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3 - 9 August 2015

Weekly Media Monitoring report for Mali
Posted on August 19, 2015

Contents

Compiled by André Capretti

  1. Hostage Crisis in Sévaré Hotel
  2. Terrorist Attack in Gourma-Rharouss
  3. Progress & Setbacks in the Peace Process
  4. Terrorism & Insecurity Continue to be a Major Public Concern

1.    Hostage Crisis in Sévaré Hotel
 
State-owned media

L’Essor, “Mali: Fin de la prise d’otage dans un hôtel à Sévaré”, August 7th, 2015

The Malian armed forces’ operation at the Byblos hotel in Sévaré (central Mali, location of major bases of MINUSMA and the Malian army), which was facing a hostage situation, ended early Saturday morning.

Tentative reports indicate that 12 people died during the terrorist attack: five Malian soldiers, four terrorists and 3 civilians (including one expat).

Four more people were liberated safely while the Malian armed forces launched a final assault against the terrorists still hiding in the hotel.

The hotel seems to have been targeted, as it was known for accommodating many foreigners, tourists, and MINUSMA employees.

The whole crisis began on Friday at around 5am when armed individuals began shooting at security forces that had discovered them in the hotel, as they were on the verge of kidnapping foreigners. Early reports from officials and civilians indicate that fighting may also have started at the Hotel Debo next door from Byblos.

 

Privately-owned media

Maliweb.net, “Communiqué du gouvernement: Attaque contre un hôtel à Sévaré, région de Mopti”, August 7th, 2015

  • In the aftermath of the attack on Hotel Byblos, the Malian government offered its condolences to the families of those who had been killed, and wished a quick recovery to the injured.
  • The Malian government also firmly condemned this barbaric and cowardly attack against the peaceful civilians and Malian allies who are present in the country.
  • The government also applauded the work of the armed security forces, for their rapid and efficient intervention.
  • Finally, the government’s communiqué invited local populations to remain vigilant, stay confident and to help support the Malian armed forces in their efforts to neutralize the forces of evil.

MALI CIKAN, “Leçons de l’attaque terroriste de Sévaré”, August 9th, 2015

  • This blog post documents how fears and concerns of terrorist attacks on ex-pats and foreign diplomats have been ongoing since mid-July. Foreigners in Bamako have been regularly receiving alerts that warn them to avoid certain public spaces at risk. As a result, the attack targeting foreigners in Sévaré does not come as much of a surprise.
  • The terrorists are well known to have been employing guerilla tactics for the past 3 years. Consequently, counter-terrorism efforts in the country should be more prepared and possibly adapt its own strategies to better fight these threats. Increased mobility and patrolling in particular would help ensure that the army remains on the offense, rather than always being on the defensive.  
  • This blog also encourages members of the armed forces to create solid links with local populations, in order to form a positive relationship and undermine any potential cooperation between civilians and terrorist groups.
  • Many of the different terrorist groups present in Mali employ similar strategies, and can be linked by certain ideological links.
  • Ansardine (affiliated with Al-Quaeda) led by Iyad Ag Ghali seems to want to apply sharia law to Mali, unite jihadists across the country, expand his influence farther South, and ultimately act as the gatekeeper of any possible peace in the country.
  • The Front de libération du Macina is a homegrown jihadi terrorist group with similar ideals as Ansardine, whose goal is the promote jihad at a local level and fight the enemies of Islam.
  • Both these terrorist groups seem to be responsible for most of the major attacks perpetrated in Mali in the past month or two.

2.    Terrorist Attack in Gourma-Rharouss
Privately owned media

ABAMAKO.COM, “Communiqué du gouvernement suite à l’attaque du camp de l’armée malienne à Gourma Rharous”, August 4th, 2015

  • On Monday August 3rd, between 4 and 5am, unidentified armed men attacked a security post of the Malian national guard in Gourmas-Rharous (Timbuktu region).
  • Reports indicate that 11 guards were killed, one was injured, and two more civilians died in the attack as well.
  • The Malian government offered its sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed and wished a prompt recovery to the injured.
  • The government condemned without reservation this terrorist, cowardly and barbaric act, perpetrated by lawless, faithless individuals.
  • The government renewed its confidence in the armed forces in the face of the struggles against terrorism, and invited the population to continue cooperating with them. They also reminded all the partners to the peace process about the grave necessity of assisting Malian armed forces in the eradication of terrorism, in the hopes of establishing a lasting and meaningful peace in Mali.         

