Mali: Violence in Ogossagou indicative of deteriorating humanitarian situation in central Mali
Two weeks on from the attack on the village of Ogossagou, in which more than 161 people died according to official estimates, the apocalyptic scenes seem frozen in time.
The wind has covered everything in a layer of red dust: burned-out huts and farm buildings, houses riddled with bullet holes, the charred remains of cars anddead donkeys. The wells are unusable – contaminated by corpses. People’s livestock herds have been taken. Families are still struggling to come to terms with the shock of the massacre – the latest in a recent series of very violent clashes between herders and settled farmers in the region.
Seventeen-year-old Sadio Kelly, who survived the attack, describes what happened: “We didn’t have time to flee. Those who tried to were shot. They threw a lot of people down the well. That’s why we come to the pump for water now. They tried to destroy the pump too, but they didn’t succeed. They burned a lot of the huts where we kept livestock and food. They shot people. A bullet grazed my shoulder.”
People are trying to get on with their lives but the circumstances are dire.
The Mali Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began distributing food on 31 March to all the inhabitants of Ogossagou – over 1,500 people, Dogon and Peul alike. The Peul community also received household essentials, as 90% of their part of the village was destroyed.
The Mali Red Cross acted swiftly to transport 74 wounded people – of whom 43 were in a serious condition – from Bankass, the nearest town (some 20 km from Ogossagou), to Simone Dolo Hospital in Mopti. Measures have also been put in place to enable those who were taken for medical treatment to stay in contact with their relatives left behind in the village.
Abdoulaye Barry came to the hospital with his friend Boukary, who was wounded in the head: “Everything has been destroyed. All I have is this boubou that they gave me here. I escaped with my life and my breath.”
But it is the invisible wounds, buried deep in people’s hearts and memories, that are likely to leave more lasting scars. The ICRC immediately dispatched Insaf Mustafa, a psychologist specialized in providing post-crisis psychosocial support, to help the wounded find the words to talk about their distressing experiences:
“When we talk about traumatic events of this kind, the pain is not just physical. The damage is also psychological. Trauma is not expressed only through tears and sadness. It also has physical symptoms, like headaches, sleep problems or loss of appetite.”
As for the people left behind in the village, they live in fear of another attack. This fear is compounded by inactivity, as they can no longer farm their land and have lost their livelihoods.
The tragedy that occurred in Ogossagou is extremely worrying and highlights the deteriorating security situation and growing communal tensions in central Mali; the situation in the north of the country is also very volatile.
The deteriorating security situation has had complex humanitarian consequences, such as unprecedented numbers of people leaving their homes in search of safety, especially in the region of Menaka, on the border with Niger. It is also disrupting the natural resilience mechanisms developed by communities to cope with the effects of climate change and putting further strain on already very limited resources. Violence and flooding followed by drought are contributing to a humanitarian crisis affecting 7.2 million people in Mali, around 50% of whom are women and 19% children under five. Worn down by one blow after another, 3.2 million people lack food security and access to health care (according to a report released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in January 2019). The situation is also generating major internal displacement: in six months, the number of internally displaced people has doubled, reaching 120,000 throughout Mali – 54,000 in the central Mopti region alone (OCHA bulletin, December 2018).
The ICRC calls on all parties to show restraint, safeguard the civilian population and facilitate humanitarian organizations’ access to the region
For further information, please contact:
Emmanuel Kagimbura, ICRC Mali: +223 75995568
Françoise Lambert, ICRC Dakar, Regional Centre for West Africa: +221 781 864 687
Press team, ICRC Geneva: +41 79 217 32 32
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