Bamako (AFP) – More than 10,000 people marched in Mali’s capital Bamako Friday to protest at a surge of violence in the centre of the country and at what they described as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s failure to stop it.
The protest was called by Muslim religious leaders, organisations representing the Fulani herding community, opposition parties and civil society groups.
Fulani associations last week twice called, and postponed, demonstrations in Bamako to condemn the massacre of around 160 people in the village of Ogossagou on March 23.
The slaughter is alleged to have been carried out by members of the Dogon ethnic group — a hunting and farming community with a long history of tension with the nomadic Fulani over access to land.
Organisers said 15,000 people were part of the march and mass prayer Friday, while police put the number at 10,000.
Protesters, including women in black veils, shouted slogans hostile toward Keita, including “IBK get out”, using the president’s initials.
“Our children, our husbands and our parents are dying because of the bad government of IBK and his clan,” Mariam Fomba, the widow of a soldier, told AFP.
“Enough is enough, we cannot continue with this regime.”
The Fulani association Kisal, in a statement, said: “The Malian people came out today as one man, to say no to violence and no to ethnic cleansing.”
The UN rights office said at least 153 people were killed and 73 injured in last month’s attack in Mali’s restive Mopti region.Local officials and security sources later said the death toll had climbed to 160.
Mali has been struggling to return to stability since Islamist extremists took control of the country’s north in early 2012, prompting a military intervention by France.
Extremism and lawlessness continue, sharpening ancient rivalries in the ethnic mosaic of central Mali.
On Thursday, a UN official said Mali was in dire need of humanitarian aid, with more than three million people requiring food and basic assistance.
Jihadist attacks have also spread to Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.