Entrance to Ménaka. Photo taken June 20, 2018. Source: Sahel MeMo LLC

On June 19, 2018 humanitarian and non-government organizations (NGOs) decided to suspend their activities temporarily in Ménaka due to insecurity. These organizations include Médecins du Monde – Belgique (MDM), Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), International Rescue Committee (IRC), International Emergency and Development Aid-Relief (IEDA), Mercy Corps, and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). This decision came after notable increase in violence in Ménaka Region, and especially increased violence against civilians. In the past month at least 47 civilians were executed in Ménaka Region and on the borders with Niger. Increased violence against civilians came following the surge of counterterrorism efforts by two local militias backed by national and international forces.

Speaking to locals on June 25, 2018 they have confirmed that all NGOs seized their activities in Ménaka and expressed their concern about the decision. In addition to insecurity humanitarian conditions in the area have been a concern despite a glimpse of improvement. State has taken responsibility more recently to manage water and electricity so unlikely to be impacted by NGOs decision. Though still open and operational, local inhabitant pointed out that there is major concern among the population about health center (CSCOM) running out of medicine after MDM – Belgium seized its operations. MDM – Belgium was providing most, if not all-necessary medication for free to CSCOM. IRC activities focused on education and cash transfers, schools are currently closed due to school break and unclear how much impact IRC’s closure would have on money transfers since there are no banks in the city. Local witnesses reported increased presence of refugees fleeing nearby villages due to violence related to inter communal tensions. ACTED and NRC suspending their activities will have a negative impact on aid distribution to those in desperate need. Finally, local witness stated that IEDA-Relief have left Ménaka and don’t have any ongoing programs in the area.

Security by the Numbers

Insecurity persists in the city of Ménaka and the region in general despite the presence of multiple forces. Violence related to violent extremist organizations (VEOs) such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Al-Qaeda affiliated group Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM) normally generates more attention. However Ménaka and the area in general is witnessing more violence related to criminal activities such as armed banditry and violence between rival communities. NGOs also suffered from repeated acts of violence against their main offices, vehicle and motorcycles theft in Ménaka Region. There are more security incidents related to armed banditry than VEOs in Ménaka Region. For more on security incidents see chronology listed below.

In 2018 between January and May 31st Sahel MeMo recorded at least 100 violent incidents in Ménaka Region, including at least 9 of which were against NGOs. Ménaka Region is not the only region where NGOs are facing security challenges, however. Sahel MeMo recorded at least 79 incidents against NGOs in Mali since January 1st, 2018. Timbuktu, Mopti, and Gao all recorded 18 attacks each (23 percent), Kidal comes next with 11 attacks (14 percent), then Ménaka with 9 attacks (11 percent). However when comparing number of incidents by region Ménaka is the only region with notable increase between February and May 2018, which explains the decision by NGOs to shut down temporarily their activities in the area. According to data collected by Sahel MeMo top four incidents against NGOs are burglary, vehicle theft, robberies, and motorcycles theft.

Chronology of Violent Incidents in Ménaka Region August 2017 – May 2018

04 AUG 17: Unidentified gunmen stormed Oudeina village, 80km SE of Talatayt, Ménaka Region. 4 killed while at least 2 others remained missing after being kidnapped. All victims and kidnapped individuals identified to be of Doussahak Tuareg clan, and also merchant vehicle taken.

06 SEPT 17: Gunmen attacked and attempted seizing Malian Army supply vehicle at the local market in Ménaka, Ménaka Region. 1 soldier killed and 1 injured.

25-26 AUG 17: Unknown gunmen kidnapped and executed 2 members of Douassahak Tuareg community under unclear circumstances in Tamalat, Ménaka Region.

14 SEPT 17: Armed militants attacked Malian National Guard in Ménaka. 3 soldiers killed and 1 injured.

20 SEPT 17: Malian National Guard convoy ambushed by unidentified gunmen 50km from Ménaka near In-Delimane toward Ansongo, Gao Region. At least 4 soldiers killed and 3 injured, while 1 vehicle and arms seized.

22 SEPT 17: Two unidentified gunmen entered and robbed home of an international NGO in Ménaka, Ménaka Region.

25 SEPT 17: Suspected ISGS militant group clashed with members of MSA armed group at Tamalate, Ménaka Region on the borders with Niger. 2 MSA fighters and 5 militants killed.

30 SEPT 17: MINUSMA convoy struck an IED near In-Fijarèn, 110km west of Ménaka, axis Ansongo-Ménaka. JNIM claimed responsibility.

01 OCT 17: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED near Adar N’Tikilit, axis Ménaka-Ansongo, Gao Region. JNIM claimed responsibility.

04 OCT 17: Suspected members of ISGS assassinated Iboghilitane Tuareg fraction chief 20 km from Andéramboukane, Ménaka Region on the borders with Niger.

04 OCT 17: Unknown gunmen raided a nomad camp in Inhinita, Ménaka Region and seized their livestock.

11 OCT 17: Six armed bandits seized truck transporting 23 tons of rice 45km from Ménaka, Ménaka Region. Driver and 2 other passengers left unharmed while bandits headed toward Nigerien borders.

12 OCT 17: Armed bandits attacked and robbed Mayor of Inekar, Ménaka Region at home, and was later abandoned in the area after brief abduction.

15 OCT 17: Gunmen attacked an MSA camp near Infoukaretane (30km from Ménaka), Ménaka Region on the borders with Niger. At least 3 MSA fighters killed and 2 vehicles seized.

