In Mali, the national army and jihadist groups are engaged in a ruthless struggle. The French Barkhane and European Takuba forces have announced that they are leaving the country, due to many disagreements with the transitional authorities. Fama and their new Russian allies are therefore on the front lines against ISGS, the Islamic State group in Greater Sahara and Jnim, the support group for Islam and Muslims, linked to al-Qaeda.
Since the end of December and the arrival of Russian auxiliary soldiers – mercenaries from the Wagner group, according to many Western countries; “instructors” invited as part of state-to-state cooperation, according to Bamako – the Malian army is increasing field operations and has impressive results. However, many sources – security forces, researchers and civil society organizations – consider these assessments very exaggerated and condemn abuses against civilians.
The RFI found a dozen direct victims of these abuses and collected their testimonies of the abuses perpetrated by the Malian army, in some cases involving Russian warriors. For security reasons, the anonymity of these witnesses is preserved, their names and voices have been changed – the dates and places concerned are deliberately not specified in too much detail. It is an exclusive series in two episodes. Today, a look back at operations carried out by the Malian army around Sofara, the Mopti region, in central Mali.
“Neither Tuaregs nor Arabs (…) they were white” Sofara is home to a Malian special forces camp, located almost at the same distance from Mopti, Djenné and Bandiagara in the country of Dogon. Many Malian soldiers and civilians are killed almost daily in this triangle, or near it, during Jnim attacks. The Malian army, and this is a request from the people, therefore regularly conducts operations there. Sékou Bah came across one of them.
“They arrived at sunset, about thirty vehicles. Among the Malian soldiers were traditional dozo hunters. They were tired but they carried their charm. There were also white men, with military clothes but not the same as the Malians. They were not Tuaregs or Arabs, I’m sure, they were white. »
On that day, Sékou Bah did not have his identity card, only his Nina card, which primarily serves as a voter card. Together with others, he is arrested and taken to a military camp.
“In this camp there were many white people. One of them even said, in French, to a Malian soldier that he should have killed us on the spot instead of taking us here. They looked at the skin on our hands, our shoulders, to see if there were any marks, if we were used to carrying weapons, Sekou Bah specifies. And then they hung us upside down. They asked us if we were jihadists or if we cooperated with jihadists. They said they would cut our throats if we did not admit it. The whites were there watching. It was the Malian soldiers who interrogated us. »
Some say they have been detained for several days without having eaten almost anything, others for several weeks, in different places, without being able to contact anyone.
“They could kill whoever they wanted” Abou Diallo was arrested near his village a few days after a jihadist attack.
“I was going to the market, I was in a carriage. I did not have my ID, so they made me sit with about ten people. They looked into our phones, they even plugged them into a machine. A white guy then, says Abou Diallo, one of us got a call: he answered, he said he was at a checkpoint. The soldiers shot him immediately. Then they shot another man again. They told us they could kill who they wanted nothing to happen to them. “
Djenné, Mopti, Sofara, Bandiagara, Bankass … Since the end of December, 155 jihadists have been killed or arrested in this area, according to press releases published by the Malian army. Who did not want to respond to RFI’s wishes.