Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was removed from power by military forces loyal to Captain Amadou Sanogoon on the night of 10 December 2012, a short time before he was due to leave for a scheduled trip to France.
He has since appeared on State television and resigned his position.
With western diplomatic missions all warning against unnecessary travel to Mali, those companies with fixed interests in the country need to take measured precautions if they have not done so already. This is especially an issue for organisations with any interest in the so-called Azawad region – that portion of the country which is under insurgent control. Preparations should include the following:
- Thinning out non-essential staff and dependents
- Restricting expat and local national internal travel
- Seeking advice from the security forces
- Ensuring journey management systems are in place and work
- Reviewing crisis management contingencies and carrying out exercises of these plans
- Registration of expatriates with relevant diplomatic missions and seeking advice on what support will be forthcoming (if any) if conditions deteriorate
- Liaison with insurers to know any exclusions or limits to existing cover
While the situation in Bamako plays out in relation to central government control, the most extreme risks will continue to be in the Azawad region east of Mopti. There is expected to be military clashes there between the various insurgent groupings against the ECOWAS-bolstered Mali army force in line with the UN Security Council authorization to use force. Despite the obvious threats in the Azawad, organisations in Mali should be braced for nuisance attacks and isolated terrorist attacks in the capital of Bamako. When al-Shabaab was weakened in Somalia, these types of attacks were experienced in Uganda and Kenya. Although the two conflicts are not connected, it is logical to predict that similar tactics may evolve and be witnessed in Mali and inside contributing nations. This threat was recently evidenced by the kidnapping of a French citizen in Diema, in the west of the country.
Reports have confirmed that the Danish MV Torm Kristina, which was sailing to Muscat Oman in order to perform a logistical port visit, was approached by two suspected pirate skiffs. The crew members on board were able to assemble themselves in the citadel and a mayday message was sent out. The message had been passed to the Commander of the NATO Counter-piracy Task Force, Rear Admiral Antonio Natal in which he then tasked the HDMS Iver Huitfeldt to proceed to the MV. At the time, the HDMS Iver Huitfeldt was in Muscat for a port visit, some 90 miles away from the MV. By the time the NATO warship had arrived at the scene, three hours later, the pirates had left the area. It is believed that they had seen the warship from afar and had realized that they had no realistic possibility of taking the MV and its crew members hostage. Reports have also indicated that Omani and Pakistani warships, as well as a UK helicopter had arrived on the scene earlier, which may have been a contributing factor in the pirates abandoning the vessel. A boarding team from the Iver Huitfeldt boarded the MV in order to ensure that no pirates were on board. Once the vessel had been deemed safe, the crew members were freed from the citadel. The head of the Iver Huitfeldt confirmed that there were signs that the vessel had come under attack by pirates as some of the barbed wire on the rail had been cut. Furthermore, the crew on board the Torm Kristina had seen signs that pirates were on board. Vice Admiral Christian Canova, Deputy Commander at Allied Maritime Command stated that “despite the winter monsoon which generates bad sea states, this incident demonstrates the pirates are still active and able to operate far away from Somalia but we are watching them and when Best Management Practices such as citadels are in effect on merchant vessels, we are able to react quickly and deter pirate actions. Once again, NATO warships have proved their ability to react quickly and to use their speed and capabilities to deter and disrupt piracy and to free innocent merchant sailors. This incident shows that we cannot be complacent.”
The biggest concern at this time is the northern areas of the country along the porous Mali border and at the junction of the Niger border.
Burkina Faso has played a leading role in establishing the terms of reference for the ECOWAS force to strike back at the insurgents in Mali while concurrently brokering peace negotiations. There is an increased Burkinabe military presence in the north of the country and companies should review their respective security situations and consider the following:
- Location and safety of personnel
- Security controls, communications and contingency plans at static locations
- Work tempo implications
- Journey management systems in place and working
- Liaison with the military – use of military escorts, coordination between multiple assets, confirmation that military escorts are coordinated and competent for the task.
Review all crisis management contingencies including but not limited to the following:
- Kidnap (for ransom or ideological purposes)
- Medical emergency and evacuation cycle for northern area
- Interdiction of road moves for personnel and any convoys
- Loss of communications with remote locations – enhanced comms options, access to stores if replenishment is restricted or cut off.
- Media and public affairs contingency
- Liaising with insurers to ensure appropriate cover is in place to meet speciality risks where needed.
National Assembly and municipal elections took place on 2 December. Official figures have shown that parties backing Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore have kept their overall majority in legislative elections that took place on 2 December.
Compaore’s allies have won a total of 81 seats in the new 127 – seat assembly, in which 58 of those went to his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party which has ruled the country since a 1987 coup. Although the regime comfortably has gained a majority, the number of seats they gained dropped from the 99 seats it held in the ongoing 111 – member legislative assembly.
Companies that rely on police escorts in the northern region of the country should ensure that travel patterns do not become predictable. Varying routes are difficult due to the limited road networks, as such, it is even more important to vary the types of vehicles that are used as well as to time the journeys and to avoid travel patterns becoming widely known. This is especially critical given the current tensions that are occurring along the Mali border and the impending ECOWAS operations.
All companies that are linked to the World Bank/International Finance Cooperation should familiarise themselves with the IFC Voluntary Principles on the Use of Security Forces. This applies to military, police or private security services.
Finally, unconfirmed reports have suggested that there is an elevated banditry threat that exists on the main routes south and east of the town of Fada N’Gourma en route to Pama and Diapala respectively. Road moves to these areas should be risk assessed and liaison with police should occur until the nature of the threats have been clarified. Companies with operations in the region are invited to report incidents to MS Risk in order to aid in assessing the local atmospherics.