Have you seen the news about what is happening in Mali?
The armed forces in Mali have ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from power. So all the news reports are saying today!
As RPS Partnership knows only too well, this will affect business travellers in the area and national and international staff who live and work there. Let's take a look at what is happening there and why.
Our new Intern, Tom Jenkins, has analysed the situaton for us and we bring you what he has found. This is his first piece of work for us, so please tell us how much you liked it and give him some feedback on [email protected]
Where is Mali?
Mali shares borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, and all three countries have struggled with the growing presence of Islamist groups. RPS Partnership has worked there in the past and knows only too well how fast things can change in this volatile region.
A coup in Mali, West Africa, could have ramifications far beyond its borders, threatening to further destabilize across the region and jeopardizing counter-insurgency efforts led by France and the United States. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced his resignation on state television late Tuesday, hours after he and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were arrested by mutinous soldiers. The coup -- the latest upheaval in a cycle of turmoil lasting almost a decade -- follows months of mass anti-government protests and a worsening insurgency from Islamist militants north of the capital, Bamako.
What led to the Coup?
Public discontent began growing in May after the country's top constitutional court overturned the results of a disputed election, paving the way for Keita's party to occupy a majority of the vacant seats in parliament. Unhappiness, particularly among young people, has been fueled by poverty, lack of employment and frustration over corruption.
Mali has a young population -- around half of the country's 19 million people are under the age of 18, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). And 42.7% of Malians live in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.The government has also faced criticism over its inability to quell the ongoing unrest by violent extremists in the country's north and more remote areas, far from Bamako, despite sustained counter-insurgency efforts by Western and regional powers.
What does this mean for staff working in Bamako now?
With such political uncertainty causing tensions to rise in the capital Bamako, RPS Partnership advises that any staff or company representatives present should maintain a low profile and avoid involvement with ongoing protests and marches. Minimising movements and limiting travel is advised to assist this. We recommend that you constantly monitor developments via (local) media to keep updated with the situation and be sure to also follow the directions of the local authorities.
Mali’s primary airport Modibo Keita (15km from the capital) is currently closed to all airlines, so any attempts to leave the country via airlines should be researched and checked with your travel provider in advance. It is best to stay put til the country becomes more stable.
Travel at night
Night-time checkpoints are present in Bamako from approximately 9pm till dawn, so we advise you not to travel during these times. If you have to travel at night, ensure you have all vehicle and personal identification documents to hand. It is difficult to predict location and severity of any protests, so we would advise to avoid any large gatherings and remain vigilant when outside of where you are staying.
Planning to travel to Mali?
It is believed that jihadists may use the power vacuum which may occur if the coup is unsuccessful, as a springboard for attacks on the west. After being predominantly based in the north (Gao region) for several years, they may look to a westward expansion. Therefore, this potential expansion of jihadists should be considered before travelling to northern or western Mali in the coming weeks/months.
Be sure to check with your travel provider prior to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions and the affect the local protests are having on the functionality of Mali’s primary airport Modibo Keita. It is currently closed.
Ensure you keep up to date with local media and global news platforms to ensure you can remain vigilant and travel with the correct security and safety measures in relation to the ongoing situation. Major cities across Mali are all susceptible to protests, demonstrations and public disturbances due to the current situation.
It is possible that the next few months will bring further political and social turmoil due to the nature of events. This could result in further protests, demonstrations and public disturbances. So, please consider these aspects prior to travel. do you need to travel there right now or can you delay your trip? Do check your own government's advice for travel to the area to assess current threats across Mali and ensure that you can get travel insurance.
Sources: Tom used various open sources from different media to reseach this article, with thanks to them.
Photos: RPS Partnership - working in Mali