The security situation in northern Mali deteriorated significantly during the 2012-2013 crisis, when the government lost control of the region to Tuareg groups. Numerous and often broken truces and ceasefires - excluding Islamist armed groups also operating in the area - were signed in 2013 and 2014 to bring short-term security. The Algiers peace agreement was signed in 2015 between the pro-government Platform Movement, which includes Groupe Autodefense Touareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA), and the anti-government group Azawad Movement Coalition (CMA). However, implementation has been slow.
The Malian armed forces, also known as FAMa, supported by the French Barkhane forces and special troops, regularly attack Islamist groups to prevent them from taking control of Mali and the rest of the Sahel region.? Tuareg armed groups also fight Islamic State affiliated groups and other Islamist armed groups in northern Mali.?
Insecurity worsened in 2017 and 2018 with an increase in the frequency of attacks by Islamist groups on the FAMa, UN peacekeepers, and the civilian population. On 27 October, two MINUSMA peacekeepers were killed and five others injured in Ber, Timbuktu during an attack claimed by Nusrat Al-Islam.? The security situation also deteriorated in Segou and Mopti regions, with increased attacks by Islamist armed groups and several ethnic clashes. Deadly attacks against UN peacekeepers and Malian forces continue. On 29 June, members of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, a coalition of Islamist armed groups, attacked the headquarters of the G5 Sahel, a 'counter-terror' force, in Sevare, Mopti. Two soldiers and one civilian were killed and eight people were injured.?The headquarters of the G5 were heavily damaged in the attack and have been moved to Bamako.?
Clashes between Dogon (pastoralist farmers) and Fulani (nomadic herders) communities over land law and access to scarce resources, such as water points, have also increased in recent months in central and northern regions. Drought has further strained relations between the groups, as the availability of water and pastureland has been reduced. The growing presence of Islamist armed groups also plays an important role. They have benefited from the state's limited presence by recruiting fighters from the Fulani community, thereby reinforcing the idea that the Fulanis, as an ethnic group, support Islamist militias.?
Around 11,700 people were displaced in Menaka region and more than 10,000 in Gao region following an increase in the frequency and violence of the clashes between the two communities since early March.?These attacks indicate a deteriorating security situation in Gao and Menaka regions, and raise fears of an ethnic conflict between Fulani and Tuareg populations. In the most recent events, 27 Tuareg were killed during an attack on their village in Menaka region on 25 September. On 30 September, another attack was reported near the village of Ansongo, Gao region. At least 22 civilians were killed.?
The conflict has sparked cross-border violence in Niger, where Fulani populations denounced multiple incursions and violent acts by the Mouvement pour le Salut de l'Azawad (MSA) and the Groupe Autodefense Touareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA) since February 2018, exacerbating these tensions.?
The same dynamic can be observed in Mopti region where two self-defence armed groups formed to defend populations on either side of the intercommunal conflict: 'Dana Amassagou' (Dogon) and the 'Alliance for the Salvation of the Sahel' (Fulani). The latest incident on 6 August involved an attack by Dogon armed men on Fulani inhabitants of Djenné Circle, resulting in 11 deaths.? The Malian armed forces have been accused of targeting Fulani herders suspected to be members of Islamist armed groups. ?
Presidential elections were held on 29 July (first round) and 12 August (second round).The ongoing violence affected the elections, which added to intercommunal tensions. Some 716 polling stations during the first round and 490 during the second round were unable to open because of insecurity. Most were in Mopti region. In Timbuktu, the president of a polling station was killed during an attack led by unidentified armed men on the day of the second round. Other security incidents were reported even though 30,000 soldiers were deployed around the country. ?
The elections boosted animosity between communities. In the north, where armed groups that signed the peace agreement maintained security during the elections, the government was accused of cutting a deal with Tuareg fighters to rig the vote. ? Suspicions were further fed by opposition leader Soumaila Cissé, who contested the election results even before his opponent, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, was officially declared the winner by the Constitutional Court on 20 August. ? Several small-scale protests followed, though no post-electoral violence has been reported. ?
Most long-term IDPs in northern Mali have returned to their place of origin, although insecurity remains an issue. Between July 2013 and August 2018, the Government of Mali registered over 526,505 IDP returnees. Around 350,000 returned during the first half of 2014. Since then, the return movements have been slower, but steady.?
