic group,” said Tabital Pulaaku president, Abu Sow, before the press. Sahelian governments have always united behind their armies, which, often under-equipped and under-trained, pay a heavy price in the fight against jihadism. “The governments of our countries do not encourage human rights violations,” said Malian Foreign Minister Tiébilé Dramé on Wednesday. Tiébilé Dramé intends to explain to the Security Council on Friday “the precise and concrete measures which have been taken to correct the excesses which have been noted here and there”.
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A problem of “credibility of the forces”
The meeting, scheduled for early May, had been postponed at the request of Niger, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, to “give time” to Sahelian countries to prepare their responses, a diplomat told Agence France-Presse. African in New York. The national armies are involved at a pivotal moment for the Sahel. The UN, first of all, faces the skepticism of certain members of the Security Council on the scale of its mission in Mali (13,000 men in mid-June). France, for its part, has reviewed the conditions of its engagement in the Sahel after the death of 13 of its French soldiers in November. Its presence and that of Minusma, whose mandate must be renewed, like that of the new regional force created in 2017, have failed to stem the tide of violence that has left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. since 2012.
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France gathered its Sahelian allies in January in Pau (South) and “put pressure on them to have tangible results,” recalls Ibrahim Maïga, from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Bamako. “The protection of civilians is only a related objective” to the “number one priority of the military forces (which) is to put out of harm’s way” the jihadists, he observes. Questioned in May by Agence France-Presse on the abuses attributed to the national armies, General Pascal Facon, commander of the French anti-jihadist force, described them as “intolerable” and which could “pose a problem in terms of credibility forces “.