Published on 13.10.2018 at 21h55 by AFP
Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga visited central Mali on Saturday in a show of authority by the state in a region plagued by terror attacks and ethnic violence.
In the town of Tenenkou, where the prefect, the highest representative of the state, was kidnapped several months ago, Maiga vowed the government’s presence and security would be strengthened.
“Nothing can be achieved without security. The terrorists will be hunted down, the security apparatus will be stepped up,” he said.
“The president himself tasked me with telling you this. The state will do everything to support this mission, and to assure the future of your town.”
Maiga arrived in Tenenkou by helicopter and went on to visit the beleaguered town of Toguere-Coumbe, a 20-minute flight away.
The helicopter arrived with a large quantity of food for the local people, signalling what Maiga described as “the end of a de-facto embargo imposed by the jihadists.”
The eighth largest country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world, the Sahel state has been grappling with violence since 2012.
Touareg rebels staged an uprising in northern Mali which jihadists then exploited to take over key cities.
The extremists were routed in a French-led military operation in 2013 but large stretches of the country remain out of control.
Jihadists overran Toguere-Coumbe, imposing sharia law for several months, before being forced out by the army.
But they still surround the town and control river traffic on the nearby tributary of the Niger, locals said.
They said that many people were too afraid to leave the perimeter of the town, and the Malian army remained hunkered down inside it.
Maiga was greeted on a square by thousands of people who chanted “Mali! Mali!”
“If we are shouting ‘Mali, Mali’ it’s because this is the first time in more than that we’ve had anyone from the government who has come to see us,” Sandy Toure, a 55-year-old trader said.
“We are no longer in the hands of the jihadists.”
Chronic instability and the state’s weakness have also inflamed ethnic competition for resources in central Mali between Fulani pastoralists and Dogon and Bambara farmers.
Saturday’s visit marks the latest step by the state to restore its authority in the troubled region.
On October 2, the prime minister chaired inter-community talks that saw an armed Dogon group, Dan Nan Ambassagou, commit to a ceasefire.
He also formally reopened schools that had been shuttered because of the violence.
Around 600 civilians across the country have died in “inter-communal violence” since the start of the year, according to UN figures.