24 April 2019

The urgency of climate change in Mali: an aggravating factor for the security of the people living in the centre? (EN)

In recent years, the centre of Mali has been at the heart of a great deal of concern. The latest killings in Ogossagou, a Fulani village in the district of Bankass in the Mopti region, in which close to 160 people lost their lives on 23 March 2019, were condemned by the entire international community. The victims were not only Fulani families, but also Dogon civilians. In the aftermath of the violence, other attacks took place on a smaller scale, targeting several other civilians in the region.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for the appropriate investigations to be carried out in order to bring those guilty to justice. Other voices have called for heightened protection of civilians from the militias and terrorist groups operating in the central region of Mali through the presence of international peacekeeping forces such as MINUSMA or G5 Sahel. Populations, fearful of the chronic insecurity, are already fleeing their homes and living areas. Today, we are seeing over 120,000 internally displaced persons and around 136,000 external refugees outside of Mali.


More than anything else, the centre of Mali is a vast farming area. The political unrest leads to food insecurity and the displacement of entire populations, which undermines the social fabric in the region. All of which is unfolding against a background in which the State is absent and national security forces are nowhere to be seen in the most remote areas.

The centre of Mali is inhabited by several ethnic groups, including the Fulani herdsmen, the Dogon and Bambara farmers and the Bozo fishermen, all of whom face a daily struggle to survive. As a fertile area, this part of Mali has been the backdrop of age-old conflicts. These conflicts largely revolve around the administration of the land, the use of the watercourses, the sharing of resources and the seasonal migration of livestock during the dry season.

The recent exacerbation of the security situation has resulted in serious food insecurity since 2012. According to OCHA, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, close to 600,000 people in the Mopti region now face food insecurity. Of this number, around 187,000 people are facing an acute crisis situation.

Climate change is making itself felt in no uncertain terms in the Sahel region. Where the delta of the Niger river was previously an area of intense farming activity and home to grazing land in the centre of Mali, it has also lived through numerous droughts and is now witnessing increasingly greater variations due to climate change.  In its report entitled ‘Populations caught between terrorism and anti-terrorism’, the International Federation for Human Rights (known by its French acronym FIDH) confirms that the conflict in the centre of Mali is very much a climate conflict and the United Nations’ Security Council has acknowledge climate as a risk factor for West Africa and included it as such in the MINUSMA mission mandate.


Migration and displacement of populations

Given the intensification of the effects of climate change, recent times have witnessed changes in the traditional migration patterns of the Fulani. The insecure situation in the north is prompting a rising number of herders to migrate to the south and the centre, with their livestock. According to Mbaranga Gasarabwe, humanitarian coordinator of the United Nations System: The current droughts as well as the floods have resulted in a lot of displaced people, whom we now rightfully refer to as ‘people displaced by climate change impacts’ “.

To Drissa Doumbia, the Climate Focal Point with the Malian Ministry for the Environment, the issue of climate change poses a major challenge for the country’s public policies. Which is why the Mali government needs to pull out all the stops to implement integrated programmes that deliver food security and energy and water resources in order to work towards the successful adaptation of the country to climate change. Provided, of course, that the adaptation funds pledged at the COP 21 in Paris are made available.

The international community is increasingly warning for a situation in which a lot of factors are involved. The worsening impacts of climate change do not help. What is needed are human solutions and they are needed now. To Ibrahim Maiga, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies, the concept of human security should rank higher in the considerations ahead of the decisions made by States and not stop at traditional military security. Dougoukolo Alpha Oumar Ba Konaré, the chairman of the Kisal Observatory, is asking the international community to view the Sahel as a vast area of potential, which means providing the local populations with the means and tools to contend with the climatic events, thereby giving them the keys to protect themselves rather than suffer the effects in the long term.

The United Nations are calling for the countries’ national policies to take more comprehensive account of the impacts of climate change. The same pressing plea was also heard at the 4th Planetary Security Conference, held on 19 and 20 February 2019 in The Hague. To Mali, one of the most vulnerable countries worst hit by the effects of climate change, making available the adaptation funds pledged by the polluting countries could be a game changer and make a real difference on the ground. “There is no more time to dilly-dally”, the UN Secretary General stated. In September 2019, he is convening a climate summit in New York to spur political momentum ahead of the COP 25 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Santiago (Chile) in December.

Published locally by MikadoFM, Mali Radio Station

Written by Mame Diarra Diop, one of the PSI Media Fellows