Two years ago, more than 150 civilians were killed in this village in central Mali
The worst atrocity in Mali’s recent history occurred two years ago, on March 23, 2019, when more than 150 civilians were massacred in Ogossagou. Dozens of survivors described to Human Rights Watch how heavily armed Dogon men attacked their village in the centre of the country, accusing ethnic Fulani residents of supporting armed Islamist groups.
The attackers executed, mutilated and burned alive villagers who were either holed up in their homes or trying to escape the violence. A 32-year-old mother described how her five-year-old son was ripped from her arms and then murdered. Another mother witnessed the shooting of her sons, aged 12 and 17.
The government launched an investigation and made a few arrests of low-ranking individuals, while the commander of the Dogon self-defence group, Youssouf Toloba, whose militia was credibly implicated in the killings, was not even questioned. Less than a year later, 35 more civilians were murdered in the same village, apparently by the same militia.
Last November, the prosecutor in charge of both cases said that « the judicial investigations are proceeding normally despite the constraints of insecurity. Yet many survivors told us they could not understand why the many suspects they had identified as being present and involved in the killings in Ogossagou had still not been detained.
The conflict in Mali since 2012 has been punctuated by dozens of atrocities on all sides, perpetrated by armed Islamists, ethnic militias formed in retaliation and government security forces. Hundreds of civilians were summarily executed. Very few of these atrocities have been investigated, and even fewer have been prosecuted.
On 15 March, a court in Bamako, the Malian capital, ended without a verdict the trial of army officer Amadou Haya Sanogo and 16 co-defendants for the 2012 killing of 21 elite soldiers in custody, citing the National Accord Law adopted in 2019, which provides for amnesty on a discretionary basis. This decision has led survivors of serious abuses to question whether justice can be done for their missing loved ones.
The lack of justice, not only for the Ogossagou massacre but also for many other serious crimes committed by members of various camps, has helped fuel a perverse cycle of violence and retaliation in Mali.
As an elder from a village near Ogossagou summed up: ‘Members of all armed groups have realised that they can kill, maim, burn and destroy without consequence. When will Mali learn that it is impunity itself that is the primary driver of violence in the country? «