22 Septembre, “Gourma Rharous: l’ancien député enlevé par l’armée malienne”, August 6th, 2015

  • Following the Gourma Rharous terrorist attack on August 3rd, the Malian armed forces organized a patrol in the surrounding areas. On August 5th, they arrived at a camp belonging to an ex political representative of the region named Atta Ag Houd.
  • Members of Houd’s family claim they were intimidated by the members of the armed forces and had their camp searched against their will. Nothing compromising was found, but the soldiers took Houd, his nephew and his cousin away with them.
  • Houd’s family is worried that something will happen to their loved ones while they are in the military’s custody. It is believed that they were taken away for questioning regarding the Gourma Rharous attacks.

Studio Tamani, “Gourma-Rharous: la CMA dénonce et exige la liberation es personnes arrêtées”, August 6th, 2015

  • Reinforcements sent to Gourma Rarhous in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in the town managed to locate and arrest five of the alleged assailants, while efforts are underway to catch the others who are responsible.
  • Al-Quaeda affiliate AQMI has claimed responsibility for this attack, and the five men who were arrested are linked to this group. One of the suspects was found in possession of a weapon believed to belong to a lieutenant killed during the attack.
  • The CMA ex-rebel movement has denounced the arrests in a press release, claiming that these individuals were arrested unjustly, and demanding their liberation. The CMA argued that these arrests had been conducted in an arbitrary manner, based on insufficient evidence.
  • In particular, the CMA denounced the arrest of local political figure Atta Ag Houd, who seemingly has no ties with the AQMI.

3.    Progress & Setbacks in the Peace Process

 

State-owned media

L’Essor, “Paix et réconciliation: Le ministre Zahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed: Il faut absolument avancer”, August 5th, 2015

  • Minister of national reconciliation Zahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed spoke with the press after the naming of Ousmane Oumarou Sidibi as the new president of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
  • Minister Mohamed condemned the recent terrorist attacks, offered his condolences to the victims and their families, and reminded all parties that the Malian army had been respecting the ceasefire and all its engagements in this regard.
  • Mohamed applauded those who had been respecting the accord and the ceasefire, while deploring the asymmetric warfare being waged by the armed terrorists whose sole goal is to destabilize the country.
  • Mohamed also stated that the task of stabilizing Mali fell primarily to MINUSMA, although it must be done in close collaboration with the armed Malian security forces and all the signatories of the accord.
  • Meanwhile, a meeting of the sub-commission regarding technical military and security issues was to take place on the topic of restricting and monitoring the movements of all armed forces within the country, so as to more easily determine if and when parties are violating the ceasefire.

 

L’Essor, “Mopti: Les femmes se préparent à participer au processus de paix”, August 6th, 2015

  • A three-day event was organized in Mopti, in concordance with the PanAfrican Day for Women, which aimed to promote and integrate women’s voices in the Malian peace process.
  • This workshop was organized by the Malian Women’s Collective (COFEM), and aimed to raise awareness for women on conflict prevention and management, as well as for greater integration of gender equality in the country’s peace and development process.
  • Many leaders of women’s organizations, as well as politicians and prominent members of civil society, were present for the event.

 

L’Essor, “Ousmane Oumarou Sidibé: Une conviction forte en la justice et la réconciliation”, August 6th, 2015

  • On Monday August 3rd, Ousmane Oumarou Sidibé was named as the president of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
  • Sidibé participated actively in the Algiers negotiations, was previously the Secretary General of the Office of the President’s High Representative for Inclusive Inter-Malian Dialogue, and has worked in the public service for most of his career.
  • Upon his nomination, Sidibé stated that his role would be to investigate all crimes committed in Mali since independence, and to establish truth in order to render meaningful justice. Sidibé believes this kind of justice will allow the country to move towards reconciliation.
  • Sidibé has asked all his compatriots to put aside their personal or partisan interests, in order to help restore the social fabric and unity necessary for a veritable reconciliation and rebuilding.

