The Mali military is in the tenth year of a conflict that began as a separatist revolt before transforming into an armed group-led conflict. Wagner mercenaries with ties to Russia allegedly came to Mali in late December to help the troops. The refugees with whom Al Jazeera talked come from the northern Timbuktu and central Segou regions of Mali. Ousmane Diallo, a researcher with an organization advocating human rights, said, “Since January 2022, the magnitude and cruelty have increased, and this cannot be ignored.” Wagner’s “mode of operation,” according to author Wassim Nasr, included massive strikes on civilian populations.
The M’bera refugee camp in Mauritania has evolved into a quasi-autonomous community with its microeconomy and enterprises. Aid from the United Nations enables refugees to construct their own house, which currently spans 44 blocks and 9 square kilometers. Compared to their lives in Mali, many new newcomers are more concerned with the camp’s security assurances. Before the entrance of Russian soldiers in Mali, the situation in the Segou area was already “catastrophic,” according to Al Jazeera’s interviews with refugees at the Mbera camp in Mauritania. Even though Mauritanian military forces surround the center, it is just around 40 kilometers from the Malian border.
Previously, survivors could count the dead after a raid, but now they cannot. Others have made Mauritania their new home after living in the camp for a decade.