creating tension

After Moura report, Malian government accuses UN of ‘espionage’

By Flore Monteau

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Posted on May 19, 2023 14:16

 © An armoured Minusma vehicle on patrol in Timbuktu, 9 December 2021. FLORENT VERGNES/AFP
An armoured Minusma vehicle on patrol in Timbuktu, 9 December 2021. FLORENT VERGNES/AFP

In a statement issued on 13 May, the Malian transitional authorities announced the opening of a judicial investigation into “attacks upon the external security of the state […] and military conspiracy.”

A Malian governmental response was expected. One day after the publication of the UN report on the Moura massacre, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga appeared on national television to read a statement accusing the UN of a “military plot”. The UN had reported at least 500 dead in an operation by the Malian army and its Russian Wagner group supporters in Moura at the end of March 2022.

Responding directly to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Malian government spokesperson denounced, “vehemently,” what he called a “biased report based on a fictitious account”. Maintaining the official version of a “successful airborne operation,” Maïga insisted that “no civilian from Moura” had “lost their lives”.


In its statement, the Malian government also said it had discovered, “with astonishment”, that the satellite images associated with the report were taken “without authorisation and without the knowledge of the Malian authorities”. The government denounced what it said was a “clandestine manoeuvre against the national security of Mali”. As a result, Assimi Goïta’s government opened a judicial investigation “against the fact-finding mission and its accomplices for espionage, undermining the external security of the state…and military conspiracy”.

However, according to Ousmane Diallo, Sahel specialist at Amnesty International, the accusations by the government are “unfounded” as “there is no violation of Mali’s airspace”. He adds that no authorisation was needed to obtain the satellite images used in the report as they are also available on the internet. “They are collected via private satellites and concern civilian buildings,” he says.

Very common ‘practice’

Used by the UN mission, which has always been refused access to the village by the authorities, the images point to places where villagers were gathered and executed, mass graves, or even places where women were raped. According to Diallo, this is a “very common” practice for all organisations wishing to corroborate testimonies, further assuring us that there is “no case of espionage in the Moura report”.

In recent months, the issue of the violation of its airspace has often been highlighted by Mali, creating tensions with Minusma. Reluctant to issue the necessary authorisations, the Malian authorities have long obstructed investigations by the UN peacekeeping mission into what happened in Moura. For the Amnesty International researcher, the accusations of espionage made by Mali are part of this “tug of war with Minusma”, whose renewal will be discussed by the UN Security Council on 30 June.

The UN investigators asked the Malian authorities, several times, to comment on the findings, but the concerned officials never responded. As is customary, the report was sent “to the transitional Malian and Russian authorities for their factual comments” in April 2023, but the OHCHR had “still not received [their] comments” at the time of publication.

International pressure

However, according to Bamako, there is no need to respond to this request because national investigations are already underway to “shed light on the allegations of human rights violations”. Officially opened on 6 April 2022 at the request of the prosecutor of Mopti, these investigations by the Malian judiciary have not yet produced results, which will be communicated “in due course”, according to the government.

Urged by the OHCHR to carry out the announced investigations “in an independent, impartial, effective, exhaustive, and transparent manner”, the Malian transitional authorities were also encouraged to do so by the US, the UK, and Canada. In a joint statement, the three countries called on Mali to “rapidly publish its conclusions” on the Moura massacre. Russia has not commented on the issue.

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