Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Mali

Number of IDPsAt least 227,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 1.4%
Start of displacement situation2012
Peak number of IDPs (year)227,000 (2012)
New displacement in 2012At least 227,000
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
x Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
✓ Criminal violence
x Political violence
Human development index182
Kampala ConventionRatified

Tens of thousands of people were displaced as a result of the National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA)'s armed uprising, which it launched on 17 January 2012 in the vast desert area of northern Mali with the aim of creating an independent state. The ill-equipped army retreated quickly, allowing MNLA fighters to make further territorial gains. The army became increasingly discontent with President Amadou Toumani Touré, whom it accused of failing to provide troops with the means to subdue the rebels, and on 22 March a military coup forced him to step down.

The resulting power vacuum enabled MNLA and allied Islamist groups to gain control of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu in a matter of days, causing new displacements in the process. Three heavily armed militant groups al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) imposed a hardline interpretation of sharia law in areas that fell under their control, prompting more people to flee their homes.

Conflicting objectives, however, drove a wedge between MNLA and the Islamist groups, which eventually led to MNLA being driven out of northern Mali in late June. In early September, MUJAO gained control of Douentza, a town in the government-held Mopti region. From the start of the rebellion, the various armed groups committed gross human rights, including rapes, abductions, summary executions and the recruitment of children. The Islamists also carried out forced marriages, whippings, stonings and amputations in the name of sharia.

By the end of 2012, around 230,000 people had fled within Mali's borders. In the absence of comprehensive disaggregated data, it is thought a large proportion were women and children. Displacement patterns varied. Most IDPs stayed away from the north, while some went back to work during the rainy season or were tempted back by the relatively high salaries offered by the Islamist groups. Others returned temporarily to assess the situation or to collect relatives left behind in the rush to flee.

IDPs who took refuge in northern Mali did so mainly with host families or out in the open in makeshift shelters. Some settled near the border with Niger in order to benefit from the assistance provided in refugee camps. The education of around 300,000 children was severely disrupted by the looting and destruction of schools and the conversion of others into Koranic institutions. A large-scale food crisis characterised by chronic drought and escalating food prices added to IDPs' difficulties, though the arrival of rains and the import of staples from Algeria improved the situation in the second half of the year.

More than 140,000 IDPs took refuge in the south, where the majority found shelter with host families. By the end of the year, and particularly in Bamako, an increasing number had rented their own homes with the help of relatives or financial assistance from humanitarian organisations. An unknown number took shelter in Mali's only displacement camp in Sévaré. Many IDPs in the south lost their sources of income and few had means to start economic activities in their place of displacement, putting a strain on host families' resources. The average host family in Bamako has 7.4 members, but some were catering for as many as 30 people after the influx of IDPs.

Transitional governments were formed in April and August, and a third was appointed in December following another coup which forced Prime Minister Cheik Modibo Diarra to resign. The Ministry of Solidarity, Humanitarian Action and Older People is responsible for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, but a shortage of financial and technical resources has left the needs of many IDPs unmet. The ministry is part of the Protection Cluster's Commission on Population Movement, which undertook a tracking exercise during the second half of the year. In December, Mali ratified the Kampala Convention, paving the way for a national policy on internal displacement.

Humanitarian access in the north was limited during 2012, which hampered comprehensive assessments of the number and needs of IDPs. In the south, basic needs in terms of protection and assistance remained under-addressed. The first CAP humanitarian appeal for Mali, launched in June, was underfunded by around 40 per cent.

In December the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2085, which authorised the deployment of a military force in the north led by the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). Operations were expected to start during 2013, prompting serious concerns about IDPs' protection and access to basic needs, and fears of further mass displacements.


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