24 NOV 17: Malian National Guard repelled an attack by armed bandits against International Rescue Committee (IRC) NGO housing in Ménaka, Ménaka Region. 1 NGO worker injured. The agency temporarily seized its activities due to the multiple attacks.

25 NOV 17: Armed bandits on motorcycles attacked and robbed three civilian transportation trucks arriving from Ménaka near In-Delimane, Ménaka Region. Passengers were robbed and stripped of all their belongings, including estimated cash amount of $15,200.00.

06 JAN 18: Unidentified gunmen attacked GATIA post at Andéramboukane, Ménaka Region. 3 GATIA fighters killed and 1 civilian injured. ISGS suspected to be behind the assault.

09 JAN 18: Vehicle belonging to governorate of Ménaka taken by unknown gunmen in Ménaka, Ménaka Region.

28 JAN 18: JNIM carried an armed assault against Malian Army and National Guard camp in Ménaka, Ménaka Region. At least 5 soldiers killed and arms seized. JNIM claimed responsibility.

22 FEB 18: MSA and GATIA units in collaboration with Barkhane forces claimed to have destroyed a camp belonging to ISGS near Inkadagotane, 60km SW of Ménaka. In a statement MSA and GATIA claimed 6 militants killed, motorcycles, arms, ammunition, and Nigerien Army vehicle seized.

25 – 26 FEB 18: MSA and GATIA claimed their patrolling units to have discovered a camp belonging to ISGS militants of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui in Ménaka Region on the borders between Mali and Niger. Groups also claimed to have clashed with ISGS militants. In the statement MSA and GATIA claimed 10 militants killed, 6 arrested, 1 GATIA-MSA fighter injured, and arms and ammunition seized.

09 MAR 18: GATIA and MSA forces clashed with suspected ISGS militants in a camp located between Taghaterte and Aghazarane Nakhe, SW of Ménaka, Ménaka Region. 6 militants and 1 GATIA/MSA fighter killed.

11-12 MAR 18: Reportedly, Barkhane, GATIA, MSA, Malian, and Nigerien forces conducted operations against ISGS and “armed bandits” on the Malian-Nigerien borders near Akabar, Ménaka Region. MSA stated to have recovered arms and equipment, including vehicle and arms (see images) captured from U.S. and Nigerien forces in Oct 4th by ISGS militants in Tongo Tongo, Niger. Also, 7 militants killed, 3 arrested, vehicles, motorbikes, arms, rockets, and ammunition seized. 1 MSA/GATIA fighter killed and 3 wounded.

01 APR 18: Reportedly, coalition of French Barkhane forces and the Malian army clashed with ISGS militants near Akabar, Ménaka Region, about 3km from Nigerien borders. Around 30 militants reported killed in addition to 3 Malian soldiers also dead while 5 injured. Simultaneously and coincidently MSA reported to have clashed with militants in the same area and reported same casualties, 3 killed and 5 wounded among its ranks while more than 20 militants killed. This came as France continues to deny to carry joint operations against ISGS with GATIA-MSA militias.

09 APR 18: MSA – GATIA reported to have been targeted by ISGS militants at Akabar, Ménaka Region. Militias statement indicated that 9 militants killed while vehicle and arms also seized. 1 GATIA-MSA member killed and another wounded.

15 APR 18: MSA officer identified as Mohamed Ag Baka (image to the right) assassinated by suspected ISGS militants near Ménaka, Ménaka Region.

26 APR 18: At least 12 civilians of Tuareg Doussahak background killed by suspected ISGS members [but cannot be confirmed] near Andéramboukane, Ménaka Region. This is believed to be in response to ongoing counterterrorism efforts carried by MSA-GATIA militias against ISGS backed by French Barkhane and Malian forces.

27 APR 18: Suspected members of ISGS militants attacked a Doussahak camp in Awakassa, near Ménaka, Gao Region. At least 31 civilians killed.

01 MAY 18: According to GATIA – MSA statement (see image on the right) suspected members of ISGS carried an attack on civilians camp of Idarfane at In-Taylalene near Andéramboukane, Ménaka Region. At least 6 civilians killed.

01 MAY 18: According to GATIA – MSA statement (see image on the right) suspected members of ISGS carried an attack on civilians camp of Tin-Dinbawi, Ménaka Region. At least 11 civilians killed.

03 MAY 18: MSA reported two Douassahak Tuareg (civilians) assassinated by unidentified gunmen at Inazul, 20km from Ménaka, Gao Region. Likely related to ongoing aggressive counterterrorism operations by GATIA – MSA militias against ISGS.

03 MAY 18: Allegedly, GATIA members attacked a Ibogilitane camp in Tendabakar, Ménaka Region. Supposedly 6 civilians killed and this was in response to 01 May attack on Idarfane camp.

16 MAY 18: MSA members briefly kidnapped CMA representative in Ménaka, Ménaka Region. Victim identified as Shiguidi Ag Madit, head of a Douassahak Tuareg fraction (Idoguiritènes).

22 MAY 18: Reportedly MSA/GATIA militias clashed with members from the Arab community near In-Azour, Ménaka region. At least 3 MSA-GATIA members killed and 2other from the Arabs’ militia.

30 MAY 18: Members of ISGS militant group carried an attack on GATIA/MSA convoy near In-Kakane, Ménaka Region. 3 MSA/GATIA fighters injured.