A transitional military government ruled Mali following a coup d’etat on March 22. On that date the armed forces overthrew the civilian government of President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was elected in 2007 in an election considered free and fair, albeit with some administrative irregularities. An attempted countercoup on April 30 did not succeed. In April an agreement brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) resulted in the installation of an interim government. On December 10, security forces loyal to coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo abducted the interim prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, forced him to resign, and dissolved his cabinet. Within a week, a new interim prime minister, Django Cissoko, and a new cabinet were announced. As the year closed, a triumvirate comprised of the junta, interim President Dioncounda Traore, and interim prime minister Cissoko governed the country. While military forces nominally reported to civilian leaders, the interim prime minister’s forced resignation indicated that the junta remained a potent force in the country’s governance.
Prior to the coup, heavily armed Tuareg rebel groups, proclaiming an independent state of Azawad in northern Mali, launched a series of offensives against government military outposts in the North. The rebel groups, aided in some cases by extremists, took advantage of the postcoup political chaos in the capital, Bamako, to capture northern towns and cities and effectively gain control over northern Mali. Another armed group, Ansar al Dine, also began to establish Sharia law. Extremist groups, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), joined forces with Ansar al Dine, but the groups subsequently contended with one another for territory. At year’s end all of northern Mali, which constitutes approximately two-thirds of the country’s territory but contains roughly 10 percent of its population, was under the extremists’ control. By December over 230,000 inhabitants were internally displaced and more than 155,000 others were refugees in the neighboring countries of Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Algeria.
Junta soldiers reportedly committed arbitrary arrests and detention, threats, beatings, and torture. Women continued to face domestic violence and a culture that condoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Human trafficking and exploitative labor relationships, including child labor, were problems.
Other human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life; harsh prison conditions; judicial inefficiency; limitations on press freedom; official corruption and impunity; rape and domestic violence against women; societal discrimination against black Tamasheqs, who were subjected to slavery-related practices; discrimination based on sexual orientation; and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Workers’ rights to organize, strike, bargain collectively, and benefit from fair labor standards were often disregarded.
The government did not take steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, and impunity was a problem.
Extremists and some rebel groups in the North committed serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence, summary execution, use of child soldiers, amputation of hands and feet of suspected thieves, intimidation of journalists, and destruction of ancient monuments. The extremist groups included AQIM, MUJAO, and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).