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Mauritania raised its voice against its neighbor Mali on Tuesday March 8, accusing its army of crimes “recurring” on its soil against Mauritanians. The Mauritanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that it had summoned the Ambassador of Mali, Mohamed Dibassy, and notified him of his “Strong protest against the recent recurring criminal acts” committed according to him by the Malian army against Mauritanians.
Mauritania issued this protest after two serious events involving Mauritanians in the space of a few weeks in Mali, including the disappearance of several nationals on the other side of the border in circumstances still obscure a few days ago.
Sound recordings circulating on social networks, attributed to eyewitnesses but not authenticated, implicated the Malian army in the disappearance of around thirty Mauritanians on the Malian side in the border area south of Adel Bagrou (east of Mauritania).
A local deputy, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Henenna, quoted by the private agency Alakhbar, spoke of at least fifteen dead. This disappearance was preceded in January by the death, also in circumstances not officially clarified, of seven Mauritanians in the same sector. Already at the time, the question of a possible involvement of Malian soldiers had been raised.
“Closing the border”?
The Mauritanian ministry recalls in a press release published by the national news agency that the government had on this occasion sent a high-level delegation to Mali, “to try to contain this hostile behavior towards our fellow citizens”. “Despite the assurances given” by the Malian authorities, their response “has fallen short of expectations”deplores the ministry.
A Mauritanian diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity following the common practice in such a situation warned the Malian authorities. “We have clearly told the Malians that if this continues, we will close the borderhe specified. In addition, the authorities in Bamako do not pick up the phone when we call them. »
In January, the Malian government announced the opening of an investigation and assured that no element implicated the Malian army. No element of these investigations has been made public since. The junta in power in Mali since August 2020 has still not commented on the recent disappearances.
Mali has been caught in turmoil since the outbreak of separatist and jihadist insurgencies in 2012. In addition to the actions of armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization, inter-community violence and villainous acts, the army is regularly accused of abuses. This violence caused thousands of civilian and military deaths.
Mauritania, with which Mali shares more than 2,000 kilometers of border, was affected by the expansion of Islamist groups from Algeria in the early 2000s, but has not experienced an attack on its soil since 2011.
Dozens of Mauritanians demonstrated on Tuesday in front of the presidency in Nouakchott to demand an end to the abuses committed according to them by the Malian army against compatriots, noted an AFP correspondent. “Our brothers are coldly murdered by the Malian army, we must react quickly against these repeated abuses”, said one of the participants, Ahmed Sidi, from the same region as the missing.
Nouakchott is raising its voice as the Malian junta has recently undertaken a rapprochement effort with Mauritania. It is for the colonels to counter the embargo imposed in January by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to sanction their plan to remain in power for several more years.
The member states of the intergovernmental organization have closed their borders with Mali, except Guinea, itself ruled by the military. Mauritania and Algeria, which are not part of ECOWAS, have kept their borders open.
The Mauritanian ministry explains in its press release that historical ties and humanitarian considerations prevented it “to starve the brotherly Malian people”. But he warns “that the lives of our innocent fellow citizens and the safety of their property will remain above all other considerations”.