A nice summary by Manon Elissa Murray, nothing new but clearly written and organised, if the English grammar leaves a little bit to be desired. The full text is here.
The purpose of Katiba Macina was originally the restoration of a Fulani caliphate. Now, with its alliance with Tuareg jihadist group Ansar Dine, and indirectly with more transnational organizations, it looks like Katiba Macina’s goal is to impose Shariah law in the region. Central Mali is therefore currently undergoing a classic scenario of people-centric insurgency, like the one we might have seen in South Vietnam or in Afghanistan in the past. Katiba Macina is systematically targeting state symbols: at least three village chiefs or mayors were assassinated in Mopti in early 2017, city halls or custom houses have been attacked, militaries, policemen and judges have also been targeted. The group did not only target other ethnic groups but also Fulani, as many refused to join or to support Katiba Macina, and Fulani imams were killed. This demonstrates the fragmentation and the heterogeneity of the Fulani, who, like any group, do not stand together as one political and social entity.
By eliminating these agents of power and replacing them with their own, Katiba Macina is taking over governance in the region, becoming a kind of “shadow government”. Its followers are hence typically following the intimidation strategy used by terrorist groups to gain control over the population, by creating insecurity, thus leading many civilians to join jihadist groups like Katiba Macina in order to seek protection. As a response to this surge of violence, and with the lack of an appropriate response by the government, ethnic-based militias have been created for self-protection and retaliation, particularly the Bambara militia called the Dozos. As a result, exactions are now committed on a daily basis by both jihadists and militias, targeting people on the grounds of their ethnic group, thus creating ethnic tension within populations who were not involved in any armed movement, and who are pushed to join these groups for protection due to the helplessness of the government.
The government, however, has not been passive. Armed forces have been accused of indiscriminately abusing citizens, by conducting arbitrary arrests, torturing and killing, the victims being mostly Fulani, for the sole reason that Katiba Macina’s jihadists are Fulani.