Dialogue to end conflict
When the conflict between farmers and cattle herders in Kossouma and Mougna villages turned violent, it affected the whole community. The market stagnated and people became poorer. But the Land Commission is working with dialogue to solve the conflict.
“During the conflict the whole community suffered because the Kossouma people did not come to the market,” says Osoman Sao who is a member of the Land Commission in Mougna village in central Mali and continues:
“They did not come to sell their rice and fish, but worse they did not come to buy the other farmers’ wares. This lead to more poverty in the other villages. The market in Mougna usually attracts people from 30 villages, but when they can’t get fish and rice here some choose to go elsewhere to sell their products. When people don’t come to the market it has consequences for the whole community and brings greater poverty.”
The Land Commission is part of the local administration with the purpose to manage and prevent land disputes. Access to land is complicated in Mali, where the state owns all land and competing groups have rights to use it. The Land Commission does not receive any state budget and therefore Diakonia is supporting commissions to form and function throughout the country. In Mougna our partner AADI trains the members of the Commission and helps them in their important work.
“People are tired of the conflict and they are getting poorer. The Land Commission can bring people together to talk and come to mutual agreement,“ says Sao. The Land Commission has initiated discussions with the elders of the two villages of Mougna and Kossouma, and are hoping to be able to bring them together for dialogue in the near future. They have managed to reach agreements between other villages and believe they will be able to do so here as well, but are aware that it can take time.
Sao is carefully optimistic, “The market is now beginning to function again.” After the Land Commission’s intervention, the village chief encouraged everyone to not resort to violence at the market and it is giving results. “When the Land Commission manages to get through, that’s when the situation will change.” He continues, “The villages have two different cultures and they don’t intermarry. But before they used to live in peace and go to dances together.”
It was in July 2016 the two villages of Mougna and Kossouma, were in armed conflict with each other due to land disputes, which resulted in 10 dead and 40 injured. The conflict dates back to 1945. Kossouma is a rich village which farms rice on land which lies close to the Mougna village. In 1963 the court gave them rights to this land, but the decision is considered void by the Mougna village, and they blame corrupt judges for fuelling the conflict. There is not yet peace, but Sao and the other members of the Land Commission see that the dialogue is slowly leading to mutual understanding and has the potential to lead to a sustainable, peaceful, coexistence, in a way that court rulings never could.
Diakonia supports democratic processes and good governance throughout Mali, with a focus on the local level. The Sida-funded programme looks specifically at land issues, since this is a topic of contention in many places in Mali. The state owns all land and to avoid conflict, strong people-driven structures are necessary to manage the usage of land. Therefore Diakonia and our partner organisations support the formation of Land Commissions at the local municipalities, trains their members and supports them in their work.