Three “peace accords” have been signed by representatives of pastoralist and farming communities who are trapped in the violence provoked by attacks by armed groups in central Mali, a Swiss mediator said.
The agreements bring together the Peuls – also called Peuls – who are mainly semi-nomadic pastoralists, and the Dogon, who are mainly sedentary farmers.
Both groups have historic tensions over access to land and water, but friction has turned bloody after armed fighters entered their area more than five years ago.
“On January 12, 22 and 24, 2021, the Fulani and Dogon communities signed three peace agreements with humanitarian objectives,” the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a Swiss organization, said on Tuesday.
– Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (@hdcentre) January 26, 2021
They apply to Koro, a county-sized region on the border with Burkina Faso that has suffered one of the worst bloodshed, he said in a statement.
Remote and dangerous, the area is only regularly penetrated by humanitarian groups, United Nations patrols and the army.
Under the terms of the agreements, the signatories pledged to encourage members of their communities “to work for peace by forgiving past acts and by spreading messages of cohesion and calm”.
They also agreed to “guarantee the physical integrity, the free movement of people, goods and livestock … to respect the habits and customs” of all, and allow the populations of all communities to have access to villages and villages. markets, the statement said.
Nicolas Haque, of Al Jazeera, who reports from Dakar in neighboring Senegal, said the agreements were “meaningful” and a “breakthrough” as they come at a time of escalating violence and attacks.
“In the absence of the Malian state and security, these two ethnic groups resorted to armed militias … to protect themselves,” Haque said.
“At the heart of it all is access to land – for Fulanis who are mostly herders, access to land to graze their animals. And for the Dogons, who are mainly farmers, it is access to land to grow food, ”he said.
The agreement also aims to help displaced people return to their homes.
Last week, the United Nations refugee agency said more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes within their own country’s borders as a result of the violence that has ravaged the Sahel region of Africa.
In addition to the internally displaced people, more than 850,000 people have fled Mali and sought refuge in other countries, he said.
Similar agreements were signed a little over two years ago, but have failed to stem the violence.
Central Mali, a mosaic of many communities, was put to the test in 2015 when a ruthless al-Qaeda group appeared on the scene.
It was headed by a preacher of the Fulani ethnic group named Amadou Koufa, who recruited largely from members of his own community.
Other ethnic groups, notably the Dogon and Bambara, formed so-called self-defense forces, paving the way for bloody tit-for-tat violence.
One of these groups, a Dogon armed group called Dan Nan Ambassagou, has been accused by NGOs and the UN of carrying out massacres in Fulani villages, an allegation he denies.
The force was officially disbanded but remains active.
The Malian army has also been accused of abuses against the Fulani in the Koro region, and many Fulani have fled for the safety of the regional capital, Mopti.