Children Bearing Brunt of Escalating Violence, Political Instability | ReliefWeb Press Release: Mali 12/21/2022


Mali: Children Bearing Brunt of Escalating Violence, Political Instability, Upsurge in Grave Violations

News and Press Release

New York, 21 December 2022 - Grave violations committed against children in Mali are increasing at an alarming rate compared to the previous, longer reporting period, a Secretary-General Report on children and armed conflict in Mali published today highlighted. Children in Mali are still bearing the brunt of political instability, increased violence against civilians, and a worsening human rights situation across the country.

In the context of escalating intercommunal violence and an upsurge in activities of armed groups, including those designated as terrorist groups by the United Nations, the report highlighted a sharp increase in recruitment and use, attacks on schools and hospitals, and abductions, particularly in the Mopti and Gao regions. A total of 2,095 grave violations against 1,473 children were verified between 1 April, 2020, and 31 March, 2022, with the majority of violations unable to be attributed to a particular party to conflict. Most remaining violations (38 percent) were attributed to armed groups and 6 percent to Government security forces. The actual number is likely to be higher, as the UN's ability to verify information was at times limited due to insecurity, access restrictions, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am appalled to see an increasing trend of grave violations against children in Mali. Urgent and determined action is required of parties to protect children," said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. "For children to maintain their rights, they must be released from armed groups and forces, and protected from other violations and abuses. But efforts cannot stop there. Reintegrating children into society is also key to ensuring their sustained safety and futures."

Over 900 boys and girls were recruited and used, which was the most verified grave violation during the reporting period. Further, of those recruited and used, only 616 were verified to have been released. More than 50% of the perpetrators were armed group signatories to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, showing little progress toward implementation of action plans to end and prevent this violation.

"The use of children in support of armed forces or groups was also very prevalent. While most of these cases were attributed to armed groups, close to one hundred cases were children used by FAMA to perform domestic chores and run errands", the Special Representative said. "I urge the Government to discontinue the use of children by the armed forces in any capacity. I further urge the government to reinforce other protective measures to prevent violations against children in Mali. These should include, among other, the finalization of the revision of the child protection code that would criminalize the recruitment and use of children also between the ages of 15 and 17 and the law establishing a moratorium on the 30-day deadline for birth registration must also be adopted."

There was also an upsurge in children who were killed and maimed, mostly during attacks by armed groups against civilians. The presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) was a leading cause of death or injury affecting 94 of the 408 children verified as suffering from this violation.. Concernedly, the abduction of children, mainly for the purpose of recruitment or sexual exploitation increased four-fold compared to the previous reporting period.

With a total of 240 attacks on schools and hospitals, the health and education systems in Mali have been deeply affected by conflict, depriving children of their basic rights to health and education. One-hundred-and-eighty-six schools were attacked during the period, with 1,731 schools closed nationwide by the end of March 2022. Notably, measures were taken by the transitional Government to implement the Safe Schools Declaration through the establishment of a national implementation committee and the revision of the bill on the protection of education from attacks, of which the Special Representative encourages swift adoption.

Further progress and engagement

Continued engagement between the transitional Government and the UN to address grave violations against children was promising. The transitional Government collaborated with the UN on developing a national prevention plan to address grave violations by its armed forces. The Special Representative calls for its swift adoption and implementation, as well as for the implementation of the Protocol on Release and Handover of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups, the release of detained children, and to further collaboration with the UN.

Throughout the reporting period, the armed group Coordination des mouvements de l'Azawad (CMA) and the UN continued dialogue through workshops to accelerate the implementation of their 2017 action plan on recruitment and use of children and sexual violence against children. The SRSG also welcomed the signature of action plans by two Platform factions to end and prevent child recruitment and use. "The signing of action plans is an integral step to protecting conflict-affected children in Mali, but implementation is key for sustained, positive change," said the Special Representative. "I call on all parties to translate their commitments to children into action immediately and to put in place concrete measures to prevent further violations. The United Nations stands ready to support all efforts to better protect children in Mali," she added.

Full report

Grave violations against children in Mali between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022

  • Recruitment and use: 901 children
  • Killing and maiming: 408 children
  • Rape and other forms of sexual violence: 50 children
  • Attacks on schools and hospitals: 186 schools and 54 hospitals
  • Abduction of children: 175 children
  • Denial of humanitarian access: 425 incidents

For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

+1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / vinet@un.org

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