Youth Groups in Mali Spread Messages of Unity

“Ensemble Nous Sommes Un Peuple”
An Ensemble Nous Sommes Un Peuple gathering
Abdoul Kassim Ibrahim Fomba
Peace campaign strives to counteract violence amid ethnic tensions
“Because of this campaign, my neighbors understood that I am not a member of the armed groups. I really think this prevented them from lynching me.”

March 2015—Since armed conflict broke out in 2012, Mali continues to see violence and tensions as armed confrontations have increased and rebel groups have pushed from the northern to southern regions of the country.

As ethnic tensions flare and calls for a return to war are audible on the streets of Bamako, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, recognizes the need to counteract calls for violence. Through its Mali Transition Initiative (MTI), USAID organized an emergency meeting in May 2014 at the MTI office in Bamako with representatives of youth associations and all agreed: A coherent, consistent message of peace from Malian civil society could deliver messages to advocate for peace and unity.

This ad hoc meeting evolved into the #EnsembleNousSommesUnPeuple (Together We Are One People) campaign. The initial group of youth representatives has grown into a platform of 38 Bamako-based youth associations, including a social media component on Facebook, Twitter and a website.

Over the course of more than 10 separate activities, the platform raised awareness of the campaign and its messages of unity and peace. These activities included sports days, mobilization at bus stations, World Cup match projections, screening and discussion of sketches on ethnic tension, and branding on one of Mali’s most popular shows, Maxi Vacances. Each of these activities brought together a wide swath of ethnic groups, humanizing the plurality of Malian society and emphasizing the importance of conflict resolution as a means of achieving peace.

The importance of the campaign’s timing and messages were reiterated recently during a discussion with a group of Tuareg women, many of whom fled the country after the occupation for fear of reprisal.

“Because of this campaign, my neighbors understood that I am not a member of the armed groups. I really think this prevented them from lynching me,” said one woman.

According to a hotline survey carried out during the campaign, 73 percent of 366 respondents agreed that #Ensemble’s messages are important for lowering ethnic tension.

During the next phase of the #Ensemble campaign, the platform plans to formalize its structure and membership as it develops new activities that allow Malians to engage more deeply around the issues of peace and reconciliation.

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