The Malian capital Bamako has become a sort of ‘Wild West’ within the past several months with an alarming spike in murders, traffic jams and criminal aggressions in broad daylight.
The most frightening part of the increase in crime rate is that almost all the perpetrators use light arms and in some cases, weapons usually seen in possession of soldiers in war zones.
The criminals who always wear masks as they invade commercial and heavily populated habitats as well as rural highways carrying arms, most times terrorise the populations round the clock for several days unending.
Within a week recently, there were three armed attacks on commercial outfits and banks in the capital. Some of these attacks most times result in deaths, a far cry from Mali of several years back when bandits plied their trade on motorbikes and vehicles without taking the lives of individuals.
Today, the country has entered the era of “grand criminality” as the national capital has attained a level of crime never dreamt of before giving rise to mutual distrust between Malians who hitherto lived happily among their compatriots.
Each evening as night approaches, most residents of the national capital Bamako can be seen hurrying back to their houses for fear of the unknown.
Many of the capital dwellers still vividly remember the recent assassination of an imam who was on his way to the mosque and the killing of a pharmacist with a war gun. All these happenings have vamped up the concerns of the capital city dwellers.
According to Seydou Niangadou, a market trader within the periphery of Bamako say because of the insecurity; he now closes his shop by six o’clock in the evening.
“Since the assassination of the pharmacist, I have become terrified because the man was killed with a gun used but in war and only soldiers are usually in possession of such arms. I cannot understand how bandits came in possession of such arms, which means nobody is secure in this country”, declares Niangadou, who has since installed surveillance cameras around his shop. He hopes the cameras would facilitate the identification of any persons who may one day attack his shop.
“Even though I have installed cameras, I prefer going home early rather than counting on the cameras. The security, economic and social situation in the country is very precarious. Today, we are witnessing hold-ups with loss of human lives, a situation which is new to Malians”, the trader declares with concern.
There has been a massive outcry within the populations who have been reporting increased criminality involving attacks on people in their homes, raids on banks and roadblocks on highways.
The principal cause of this increase in crime rate is the easy availability and circulation of light arms which are either imported or fabricated locally. The arms also include those seized from the army after attacks by jihadists in the north and centre of the country.
“If nothing is done immediately to stop the increasing criminality, Bamako risks being put on the list of the most dangerous cities in the world. This possibility cannot be excluded”, points out a Malian security analyst.
Contacted by HumAngle for his opinion on the galloping insecurity in the Malian capital, Moussa Doumbia, a teacher in a private school in the capital, agreed that Bamako is on the way to becoming one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
“We are in a city in absolute insecurity because attacks are no longer carried out only in the night but in broad daylight. A week ago, an exchange shop was attacked, leading to one death and one person seriously wounded. There was also an attack on a commercial centre where the bandits left without being disturbed by anyone”, Doumbia revealed.
Meanwhile, the attacks are not concentrated on the capital Bamako alone. They are also carried out in rural areas or on highways between the capital and certain towns in the country.
Transport vehicles are frequently attacked by armed men and passengers dispossessed of their belongings. The latest attack in memory took place on the highway between Bamako and Segou, which resulted in one death among the travellers. This has become a very worrying situation for travellers in the country.
To Binta Diallo, a trader who shuttles between Sikasso and Bamako, “During each journey, I pray that God puts a distance between the bandits and us on our way because the distance between Sikasso and Bamako (235 kilometres) is very long. We sometimes travel at night, and there is no security on Malian roads. There can be an attack at any moment”.
Binta insists on the necessity to reinforce the capacity of security forces which patrol the roads and townships because big criminality is gradually being installed in the country.
“Before now, we only heard and watched armed hold-ups in films and rarely in real life. Mali has changed very much during these past years in terms of insecurity. People are no longer afraid of defence and security forces because some of these forces are accomplices and the brains behind the hold-up operations”, Binta declared.
In the meantime, impunity has gained grounds within the criminals because they are most times not arrested, tried and jailed. Most of them roam around with impunity knowing no security force can stop them. They no longer fear being imprisoned because they are never incarcerated.
For those who are ever arrested and jailed, the prisons have become luxury hotels for the big-time criminals, and so they don’t fear being jailed.
Habibatou Toure, a housewife in Bamako, thinks security forces no longer protect the populations because politicians usually embezzle the money budgeted for the security of the people.
“Instead of giving the defence and security forces the means, the authorities prefer to embezzle the money. This is what brings about the insecurity in our villages and towns. Nobody is protected from murder”, Habibatou says adding that it is time the authorities take questions of insecurity exceptionally otherwise Bamako would no longer be habitable in a few years.
According to Colonel Amara Doumbia, the principal cause of the criminality in Mali is the unemployment of the youths. He says because of youth unemployment, thousands of youths resort to acts of violence and delinquency.
“The insecurity and criminality are plagues which slow down development in countries and impact on all aspects of the life of a nation. It is usually manifested by big-time corruption to win public contracts”, opines the military officer.
Colonel Doumbia adds that no African country is free from organised crime.
The Bamako Bureau of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees thinks the proliferation of armed groups and light arms renders the security situation in Mali more complex.
Ibrahim Maiga, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, thinks that the populations continue to be the most affected and who feel the most pain.
In the face of all the bad news, there may be some ray of hope in the announcement by the Director of the National Police, Moussa Ag Infahi that the capacity of security forces would be reinforced so they can efficiently fight against insecurity.