BAMAKO, Mali — Recent outbreaks of violence have deemed Mali “at war” with the Turareg rebels fighting for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA has been fighting for the independence of Azawad in northern Mali. The rebels have gained control of most of this area.
The Turareg took a total of 28 soldiers and officials hostage after Prime Minister Mousa Mara called a meeting in the rebel controlled town of Kidal. The meeting’s intention was to support government forces and address a recent outbreak of violence in which at least 17 people were killed. The rebels are accused of killing eight more officials and abducting 30 civil servants who had met with the prime minister just prior to the meeting.
Prime Minister Mousa Mara said of the conflict in Mali, “we cannot describe this as an attack, but as a declaration of war,” and that the actions of the MNLA “will not go unpunished.” The recent war status has come after months of serious political crisis rebellion — the worst since 1960, when Mali gained independence from France.
Recently, an agreement was reached between the Turareg rebels and African Union chairman Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, resulting in a ceasefire. France, who has been backing Mali with military force, has also backed down and is calling for a truce.
This ongoing conflict in Mali has caused major problems for the country’s citizens, many of whom had already been affected by large food and water shortages, ongoing political instability and human rights abuses. A 2010 report showed that 43.6 percent of Mali’s 14.9 million people were living in poverty. The current turmoil has heightened poverty levels in the developing African country.
Millions had previously suffered from inadequate food and water due to the ongoing effects of a devastating 2012 drought, and currently, upwards of 350,000 people have been displaced from their homes and towns. Around 155,000 have fled the country and 200,000 have been internally displaced after months of conflict in Mali between government forces and attacking rebels.
Neighboring countries less affected by the unrest such as Algeria, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, have taken in refugees and uprooted families, though their already limited resources have been diminishing quickly with the addition of these people. Displaced children are the most vulnerable to disease and malnutrition, and many of these children have been separated from their families.
The UNHCR is pushing for better funding for the country and its refugees. Right now, funding shortages are making education, access to food and water, medicine and other non-food items extremely difficult for refugees in host countries to access.
UNHR and their aid partners are working to help protect and assist Mali’s displaced citizens in the hopes of improving their well-being as the country moves toward a resolution with the Turareg and the MNLA.