This report presents the findings of a context and protection analysis undertaken in hard-to-access areas of Northern and Central Mali, specifically in the Circle of Gourma Rharous, Region of Timbuktu and Circle of Douentza, Region of Mopti, by Islamic Relief Mali (IR) and Save the Children Mali (SCI), funded by the START Network. It is based upon information collected directly from host communities, internally displaced people and returnees in the area, supplemented by key informant interviews and published reports.
The circles of Gourma-Rharous and Douentza are marked by a persistent weakness of state security, governance and legitimacy. Despite the signing of the Algiers Peace Accord in 2015, armed groups continue to mobilise around community interests, politicomilitary goals or self-defense. All armed groups active in central and northern Mali are directly or indirectly involved in illicit activities (weapons, drugs, motorcycle and fuel smuggling, cattle rustling, artisanal gold mining and poaching) and local conflicts.1 They exploit the vulnerabilities of local economies, rivalries between farmers, pastoralists and ethnic groups, and governance deficiencies.
The following points are key conflict, livelihoods and protection issues and needs among the communities studied in GourmaRharous circle and Douentza circle. They are presented to inform future conflict- and gender-sensitive programming by all actors in this highly complex context.
Conflict, security and governance issues
Land and water disputes are the key drivers of intercommunal conflict. Relations between the host community, displaced persons and returnees are generally peaceful and characterised by solidarity – displacement is not a key line of division between groups. Ethnic discrimination arose in this study as a background feature of conflict in this area of Mali, primarily because ethnic divisions fall along the same lines as livelihood divisions (e.g. farmers vs pastoralists).
Weak state security presence results in a failure to protect civilians from violence and increases insecurity. The communities most at risk of violence by people outside the home are those living in areas with no state security presence where there is a non-state armed group or ethnic militia from a different ethnic group to their own. However, people who live in villages with a strong ethnic militia (such as the Dozos) feel well protected by the militia if they belong to the same ethnic group.
Non-state armed groups are the primary perpetrators of violence and communities overwhelmingly point to them as the key driver of insecurity. Communities are extremely fearful of these groups and many have experienced violence from them. Men are most scared of abduction and torture while women fear of sexual violence.
Access to justice and dispute resolution is primarily through customary authorities (village chiefs, Imams, Quranic scholars and Qadis courts) as they are more accessible, locally legitimate and perceived to provide a more fair and just resolution than the formal justice system, but ethnic militia are also engaged by communities in areas where they are present.
Livelihoods, basic services and humanitarian aid issues
Displaced communities are especially vulnerable since they have lost their land and livelihoods and feel discriminated against with regards to unequal access to basic services, particularly water points. They also have to walk the furthest to collect water which puts women and girls at greater risk of violence. Displaced households are largely comprised of women and children. Women in these households are largely illiterate and displaced children within both circles tend not to attend school due to security fears, making them vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and exploitation.
Livelihoods are under threat resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition. 88% of households have reduced their food consumption in the last six months with few receiving food aid or cash/vouchers. Agricultural and pastoral livelihoods are highly vulnerable to poor rainfall and most families are unable to grow enough food or fodder for their household or livestock.
Insecurity in many areas has led to an increase in livestock theft, restricted access to agricultural land and restricted access to markets for the purchase of supplies or economic inputs, or the sale of produce.
Barriers to health care. Households in the villages of Timba and Orodou in Douentza circle have no access to a community health centre. Households in Gossi in Gourma-Rharous also reported high levels of deaths as a result of sickness. Poverty prevents many households from availing themselves of health services if they are not free of charge, and 25% of families lack identity documents, which may also hinder access to health services.
Access to electricity is poor and access to basic WASH services is critical in both circles. Many households do not have latrines in Tango - Tango (Tedié) and Guèré - Doundé villages in Douentza circle, Bambara Maoude and Gossi villages in Gourma-Rharous circle, therefore open defecation and attendant disease are likely to be issues of concern here.