With recent events in Mali and the risk of inter-communal conflicts extending to Burkina Faso and Niger, notably in the Tillabery region, it is vital that protection of populations, especially vulnerable groups including women, be reinforced. Women hold a vital link to agricultural activity despite being routinely disadvantaged in terms of management and distribution of land. Knowing that such conflicts stem from outdated modes of control over resources (pastures, farmland, theft of livestock), we must consider the risks faced by women exposed to intense activity and weakened by systems of distribution and in particular land distribution.
But beyond being merely “victims”, women and their various forms of manifestation, could constitute an important pillar in researching local solutions to conflict. Intercommunity dialogue, sensitization, and mediation stand out in particular.
To do so, women’s roles must be recognized and reinforced by States and all other actors intervening in the region; simple declarations and “gender approaches” are superficial and no longer suffice. In other words, resolution 1325 and its essential clauses and recommendations must be swiftly followed, particularly as inter-communal conflict begins to rise in Mali.
It is true that with the increasingly complex regional situation, a certain number of initiatives have been undertaken at the regional and international levels (conferences, roundtables, military operations, etc.). Following the same logic, UNWOMEN, fully integrated in the dynamic resulting from Resolution 1325 via the Bamako Declaration, has tried to alert decision-makers and the international community to take further action. Until recently, such action has been timid compared with the larger issue of women’s empowerment and women’s involvement in questions of peace and security. The G5 Sahel could have given more importance to this aspect, specifically an expert dedicated to gender within the permanent Secretariat in Nouakchott.
For decades, tensions have multiplied in West Africa including in countries where, until quite recently, it was difficult to imagine there would be theaters of conflict- let alone the most worrying conflicts in the region. The typical case study is that of Mali, once peaceful, where the North has been taken hostage by armed groups, sometimes claiming terrorist affiliation and sometimes claiming irredentism. This Northern sickness has contaminated the Center, notably the region of Mopti, where interethnic and occasionally deadly conflict has arisen. Although Mali is the epicenter of these phenomena, these types of conflict have been reported in Burkina Faso in Dori (province of Séno, Sahel region), Soum, and other hotspots in Oudalan.
Longstanding conflicts between herders and farmers also complicates intercommunal violence rooted in countering terrorism . It should be noted that within this type of conflict, the management of land which is often discriminatory towards women, is at the forefront of this complex and sensitive issue. This situation has provoked significant displacement of people, not sparing women, to other countries or towards the capital including Sénou- only a few kilometers from downtown Bamako. This Malian conflict has ultimately spilled over into almost the entire band of the Sahel, resulting in extremely high vulnerability.