The number of IDPs in Mali however has almost doubled between December 2017 (38,000 IDPs) and August 2018 (69,993 IDPs). Around 20,000 of them are displaced in Timbuktu region, and more than 22,000 IDPs are in Menaka and Gao regions. Escalating violence between Fulani and Tuareg communities since April, as well as clashes between the Malian armed forces and JNIM, has caused further displacement in those areas and a rise in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance. Some IDPs have been displaced since 2012. Conditions for a safe return, such as security and access to essential services, have not been met in many areas. Mopti region counts more than 15,773 IDPs, a number that has been steadily increasing since the second half of May after the security situation worsened. ?
More than 139,839 Malian refugees were in neighbouring countries in August 2018, compared with 94,000 in May 2017. Around 58,304 refugees are in Niger, 57,144 are in Mauritania, and 24,394 are in Burkina Faso. After a short-lived decrease, the number of Malian refugees has grown since early 2018 as violence increases.?
Most IDPs and returnees face poor conditions regarding shelter and are especially vulnerable to food insecurity as displacement usually induce a loss of livelihood and assets. The are also impacted by limited access to WASH and health infrastructure. Pregnant and lactating women, children and elderly are especially at risk.? According to the updated version of the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018, IDPs and returnees represent around 90% of the people in need of shelter and 80% of the people in need of food assistance. 184,000 IDP and returnee children are also in need of education assistance.?
Humanitarian access in the northern regions (Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu) and the central regions of Mopti and Segou is limited because of insecurity and restricted movement - notably, a ban on motorcycles between 18:00 and 06:00 - as a result of intercommunal conflict, banditry, and the presence of militias and Islamist armed groups.
The airport in Kidal is closed and humanitarian actors have limited access to MINUSMA flights. Road conditions prevent some supplies, such as medicine, from being transported to Kidal. In Gao, a new landing strip was opened on 2 September and should allow an increase access to high-capacity aircraft.?
Some 102 access constraints were recorded in the first six months of 2018, mostly in the northern and central regions: 16 cases in Kidal, 11 in Menaka, 24 in Gao, 27 in Timbuktu and 18 in Mopti. Most of the constraints affected INGOs (58%). Among the most reported constraints were the looting and theft of material and carjackings.? The number of access constraints almost doubled in 2017 (133) compared with 2016 (68). Some 97% of these constraints occurred in northern or central regions in 2017. The two most affected regions were Gao and Timbuktu - each with 23% of all cases.?
On 18 September, an aid worker was shot while returning from a field assignment in Gao region.? Low-level security incidents against humanitarian workers, such as theft of vehicles and other goods and equipment by bandit groups, are also common. Access has long been problematic in northern Mali and is increasingly difficult in central Mali, due to intensified activities of armed groups.? 146 security incidents involving aid workers were reported from 1 January to 31 August,. The attacks occurred especially in the central region of Mopti, though Segou, Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were also affected. The represent an increase compared to the 133 incidents registered in all of 2017.?
IEDs are commonly used by armed groups in northern and central Mali to target Malian or MINUSMA military convoys. On 26 August, seven Malian soldiers and a civilian were killed after their vehicles hit an IED in Mopti region.? On 13 August, one civilian was killed and two others were injured in a similar event near Agarangabo, Menaka region. ?
Both IDPs and returnees, unaware of which areas may be dangerous, are exposed to risks of explosive devices. On 20 September, a child was killed and his mother severely injured after walking on an IED in Ansongo circle, Gao region.? At least 93 IED incidents have been recorded in Mali in 2018, killing at least 76 civilians. ?
The number of civilians affected by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) had dropped through the years, thanks to greater awareness in the population and demining activities. ERW killed or injured 17 people in 2017, 23 people in 2016 (three fatally), and 37 in 2015. The number of civilians affected by IEDs declined to 34 in 2017 after 40 people were killed and 90 injured in 2016.? However, this trend was reversed in 2018. In Mopti region only, more than 76 civilian victims of IEDs were registered between January and June, compared to 7 in 2017.?
During the first six months of 2018, MINUSMA recorded some 477 cases of human rights violations toward at least 958 victims. Mopti region was the most severely impacted, with at least 119 cases reported, including at least 52 cases of attacks leading to civilian deaths and 26 violations of the right to physical integrity. Attacks by 'self defence' groups and Islamist armed groups have been signaled as the main source of protection risks in the country.?
Insecurity has had an impact on education in the northern and central regions, with over 750 schools closed because of violence. In Mopti, around 265 schools out of 685 were closed during the 2017-2018 school year. In Kidal, only one school remained open in 2017, leaving more than 78,000 children without access to education. In total, some 200,000 children are deprived of an education in northern and central Mali.? In Kidal, only 10% of the 460 teachers in the region have returned to work at the start of the school year in October. ?