"Cessation of hostilities" agreements have been signed by Peul and Dogon armed groups in central Mali, while attacks by armed groups, including civilians, have plagued several villages in recent months.

It is also in the circle of Bankass - one of the eight circles of the Mopti region, in the center of Mali - where more than 150 civilians were massacred in March 2019, that the peace agreement was confirmed on July 25th. Several ethnic groups, including Peuls and Dogons, have renewed their dialogue, urging armed groups to stop the violence. The agreement was finally adopted on the occasion of the visit of the Malian Prime Minister, Boubou Cissé, on August 1st.

Concluded by a dozen Fulani armed groups, and dozos traditional hunters - made up of members of the Dogon community - these peace agreements must put an end to years of inter-communal violence which, in 2019 alone, have made hundreds dead.

The groups "pledge to stop hostilities immediately and definitively, to make every effort to promote the free movement of persons, goods and humanitarian agencies", states the document, signed in the presence of the Prime Minister, who "encouraged the parties to make peace, "according to his services.

Failure of previous "peace agreements"

"Our actions must translate our will, if we want peace, our actions must show it," said Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, visiting the center of the country.

A first "peace agreement" had already been signed almost a year ago, on August 28, 2018, by 34 village chiefs. But the text does not implicate the leaders of the armed groups that destabilize the region since 2016 - year of birth of the Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou -, he had received a mixed reception and finally only weakened. The violence then reached their peak on March 25 when a hundred Dogon militia entered the village of Ogossagou, 25 kilometers from the Dogon village of Bankass near the Burkinabè border, and killed men, women, children and children. old men before burning almost all the huts in the village.

Following its investigation, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said the attack killed at least 157 people, making the Ogossagou massacre the deadliest Mali since 2012.

Two centuries of clashes

Understanding the conflict between the Fulani and the Dogon people, however, requires going back further in time to the genesis of the Dinna Macina (Peul kingdom) in 1818. At that time, the Fulani are working on a social renewal based on Islamic principles ; the Dogons, considered as pagans (because not Fulani) are enslaved.

The relations between the communities will improve after the creation of a new order allowing occasional alliances, but it will be necessary to wait until 1960 and the independence of Mali so that the social egalitarianism between Peuls and Dogons is completely re-established, after a period colonization of six decades during which communities are crushed and social status, rebalanced.

In the years 1970-1980, the Fulani suffer from drought. Nomadic people of transhumant pastoralists, they are in worse position than the Dogon farmers to whom preference is given for access to land.

The tourism industry is developing in "Dogon country", giving rise to a story according to which the Dogons are the true natives of the region. Peul domination is eroding. The jihadist movements see in the frustration of this community a way to revive old hostilities.

Joint fight against terrorists

Since the emergence, in 2015, of the Macina Liberation Front, a jihadist movement recruiting primarily among the Fulani because of the founding history of Macina, whose legacy it appropriates, the clashes between the Fulani community and the Bambara and Dogon ethnic groups, who in turn create "self-defense groups".

Commissioned, at its creation, by Fulani Amadou Koufa, the Macina Liberation Front (which has since merged with Ansar Dine to become the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, Ed.), Invites Muslims to join him to fight against the Malian state, thus appealing particularly to the impoverished Peul communities.

Accused of being informers and loyalists of jihad, Fulani civilians, who are overwhelmingly opposed to fundamentalist armed movements, are regularly targeted, and villages are attacked in retaliation for jihadist actions. It is in this context that was born the Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou, accused of the Ogossagou massacre.

By the signing of these new peace agreements, Fulani armed groups and traditional dozos hunters undertake to "expose and denounce the terrorists to the authorities and, if necessary, to fight them".

The Macina Liberation Front, which is not one of the signatories to the cessation of hostilities agreement, could be quickly deprived of new Fulani recruits.

The joint fight against terrorism will also help to put an end to amalgams (associating Peuls and terrorists, but also dozos hunters and militia) which too often have suffered the civilians.

Whether they were Fulani and targeted by the Dogon militias and dozos hunters, or Dogons, victims of punitive Fulani expeditions, many civilians were forced to flee to the big cities. As of 2016, Fulani civilians are fleeing by the thousands, mainly from the regions of Segou and Mopti, where most of the displaced people come from. The number of displaced persons, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), increased from 18,000 to 70,000 between May 2018 and May 2019.

In recent weeks, however, several hundred people have started to return to their villages.

With AFP