Ceasefire accords signed by armed ethnic groups in central Mali - officials

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Armed groups of the rival Fulani and Dogan ethnic communities in central Mali have signed accords to "cease hostilities", during a visit by the country's prime minister, official sources said on Monday.

The accords signed by a dozen armed groups were reached in the Mopti and Segou regions which have seen a surge in tit-for-tat violence between the nomadic Fulani cattle herders and the sedentary Dogon farmers and hunters, according to an official document seen by AFP.

Since 2015 a jihadist group, recruiting mainly from the Fulani (or Peul) people, has clashed with the ethnic Dogon and also Bambara communities who in turn have created self-defence militias.

The intercommunal conflict has claimed hundreds of lives. In an explosion of violence on March 23, about 160 Fulani villagers were slaughtered at Ogossagou, near the border with Burkina Faso, by suspected Dogon hunters.

The groups "have agreed to immediately and definitively cease hostilities, to enable the free movement of people, goods and humanitarian agencies", according to the document signed in the presence of Mali's premier, Boubou Cisse.

"Our actions have to reflect our wishes. If we want peace, our actions must show it," Cisse told journalists. He began last Thursday his second visit to troubled central Mali since July. Several ceasefires signed in the past proved ineffective at halting the violence.

Despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali's government has struggled to calm violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg militias, and has spread to the centre in deadly attacks between ethnic groups.

Between May 2018 and May 2019, the number of people fleeing violent attacks almost quadrupled in the central Mopti and Segou regions, rising from 18 000 to 70 000, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA) said last month.

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