Mali: In Nia Ouro, Wagner’s men ‘tore off women’s clothes and raped them’

By Benjamin Roger
Posted on Friday, 9 September 2022 15:06

Soldiers from the Russian private military company Wagner (pictured here on an unknown date in northern Mali). ©AP/SIPA.

Three days after the arrival of the Malian army and mercenaries from the private Russian company in this village in central Mali, several inhabitants have accused them of rape and sexual assault. We have collected these testimonies.

These are the kinds of testimonies that send shivers down your spine – gathered by telephone – which, for the first time in such a clear and precise manner, accuse Wagner’s mercenaries of rape in Mali.

As revealed by Radio France Internationale (RFI), the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA), accompanied by their deputies from the Russian private military company Wagner and traditional dozo hunters, raided the village of Nia Ouro, near Sofara, in the Mopti region, in the centre of the country, at dawn on 4 September.

That day, Amadou* was at home with his wife. Some of the men in the village, warned of the arrival of an armed convoy, fled into the bush to hide. Some women followed them with their children. At around 9am, some dozos came through his door and ordered him and other inhabitants to come out. “They told me that the FAMA wanted to talk to me. They took me to the soldiers who asked me who I was and what I was doing here. Then they handed me over to the leader of a group of whites, guys from Wagner”.

Forcibly undressed and photographed

Amadou was then tied up and blindfolded. Along with a small group of about 40 men from the village, they were accused of being “accomplices of the jihadists” and loaded onto a truck. They were taken to Wagner’s advanced base in Sofara, the commune’s main town, about ten kilometres away. There, they were imprisoned and interrogated. “Wagner’s men wanted to know where the jihadists were. I told them that I had never collaborated with them and that I had no idea where they were. I made sure that I was quiet, because those who were not were beaten hard.” After 48 hours of detention under the surveillance of the mercenaries and Malian soldiers, Amadou was released.

Shocked and fearing reprisals, he did not return home but hid in a nearby village. The inhabitants of Nia Ouro told him what had happened in his absence. There, several women, including young girls and elderly ladies, were sexually assaulted. “They forced some of them to undress so that they could be photographed or videotaped,” says Moussa*, another village resident. Others were raped directly in their homes. At least three of the women were seriously injured by the white men.

Theft and looting

In a video received by Jeune Afrique, a woman from Nia Ouro, who fled the village and has been living in the bush for the past three days with other villagers and children, also recalls the arrival of “Malian and white soldiers” in the village. “They went into the huts and tore off the women’s clothes. They also took away young women and even hit children,” she says, in Fula.

At the same time, other armed men engaged in theft and looting. Money, jewellery and other valuable belongings were stolen by the soldiers. “They turned the whole village upside down. The millet shop was looted. They ransacked the health centre. Our animals – oxen, sheep, goats – were also stolen or killed to be eaten,” says Amadou.

According to several residents, the FAMA soldiers and Wagner mercenaries were still occupying the village on 7 September. Amadou was still without news of his wife. “I just hope that she will be able to join me soon,” he said.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options