UN concern over Tuaregs, Arabs in Mali

New York - The United Nations on Wednesday expressed concern over continuing violence against ethnic Tuaregs and Arabs in Mali, citing evidence of new rights abuses against the two communities.

The UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said that while "arbitrary acts of violence" against Tuaregs and Arabs had recently slowed, "there is still a risk of reprisal against members of these communities".

"Worryingly, it appears from reports that new patterns of human rights violations have emerged, including retaliatory attacks based on ethnicity," Feltman added.

His remarks were made as he updated the 15-member UN Security Council about the situation in the troubled west African nation, which is still in the grips of an Islamist insurgency that gained momentum following a March 2012 military coup.

The United Nations estimates that about 470 000 people have fled the fighting and sought refuge either in Malian host communities or in neighbouring countries.

More than 290 000 people are internally displaced and about 177 000 are refugees in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Feltman said there will be another 750 000 people in need of immediate food assistance and 660 000 children at risk of malnutrition this year, including 210 000 at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

Mali's military fell apart last year when Islamist extremists seized the country's vast northern desert, terrorising locals with amputations and executions performed under a brutal interpretation of sharia Islamic law.

Highly volatile

A French-led intervention quickly drove out the insurgents in its former colony, but significant pockets of resistance remain in the Ifoghas mountains, as well as in the northern cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

Feltman said that "humanitarian access has improved in some parts of the country," but that in some areas, particularly in Timbuktu and Gao, "the situation remains highly volatile".

His remarks came one day after the European Union began a full overhaul of Mali's ill-prepared army to help take the place of foreign troops defending the country.

Paris is preparing to hand over to a UN-mandated African force of 6 300 in the coming weeks.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed putting in place a UN stabilisation mission mostly recruited among Africans already part of the Pan-African force Afisma, as well as a mostly French "parallel force" to undertake counter-terrorism efforts that would combat the Islamists.

Feltman warned on Wednesday that it is imperative that a "clear distinction" be maintained between the two forces.

"Any blurring of the distinction would place severe constraints on the ability of UN and other personnel to safely do their work," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
72% - 7229 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
28% - 2827 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
15.85
+1.3%
Rand - Pound
21.11
+0.9%
Rand - Euro
17.96
+1.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.26
+1.2%
Rand - Yen
0.14
+1.5%
Gold
1,774.75
-0.4%
Silver
22.36
+0.2%
Palladium
1,744.00
-0.1%
Platinum
947.50
+1.2%
Brent Crude
68.87
-0.5%
Top 40
64,641
-0.2%
All Share
71,079
-0.2%
Resource 10
67,551
-0.5%
Industrial 25
93,824
-0.2%
Financial 15
13,919
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE