Despite reaching a peace agreement with the Malian government in June of this year, on Thursday, Tuareg separatists confirmed that they were suspending participation in the peace deal, accusing the Malian government of not respecting the accord that had been reached between the two groups. While the peace accord enabled national elections to go forward in July and August, and allowed Mali’s military to return to the northern Tuareg town of Kidal, it also called for the central government to commence peace talks within two months of the President’s election. In turn, under the signed deal, the government and rebels would agree to respect the country’s territorial integrity and hold peace talks that would focus on the status of the north. Although the signing of the agreement was seen by many as an easing of tensions in a region of Africa that has been on numerous occasions affected by Tuareg uprisings, this latest falling out demonstrates that tensions and a lack of trust continue to be a major issue and may deal a blow to the hopes of a lasting peace.
Following a meeting in neighboring Burkina Faso’s capital of ouagadougou, the separatist groups – the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) – stated that they wanted to hold an emergency meeting of all parties involved in the peace accord in order to assess the implementation of the agreement. In a statement released late on Thursday, Mossa Ag Acharatoumane, a founding member of the MNLA, accused the Malian government of failing to live up to its promises, which were outlined in the agreement that was signed in the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso. The statement also indicated that “following multiple difficulties in implementing the Ouagadougou accord, caused notably by the Malian government’s failure to respect its commitments,” the Tuareg and Arab rebel groups “decided to suspend participation in the structures created by the said accord.” The three movements involved in the recent meeting dated the decision from September 18, the date of the second meeting of the joint committee as set under the ceasefire accord.
The central issue for Tuareg groups is the future status of northern Mali, which the Tuareg movements call “Azawad.” The rebels are seeking autonomy, an issue which the central government has been unwilling to discuss. Furthermore, amongst the Tuaregs grievances outlined in the statement are that the Malian government has not yet started prisoner releases which are inline with the Ouagadougou agreement. However observes of the peace deal have noted that Tuareg fighters have increasingly been moving outside of their bases in Kidal, which is in contrast to the accord that stipulates that the separatists would garrison their fighters.
While so far neither the Malian government nor authorities from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali have commented on these latest developments, tensions between Tuareg separatists and the central government in Bamako have been rising has no peace talks have occurred despite Mali’s new President being sworn in and a new government being formed. This decision also risks increasing tensions in a country that continues to be fragile after eighteen months of political instability. Just last week, protesters in Mali’s northern town of Kidal pelted officials from Mali’s newly elected government during a weekend visit to the town.
- None reported during this time period.
- 27 August 2013 – Pirates in two boats approached a Cameroon-flagged passenger Ro-Ro, the Brenda Corlett, at 0830 LT near Parrot Island, Calabar, Nigeria. A Nigerian Navy gunboat was escorting the vessel following a tip off from local fishermen that pirate boats were in the vicinity. The Nigerian Navy’s gunboat gave chase, resulting in one boat escaping into the nearby creeks, however the other boat was stalled. On approaching the boat, seven pirates fired their AK-47’s at the gunboat, resulting in an exchange of gunfire with four pirates reportedly killed. One of the pirates was detained.
- 13 June 2013 (Late Report) – While underway, two speed boats with fourteen pirates on board armed with pistols and AK-47 rifles attacked a tug a t 0315 LT, approximately 30 nautical miles south of Kwa Ibo, Nigeria. Eight pirates boarded the tug, captured four crew members, stole their personal belongings and took them ashore. On 21 June 2013, the four kidnapped crew members were safely released. It is believed that a ransom payment was made for their safe release.
Gulf of Guinea – Southerly winds of 10 – 15 knots and seas of 4 – 6 feet. Extended Forecast – Southwest winds of 10 – 15 knots and seas of 4 – 6 feet.
Synoptic Discussion – The Gulf of Guinea is under the influence of high and low pressure systems, bringing strong southerly winds and moisture into the area. Expect mostly cloudy conditions with rain showers and possible thunderstorms.
- 28 August 2013 – On Wednesday, the European Union announced that it was preparing to increase security efforts in the Gulf of Guinea as the West African maritime region has developed into the new global piracy hotspot. Speaking at a maritime security conference in Nigeria’s economic capital, German Rear Admiral Jurgen Ehle, who heads an EU military working group for West Africa, indicated that the new measures, which will likely be announced in October, will not include sending warships to the region, a move that helped reduce pirate attacks in the East African region. Instead, the EU’s efforts will focus on helping to improve coordination between regional navies, training and other measures, rather than deploying forces. In essence, “the main part of the strategy…is less to send ships,” specifying that the focus will be on “military advice” and civilian programmes to curb poverty, which if fueling much of the unrest. Over the past year, the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have dramatically risen and have overtaken the number of attacks off the coast of Somalia, which has seen a sharp decline that has been attributed to international navies patrolling the waters coupled with greater vigilance by vessels transiting the region, in which many now have armed security teams on board. In 2010, the Gulf of Guinea saw 39 attacks, the numbers however have increased over the past two years, with 53 attacks occurring in 2011 and 63 in 2012. Many of the attacks that have occurred in the area have seen tankers hijacked with the aim of stealing fuel cargo for sale on the black market. Other instances have occurred of Nigeria’s oil-producing southern coast, where industry vessels have been raided, sometimes with expatriate workers kidnapped for ransom.
