New armed groups have emerged in central Mali in the face of continued banditry and disputes over resources.
Attention has been focused on the conflict in the north but over the past year, tension have been climbing in the central part of the country.
A herder from a village in central Mopti region, Moussa Issa Bary, said they do not graze their cattle any more out of fear.
We are afraid of everyone, mainly the armed bandits on motorbikes that roam the countryside.
“We are afraid of everyone, mainly the armed bandits on motorbikes that roam the countryside, but also the security forces that arrest you if they find you in the bush because think you support the rebels,”he said.
The most well known of the bandit is the Macina Liberation Front, a Jihadist movement active since early last year, mainly in Central Mali.
Criminality and conflict over land and resources are destabilizing the area. Some locals complained of little presence of government outside the major urban areas.
Some villagers said ethnic militias branding themselves as Jihadists have been recruiting young men in the region.
Analysts believe local bandits could just be adopting extremist rhetoric to scare authorities.
The mayor of a nearby village of Kerena, Ibrahim Hamadoune bary said the situation is ca tastrophic.
He noted that people no longer leave the town to go to their fields.
In June, the U.N Security Council voted to beef up the mandate of the U.N peacekeeping force in Mali amid continued Jihadist attacks in the north.