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UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to condemn slavery in Mali


UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to condemn slavery in Mali

Gulshan Khan AFP via Getty Images
Photo: Gulshan Khan/AFP via Getty Images

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris will begin a six-day visit to Mali today.

The UN Special Representative for Mali told the Security Council on Friday that country’s security situation is in crisis. Since 2012, armed militias have terrorized local communities in the northern and central parts of the country. The latest surge in violence came in August 2020 following a military coup, which then led to a promise to transition back to a civilian government over an 18-month period.

Expect Kehris to focus on condemning slavery in Mali. Although Mali formally abolished slavery during colonial rule, centuries-old hierarchies have created an entrenched caste system in the country which human rights groups have condemned as modern-day descent-based slavery. Kehris is likely to specifically denounce a September attack in the Keynes province where 77 were wounded and 3,000 slaves displaced.

Enforcing the abolishment of decent-based slavery could act as a first step towards restoring peace. Militias use the issue to galvanize communities and maintain power in northern and central Mali, so if the government addresses it, their movements will be weakened. However, eliminating decent-based slavery will likely remain a long-term rule-of-law challenge for Mali given how established it is.

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