- Meanwhile Nigeria’s Navy has killed six pirates and injured one other in the latest attack to stop the outlaws from expanding their territory in the Gulf of Guinea. According to Delta state navy spokesman Lt. Delightsome Yohana, the pirates engaged the navy in a gun battle off the coast of Calabar in Nigerian and Cameroonian waters late on Sunday. Nigeria’s navy fired back, killing the six pirates while the other attacker is in custody. The operation is the latest in a string of victories for the Nigerian navy that has amped up its presence offshore and bolstered it with support from its air forces. According to Yohana, in the last two weeks, the navy has killed eighteen pirates and arrested another five.
- 19 August 2013 – On Monday, the Nigerian Navy confirmed that its soldiers killed twelve pirates in a gun battle as they attempted to flee from a fuel tanker that they hijacked off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea last week. According to Navy Flag Officer Rear Admiral Sidi-Ali Hassan, pirates hijacked the St. Kitts and Nevis-flagged MT Notre on August 15, but an emergency signal was sent to then navy, which resulted in several gunships being deployed in order to recover the vessel. The navy’s gunships caught up with the vessel and forced it into Nigerian waters but while negotiating the vessel’s release, the pirates attempted to escape on a speed boat. Although the navy boats pursued the pirates, they were fired upon. Sidi-Ali Hussan has indicated that “the gun battle last about 30 minutes after which they were overpowered. On taking over the speed boat, four of the militants were alive and unhurt while the rest of the pirates were killed in the crossfire.” The crew of the MT Notre, which was carrying 17,000 metric tonnes of gasoline at the time of the hijacking, were all rescued unharmed.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has called on those countries located in the Sahel to improve their border security as a means of countering terrorism, and for rich countries to further aid the impoverished nations in that region. In a new report released by the UN and sent to the Security Council, Mr. Ban warns that conflict in the vast region, which runs from Mauritania on Africa’s West Coast to Eritrea in the east, will only worsen unless a more integrated approach is taken which will focus on security and allowing those states to lift their fast-growing populations out of poverty. Amongst those countries located in the Sahel which have seen conflict are Mali and Sudan’s Darfur. The region also encompasses some of the world’s poorest countries which have vast and arid regions that see regular climate crises. In turn, the UN report states that within the next twenty-five years, the population in the region is set to “ballon” from 150 million to 250 million.
The report reflects mounting international concern over the region. It also comes at a time when Japan last week announced that it wold provided US $1 billion to help the “stabilization” of the Sahel. In the report, which was largely drawn up by Mr. Ban’s special envoy to the region, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, the UN chief highlighted that “weak governance, widespread corruption,” and “chronic political instability,” were amongst the issues that were threatening the overall security in the region. He further indicated that “only through strong, common preventative actions geared primarily towards development can we avoid the Sahel turning into an area dominated by criminal and terrorist groups that undermine our collective security.” The UN chief noted that he was “alarmed” by the rise of groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has been active in Mali, as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria and other transnational criminal organizations in the region. In turn, he highlighted that there were clear links between crime syndicates trafficking drugs and militants in the Sahel and has called for greater efforts by countries and regional groups, such as the African Union (AU), to boost cooperation amongst police, military, frontier and customs services. Mr. Ban has also called for regional intelligence meetings and has offered UN aid to police and judges, who he states should devote greater attention to the financing terrorism, crime and ams trafficking. There is also a greater need of “exchange of information” between airports in Latin America, Africa and Europe in order to counter the narcotics trade which comes from South America through Africa. According to the UN report, an estimated eighteen tons of cocaine, worth US 1.25 billion, transited through West Africa in 2012, in which much of it passed through the Sahel. Mr. Ban has indicated that his proposed UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel seeks to boost security by helping to improve governance and getting aid to the 11.4 million people, including five million children, that are still threatened by malnutrition. The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, indicated this week that a US $1.7 billion appeal for the region had only been thirty-six percent funded.
Banks financing projects and trade in Africa are being urged to get more involved in security management to avoid losses.
