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Mali’s government resigns as anger mounts over massacre

FILE PHOTO: Mali president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Bamako, Mali | AFP | Ethnic violence that has gripped central Mali has led to the downfall of the government, accused of failing to stem bloodshed that has claimed about 600 lives.

A statement from President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s office late Thursday said he had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and his entire cabinet.

Maiga was appointed in December 2017 and renamed to the job only last September, after Keita was re-elected.

But he became the lightning rod for anger, led by influential Muslim clerics and vocalised by mass protests, over massacres in the Mopti region, an ethnic mosaic in the centre of the country.

On Wednesday, lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties submitted a motion of no confidence blaming Maiga and his administration for failing to clamp down on the unrest.

“A prime minister will be named very soon and a new government will be put in place after consultations with all political forces” from the ruling and opposition sides, the statement from Keita’s office said.

In an address Tuesday, Keita said he had “heard all the anger, decoded all the signals, understood all the messages” from around the country.

Maiga came under pressure over his handling of a flare-up of inter-communal violence which, according to a UN tally, has claimed some6 00 lives since March 2018 and forced thousands from their homes.

Public discontent escalated after a massacre on March 23 claimed 160 lives in the village of Ogossagou near the border with Burkina Faso.

Members of the Dogon ethnic group — a hunting and farming community with a long history of tensions with the nomadic Fulani people over access to land — were blamed.

An AFP journalist who visited the village said many homes were torched and the ground was littered with corpses.

The Fulani are also accused of supporting a jihadist preacher, Amadou Koufa, who rose to prominence in central Mali four years ago.

So-called self-defence groups emerged in the Dogon community with the declared role of providing protection against the insurgents.

The militia, called the Dan Nan Ambassagou, also attacked the Fulani and was ordered to be dissolved after the massacre.

– Islamist threat –

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Bamako on April 5 to protest against the upsurge of violence, accusing the government of not doing enough to stop it.

The protest was called by Muslim religious leaders, organisations representing the Fulani community, opposition parties and civil society groups.

Mali has been struggling to restore stability since Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the country’s vast desert north in early 2012.

While the jihadists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation that began in January 2013, huge areas are still in the grip of lawlessness, despite a 2015 peace agreement with some armed groups that sought to definitively stamp out the Islamist threat.

Since then, militants have shifted from the north towards the more densely populated centre of the country, where they have sharpened ancient rivalries and ethnic conflicts that date back years.

Jihadist attacks have also spread to Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

March’s attack was the deadliest in Mali since the 2013 French-led military intervention.

In the aftermath of the massacre, Keita visited the village and vowed to beef up security and enforce justice.

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