 

Privately owned media

Les Echos, “La libération de Sanda Ould Bouamama par la Mauritanie est un coup dur pour les victims de la crise malienne”, August 7th, 2015

  • 20 human rights organizations condemned the recent liberation of Sanda Ould Bouamama by Mauritanian authorities.
  • Bouamama is the target of an international arrest warrant made by Malian judicial authorities for allegations of grave war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, murders, assassinations, sex crimes, extortion, terrorism and drug trafficking (among other charges) in Northern Mali.
  • Boumama has dual Malian and Mauritanian citizenship and is an ex spokesperson for Ansardine and ally of its leader Iyad Ag Ghaly. Through this act, Mauritania has violated its extradition agreement with Mali.
  • This release is hugely disappointing news for the 33 victims and many human rights organizations who had been calling for his arrest since 2013 and are now seeing the perpetrator of their crimes escape with total impunity. Justice and meaningful redress for the victims are key conditions for the national reconciliation process.

 

Le Républicain, “Radhia Achouri, porte parole de la MINUSMA: L’objectif des groupes terroristes est de saboter l’accord de paix”, August 7th, 2015

  • MINUSMA spokesperson Radhia Achouri and General Michael Lollesgaard held a press conference on August 6th, reiterating their belief that the objective of the terrorist groups was to undermine the success of the peace accord and pursue their drug, arms and human trafficking.
  • MINUSMA also declared it would continue its efforts to raise awareness of the peace and reconciliation accord across Mali (most recently having held an event for youth in Gao).
  • MINUSMA police will also continue patrolling dangerous areas and providing assistance to the Malian and French forces, although the peacekeepers themselves do not have a mandate to actually engage and fight terrorists.
  • In the coming months, MINUSMA will also continue its restoration work on the Kidal airport, as well as many other development projects across the country 9especially in the Northern regions), and the promotion of human rights. In addition, 40 observers will soon arrive in the country to supervise the peace process.

4.    Terrorism & Insecurity Continue to be a Major Public Concern

L’Essor, “L’avenir politique au Mali: Les vérités du moment”, August 4th, 2015

  • This article references the results of a major recent public opinion poll, which found that 70.2% of respondents were confident in the ability of the Malian army to secure their town or city.
  • A statistic of this nature is reassuring in the face of all the recent terrorist attacks, as it indicates that Malian troops have managed to rehabilitate their image in the eyes of the general public. Cooperation between the army and the public is of key importance in the fight against terrorism.
  • Public opinion also seems increasingly opposed to the presence of international forces (both UN and Barkhane), with much of the population hoping to see their withdrawal between one and three years. MINUSMA in particular has been heavily criticized for the inherent limits of its mandate, accusations of complicity with armed groups, insufficient assistance towards the Malian army and a lack of interest regarding the country’s development.
  • MINUSMA will have to work to improve its communication and relationship with the local Malian population if it wants to reduce the weight of these condemnations.

Les Echos, “Attaques terroristes: Les failles du système IBK”, August 7th, 2015

  • In the 6 weeks following the signing of the peace accord, Mali has yet to really feel any positive effects in what concerns the issues of insecurity and terrorism, 2 problems which have become more prevalent than ever.
  • More worrying than the increase in attacks and killings has been the fact that they have now spread all over the country, in regions that were previously considered safe or peaceful.
  • The lack of definitive or conclusive action plan against this terrorism has given the terrorists increased liberty and audacity to commit their crimes with relative impunity. Malian president Ibrahim Boucabar Keita has been especially criticized for his ineffective leadership during this security crisis.
  • The Malian government needs to change their course of action, moving from defensiveness and ineffective press release condemnations, towards taking initiative, being more offensive and employing its heavy artillery. The government can no longer stand idly by and act as a spectator; it must become proactive.
  • Critics are also frustrated with the lack of tangible progress achieved through meetings of the national security and defense council, as well as the lack of any international cross-border collaboration to fight terrorism (especially in regards to the Boumama liberation).

Maliweb.net, “Les terroristes se rapprochent de Bamako: Des hommes armés non identifies ont attaqué, ce matin, la Brigade de gendarmerie de Baguinéda”, August 8th, 2015

  • Heavily armed unidentified armed men reportedly attacked a police brigade in Baguinéda, just 30km from Bamako, 3 days after the hostage taking in Sévaré. It is believed they were testing response capabilities of the armed security forces.
  • Luckily no casualties or injuries were reported, although the assailants did inflict material damage towards a vehicle and a building at the outpost.
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