In response to the army’s absence in several localities in central Mali, residents are organizing their own security.
For the past two years, supporters of the radical preacher Amadou Koufa have been dictating their law in Tenenkou, Youwarou, and several other communes of the Djenne local government area. A number of traditional chiefs and local elected officials suspected of collaborating with the Malian army have been threatened or murdered. Schools are closed and some parents send their children to more secure areas to continue their education.
Soumana N., a young man from the commune of Kewa (whose chief town is Kouakourou, ed.), came to Bamako for his studies in the past year. In his village, it “has been three years that they (terrorists, ed.) have closed the school. Music is forbidden, football is haram. In addition, they walk with weapons throughout the village,” he describes.
According to Madou K., a local resident reached by Sahelien.com, the terrorists whipped “an old woman who is at least 70 because she did not wear a veil just before the Tabaski [Eid Al-Adha] feast”.
In response to the lashing, a group of young people set off firecrackers in the village on September 2. Immediately, armed men appeared in front of the village chief’s residence, firing gunshots into the air and demanding that the people who set off firecrackers be handed over to them.
The people came out massively to support the village chief, who did not yield to the demands of the terrorists. The latter withdrew by posing an ultimatum of 24 hours, threatening to return to take the traditional chief if their demands were not met. In the meantime, the citizens of Kouakourou residing in Bamako alerted the authorities. As a result, an army convoy was dispatched to secure the area.
The soldiers arrived in the village on Sunday, September 3, around 4:30 pm. Their patrols inside and outside the village did not come across any supporters of Amadou Koufa. The military withdrew without any explanation in the evening of Monday September 4, said one inhabitant, who said their withdrawal might be “a military strategy to get the terrorists to show themselves.”
Faced with the deterioration of the security situation, the young people of the village regrouped to “defend themselves against any aggression,” and took up shotguns and knives. They made an appeal to the Malian authorities react quickly to insecurity in Kouakourou and the rest of the Mopti region.
Last March, a Malian army operation dismantled a terrorist base 20 kilometers from the village of Kouakourou. The army seized a dozen motorcycles and a large number of trusses. Since then, no other operations have been carried out in this area, and this absences has allowed a space for the terrorists to return.
Several localities such as Kewa did not hold communal elections in November 2016 because of the security threat, leaving the mayors to govern beyond their terms. They govern at great risk to their own security and are a constant target for insurgent attacks. Due to the security risks, many elected officials have fled to seek refuge in Mopti or Bamako.