Three peace agreements were signed in Mali during January in a bid to end violence among communites that has plagued the circle of Koro in the centre of the country.
The terms of the agreements were brokered by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a Swiss-based private diplomacy organisation, include commitments to peace by “pardoning past actions and disseminating messages of peace and cohesion” and “facilitating the use of natural resources and land by all communities”.
The Fulani are a semi-nomadic community of herders, while the Dogon are largely farmers. Historical tensions over access to land and water between the two communities erupted into violence in 2015 with the arrival of armed extremist militia groups.
Regional observers point to the role played by climate change in escalating the armed conflict, with the increasing unpredictability of seasonal rainfall placing local populations under increased pressure.
The absence of central government to regulate tensions made it easy for extremist militia to recruit young men from the poverty-stricken area.
In addition to bloodshed, the conflict also resulted in the displacement of large number of people within Mali and across borders within the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger in addition to Mali.
The UN puts the number of mainly Malian refugees in the Sahel at more than 850,000. The agreements reached between the Fulani and Dogon include facilitating the return of displaced people.
Signed after four months of local mediation, the agreements follow a similar one reached in 2018, which ultimately failed after an initial period of calm. However, HD holds out more hope this time around.
Abdelkader Sidibé, HD’s Head of Mission for the Sahel said: “Through these agreements, the communities affirm that they are weary of conflict,” continuing, “Four days after the signing of a first agreement, the Fulani, for the first time since 2018, were able to access the market of Koro. This was a first and powerful sign for communities who previously did not dare to be in each other’s presence for fear of starting incidences between them. The support of the Malian authorities will thus be crucial in consolidating these new achievements.”