Speaking at law firm Thomas Cooper’s trade finance seminar in London, MS Risk international security advisor Liam Morrissey told bankers security risk management is not just an insurance or operations problem.
“There needs to be improved linkage between the investors and financiers of these projects and the insurance companies underwriting them, working better with the operators. When you put US$100mn into a project in Africa, you need to look at the security risks and how they will be managed; that’s not just an operational thing.”
He pointed out that borrowers don’t necessarily highlight security problems when asking for finance “for fear of scaring [banks] off”, and that therefore, banks should always query these issues.
During his presentation on the various risks impeding business in Africa, including corruption, kidnapping and terrorist attacks, Morrissey said these risks would continue to increase in the next few years, but would not deter investors from coming into the continent due to its undeniable potential.
“There’s a great potential for companies that go to Africa to generate wealth and if some of you are not involved in African project at the moment, the day is coming when you will be.
“The disenfranchise [from rebel groups] will continue to grow, which will mean more threats, more attacks, more involvement from foreign powers, but despite all that, commerce will also continue to grow. Burkina Faso for example has now shifted from a cotton-based economy to a gold-based economy. Mali is continuing to mine gold despite the trouble it is having. 8% of the world’s uranium is provided out of Niger, and the French nuclear industry is powered from this uranium,” he told the audience and GTR.
Africa has proven extractable stocks of energy resources of oil, natural gas, coal, uranium valued at US$13-14.5tn, and holds 70% of the world’s strategic minerals.
On top of corruption, blackmail and extortion, kidnapping, terrorist attacks and medical threats, Morrissey mentioned the risk of shrinkage, which according to him is often overlooked, pointing to a report that Shell is losing 60,000 barrels a day in Nigeria. “Some of it is lost through theft, some of it through inefficient pipelines, some of it through waste, but that’s a significant amount of loss,” he said.
Morrissey advised banks to get involved in the risk assessment process, know how much of the overall project cost is being spent on security, and liaise with insurance companies to ensure the adequate crisis management processes are in place.
~ Article courtesy of GTR.
France’s early intervention into Mali has shaken up the intervention plans. Although the original timetable for the AFISMA intervention for 3,300 West African troops with western logistical, financial and intelligence backing, was not set to be deployed until September, last week’s pleas for help by the Malian government, after Islamist fighters threatened to take over key towns in the government-controlled region, sparked an urgent need to solve the crisis now. In the wake of Mali being declared a state of emergency, France on Friday launched a military intervention to rid the country of the Islamist terrorists who had begun to descend down to the government-controlled southern region. In a speech given in Paris, French President François Hollande confirmed that French troops “have brought support…to Malian units to fight against terrorist elements.” Mr. Holland further indicated that the intervention had complied with international laws and that it had been agreed upon with Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore.
On Friday, French military forces deployed a massive offensive that was aimed at retaking the country. Residents in the town of Mopti confirmed that French troops were helping malian forces prepare for a counter-offensive against Islamists who were stationed in the town of Konna. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that a pilot was fatally injured when Islamist rebels shot down his helicopter near the central town of Mopti. By Saturday, France had stepped up its military intervention. It continued with airstrikes and it sent hundreds of troops into the capital city of Bamako. While on Sunday, France continued to expand its attacks by targeting the town of Gao, which is located in the eastern region of the country.
Since Friday, France has sent around 550 troops to the central town of Mopti and to the capital city of Bamako. They are set to be joined by troops from the neighbouring African states of Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo, some of which are expected to arrive in Mali within the coming days. On Sunday, Algeria also authorized French warplanes to use its airspace for bombing raids in Mali. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius indicated that Algeria’s cooperation was indicative of the extent of the international support for the intervention in Mali.
As such, MS Risk directs all concerned to review previous security advice. This includes:
- Thinning out non-essential staff and dependents
- Restricting expat and local national internal travel, especially on high speed routes to and from Mopti
- Seeking advice from legitimate security forces.
- Ensuring journey management systems are in place and work
- Reviewing crisis management contingencies and carrying out rehearsals 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.
MS Risk remains to be in a position to assist clients where needed with any and all of these actions. Companies in neighbouring countries will need to consider similar actions. Burkina Faso, Benin and Senegal among others have all agreed to commit troops quickly to assist the Malian forces. French troops deployed over the weekend to Bamako are officially in place to protect French citizens but could easily be deployed forward for direct combat. French airstrikes from bases in Chad have continued all weekend. France has raised its level of security alert status globally for citizens and assets. Other contributing nations may see nuisance attacks designed to disrupt movement of forces into Mali or to sway public opinion. This will in turn raise the kidnap threat. Expats in nearby countries should take steps to review their attendance at well-known expatriate locales such as pubs, restaurants and markets to avoid being caught up in any terrorist incident.