Thousands of Malian protesters filled the streets of Bamako Friday to reject the violent massacres taking place in the country.
“Too much blood has been spilled. It has to stop or there will be no life left in the centre of Mali,” said Habitatou Diallo one of the alleged 5,000 participants of Friday’s large-scale protest.
The movement was organized by a youth group and promoted peace and acceptance, encouraging Malians to “say no to hate.”
The rate of ethnic violence in central Mali has skyrocketed since 2015 when a preacher, Amadou Koufa, launched a crusade against communities in Mopti and Segou, causing U.N. peacekeepers to declare a state of alert.
Koufa enlisted guerrillas for his militia from the Fulani, traditionally a trading and cattle-breeding community. The Fulani are fighting against the Dogon and Bambara, both peaceful farming groups, who’ve set their spades aside for firearms.
Mali has suffered historic casualties over the last few years as over 488 Fulani citizens were reportedly killed between January 2018 and May 16, 2019, the United Nations Mali mission (Minusma) said. During this time, Fulani forces have killed 63 people.
Three months ago another 160 Fulanis were murdered in the country’s largest massacre ever recorded. This week another 41 Dogon people were killed in the Gangafani and Yoro villages.
Nearly 3,000 people have been displaced due to the violence, taking refuge in the city of Bandiagara.
Despite these reports, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita continues to reject the existence of any “inter-ethnic conflict.”
In a statement Friday, U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said, “The situation has reached what one could call an alert level with the dreadful massacres of the past few weeks and days.
“We are ready to increase our efforts to support Malian efforts” to stem the unrest, he added, while stressing that “there has to be a Malian solution.”
The U.N. Security Council will debate an extension to the Minusma sometime next week.