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Video grab of a soldier standing near debris from destroyed homes at the site of an ethnic massacre in which gunmen killed dozens of people, in the Dogon village of Sobane Da Video grab of a soldier standing near debris from destroyed homes at the site of an ethnic massacre in which gunmen killed dozens of people, in the Dogon village of Sobane Da 

Scores die in ethnic violence between herdsmen and farmers in Mali

Aid to the Church in Need warns of an explosive situation in Mali where a series of attacks and ongoing ethnic violence, fuelled by land issues and an Islamic uprising, has led to the deaths of scores of people.

By Linda Bordoni

In Mali, at least 38 people have been killed in the latest of a series of attacks on villages near the border with Burkina Faso.

Authorities said the violence took place on Monday in the ethnic Dogon villages of Gangafani and Yoro.

An official of the pontifical charity “Aid to the Church in Need” has warned that a “combination of disputes” in the region has created a “combustible situation.”

Extremist uprising

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Malian security official said the attackers were from an ethnic Fulani militia, accused of operating alongside groups of Muslim extremists in central Mali.

While there have been conflicts between the more settled Dogon people and the Fulani herders in central Mali for a long time, they have become increasingly violent since a militant Islamist uprising in the north of the country in 2012, which has spread, bringing more instability, weapons and a lack of government control.

Triggering the latest series of attacks, tensions between the Dogon and Fulanis escalated after a massacre in March on a Fulani village that left nearly 160 people dead. Witnesses said the attackers were wearing traditional Dogon hunters’ clothing.

In what appeared to be a retaliatory attack earlier this month on a Dogon village, at least 35 people were killed, many of them children.

Farmers and herdsmen

The Dogon people, who largely practice settled agriculture, have lived in the Bandiagara escarpment in central Mali for centuries.

The Fulani, known in Mali as the Peulh, are a largely Muslim ethnic group of semi-nomadic herders. Numbering at least 38 million, they are spread across West Africa, from Senegal in the west to the Central African Republic.

Competition over resources has historically led to tension and at times violence between the groups, but until recently, it was frequently resolved by negotiation.

In Nigeria, there has also been a similar cycle of violence between Fulanis and settled farmers,  which in 2014 was said to have been the fourth most deadly conflict in the world.

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19 June 2019, 15:38