RNW Media’s Benbere platform has broken new ground in peacekeeping efforts in the conflict affecting central Mali. At an offline conference hosted by Benbere, representatives from the communities involved in the violence met face-to-face for the first time. The event caught the eye of the international community and Benbere coordinator Abdoulaye Guindo has been invited to meet next week with the EU delegation in Mali. This follows an earlier meeting with the mediation team of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.
Benbere is the newest addition to RNW Media’s Citizens’ Voice programme. Launched in May 2018, the online platform aims to reflect the diversity of voices in a highly fractured country. In late 2018, the Benbere team organised their first offline event – and it proved to be a resounding success.
In the heart of Mali, inter-community violence has seen dozens of villages burned and besieged their inhabitants hunted down and driven to flee. Tensions between members of Mali’s Dogon and Fulani communities have been further inflamed by jihadists linked to the Macina Liberation Front led by an influential radical preacher known as Amadou Koufa. Despite the presence of peacekeeping troops, central Mali is now the most dangerous part of the country with armed militias there responsible for some 40% of all attacks in Mali.
Tackling prejudice head-on
There have been numerous efforts to address the issues underlying the violence and many meetings have taken place behind closed doors. But no organisation or state structure has dared to bring representatives of the communities face to face. RNW Media’s Benbere project in Mali is determined to tackle the theme of prejudice head-on, so in late 2018, they invited protagonists living the conflict, to come to Bamako to discuss it.
Former Prime Minister Moussa Mara, a popular figure among young Malians, learned of the conference and also made the trip to Bamako. He said he was surprised to see young people tackling the real problems of Malians, including prejudices, and congratulated the Benbere team for taking the initiative to bring communities closer together. He encouraged them to continue the good work:
“it is important to multiply this kind of activities at the local level to strengthen social cohesion and avoid inter-communal conflicts between Malians.”
UN building on Benbere’s success
The social media discussion surrounding the event also attracted the attention of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA. The mission Head contacted Benbere, saying UN mediators would like to build on the success of the event by bringing the warring parties together. Members of the Benbere team escorted representatives from the conference to the MINUSMA offices and during the discussion that followed, MINUSMA agreed to finance a forum on peace to be held in Mopti in central Mali later this year.
Recognising Benbere’s role in creating the contact between the two communities, the young representatives asked the platform to be a partner of the event. So a team will be joining the forum and the Benbere logo will be displayed on all the publicity materials, further broadening the platform’s reach and visibility.