Wednesday 27.7.2016 in Latest Developments in Mali Country Page
On 12th July, a peaceful protest by youth in Gao, northern Mali, sought to express opposition to a new interim government in the region but was violently repressed by defense and security forces. Three people died and 30 were wounded, three of them seriously, when the military opened fire on the crowd of protestors, some of whom were reported to be carrying knives. 20 people were arrested and later released.
In a statement, the government expressed regret at the loss of life, sent its condolences to the families and wished the injured a speedy recovery. While urging the people of Gao to remain calm, the government called for dialogue and decided to send a high-level mission to Gao to meet different sections of society in order to find a resolution to the conflict. The government also committed to launching an independent and impartial investigation into the events. At the time of writing, there was no information available on whether any progress had been made on these commitments.
A few weeks earlier, on 21st May, thousands marched to highlight bad governance and the slow implementation of the peace and reconciliation agreement that was signed in May 2015, following the Algiers process. Protestors also called for the return of government administration in the northern regions of the country. The march passed off without incident, thought it had been postponed twice as authorities invoked a restrictive provision of the law governing demonstrations on public roads.
Reacting to the killings in Gao on 12th July, a group of 19 NGOs and human rights organisations issued a press release. They openly condemned the repression of the peaceful demonstration and demanded the government ensure the safety of the civilian population. They also called for the authorities to rapidly investigate the incident in order to shed light on the facts, determine who was responsible for the deaths and punish the perpetrators. The NGOs stated that no pretext, including a state of emergency, can justify the excessive use force against civilians peacefully expressing their right to demonstrate, which is recognised by the Malian constitution and through international commitments to human rights. This incident constitutes a serious violation of human rights and is likely to undermine confidence between civilians and the Malian armed forces. They urged the authorities to take preventive measures so that such events do not recur in future.