The United Nations says it is worried about “the proliferation of armed groups” in the north of the country.
As we wrote in February, a rebellion by Touareg groups in northern Mali has sparked a political and humanitarian crisis, as thousands of refugees flee the affected area.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming said: “Refugees pouring into neighbouring countries are reporting the presence of armed militiamen and home guards units set up by local communities to defend themselves.”
Aid groups have reported that they have had to withdraw from the northern territories due to the increased violence. Malian refugees have been crossing the border into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mauritania in their thousands, according to UNHCR.
The situation is believed to have worsened after Touareg rebel groups took control of several northern towns in the last week.
The Touareg rebellion has also seen Mali’s policital system fall into chaos after soliders deposed President Toure in March, saying he had not done enough to fight the Touareg separatists.
The UN Security Council has added its voice to calls for a return to diplomacy. The Council said it condemned “the continued attacks, looting and seizure of territory carried out by rebel groups in the north of Mali and demands an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
Mali’s ambassador to the UN, Oumar Daou, said:
“How is it that a country just weeks ago that was known and recognised as a benchmark, a country in which the democratic model had taken route, our country was an example on the African continent, how is it that today our country is finding itself before the international community needing its help?”
According to the UNHCR, 200,000 people have now been displaced by the conflict. More than 23,000 have found shelter in Burkina Faso, 46,000 are in Mauritania and a further 25,000 are in Niger, along with approximately 2,000 Niger nationals who had been living in Mali.
Almost 100,000 are believed to have been internally displaced within Mali.