LGBTI citizens of Mali in West Africa face an extra level of homophobia in addition to the nation’s ongoing challenges of military coups, turmoil and terrorism: Anti-homosexuality activists campaign against doctors who they believe are injecting people with homosexuality.
During September, journalist Moïse Manoel interviewed LGBTI rights activists in three French-speaking countries — Mali, Guinea and Senegal — about the difficult situations that LGBTI people face there. The third of those interviews, about Mali, is published below.
“LGBTI people are not protected here at all”
Boubacar Bakayoko (pseudonym):
For almost ten years, Mali has been plagued by war and instability. The Malian government [based in Bamako, in the southwestern part of the country] is fighting for Mali’s territorial integrity against Islamist terrorist groups claiming to be Daesh and Al Qaeda. Some Tuareg rebels have joined the terrorists, bringing their knowledge of the region’s topography, with the goal of tearing apart Bamako’s sovereignty. Today, terrorist groups have taken territory in the center of the country and even some in the south. The country is fractured and it is in this context that the military coup of May 24 occurred. In 10 years, three coups have taken place, each time orchestrated by the army that is unable to protect the population from terrorist attacks.
As an observer of political and social life based in Bamako, I am best informed about what is happening in the south of the country. Here the violence and restrictions of freedom inherent in a context of war and political instability make the work of civil organizations more difficult every day. The turmoil leads to high levels of internal migration, including LGBTI people whose lives are in danger in the north of the country. In addition, many citizens are trying to leave for nearby nations.
In contrast to neighboring countries such as Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria, Mali has no anti-LGBT law. However, it would be wrong to congratulate ourselves on this, since LGBTI people are not protected here at all. In fact, the opposite is true.
In 2020, in the wake of other African homophobic movements, “decency leagues” appeared in Bamako, promising to fight against medical staff who supposedly were injecting children with medication that converted them into homosexuals.
A conspiratorial and obscurantist cabal has leaked lists of names supposedly engaged in this practice, questioning both science and the medical professions in the name of protecting children.
These leagues include groups such as Mara Ka Segui Sô, Kojugu Keleba’a and Djama Kungo. Some personalities stand out. We can mention among others “Solo Maliba” (pseudonym) and especially Sekou Nimaga, a Canadian-Malian who is active on Facebook under the alias “Lchm chico 223 junior”.
These people have carried out anti-LGBTI marches and rallies, notably on Feb. 23 and March 7, 2020, They are still active today.
LGBTI people get no respite. They are stalked on dating applications, which had been their last spaces of freedom.
Related articles in the series on West Africa: