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Country Reports

Mali Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Sub-Saharan country of Mali (population 17.5 million) has a number of significant and often prohibitive risks to travelers and an environment of general uncertainty.

AREAS TO AVOID

A number of Western governments advise against travel to most areas of Mali. Areas of particular concern include the territory along the Mali-Mauritania border as well as the whole northern part of the country, e.g. the MoptiTimbuktuKidal, and Gao regions. Nonessential travel to the rest of the country (south), from Diboli (southwest) and Ouenkoro (southeast) is not advised.

Travel by road between Mali and Mauritania is not advised, including on the "Road of Hope."

Travelers should also be extremely cautious in the capital city of Bamako and in the south of the country.

TERRORISM

Since January 2012, Mali has experienced attacks from numerous armed groups in the northern regions of the country, including Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine, and Al-Mourabitoun (a branch of AQIM since December 2015). Since March 2017, various attacks have been claimed by militants from the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), a recently formed Al-Qa'ida affiliate, which formed out of a merger between Ansar Dine (AQIM's Sahara division), Al-Mourabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF). The group is led by Iyad Ag Ghali, the veteran leader of Ansar Dine.

Despite Operations Serval and Barkhane launched by French forces, as well as the 2013 deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), these terrorist groups remain active, particularly in northern and central Mali. 

Interim authorities (e.g. governor of the northern city of Kidal) was finally installed on August 23, after numerous delays. The Coordination Movement of Azawad (CMA) previously rejected the appointment of interim authorities under the claim that they did not take part in the discussions to nominate the governor; until the recent appointment, the city of Kidal had remained under their control. In addition, the CMA and the GATIA armed group - part of the Platform pro-government militia coalition - agreed on August 22 to observe a truce and respect the ceasefire under the 2015 peace agreement. 

Simultaneously, joint patrols - known as the Operational Coordination Mechanism (MOC) - consisting of Malian soldiers, pro-government fighters, and the former rebels (CMA), intended to signal the redesign of the newly unified army, were inaugurated in Gao and were scheduled to start in Kidal at the end of July. However, the implementation of the MOC in Kidal will likely be delayed.

Since late 2015, militant groups have expanded their area of operations into the central and southern regions of the country, particularly in the Mopti region, due to the creation of the Macina Liberation Front (Ansar Dine-affiliate and recruiting mainly from the Fulani community) and the Khalid Ibn Walid Brigade (Ansar Dine South); the situation continues to worsen. Attacks against Malian military personnel occur almost every day and assassinations are frequent. Violent incidents such as terrorism, land disputes, intimidation, and the murder of government-linked individuals or suspected informants are increasing in the center of the country. As a result, self-defense groups are simultaneously being formed.

The capital city of Bamako has suffered several terrorist attacks since the first half of 2015. On June 18, 2017, at least two people were killed and several others injured in a terror attack on the Campement Kangaba resort in Dougourakoro (approximately 10 km [6 mi] east of Bamako). The first such incident in the capital took place on March 7, 2015, which involved a shooting carried out by Al-Mourabitoun that left five dead at the Terrace Restaurant and Bar in the Hippodrome district. Bamako was also the site of a major terrorist attack on November 20, 2015, at the Radisson Blu Hotel (Hamdallaye neighborhood), which resulted in the death of approximately 30 hotel guests and employees. Some 170 individuals were held captive in the hotel for at least eight hours, until Malian and French Special Forces raided the hotel and killed the assailants. Al-Mourabitoun and the Macina Liberation Front both claimed responsibility for the attack. On March 21, 2016, a failed attack targeted the Azalai Hotel Nord Sud in Bamako's ACI 2000 neighborhood, where the European Union multinational military training mission is located.

On December 21, 2015, a state of emergency was declared by the government and was again extended in October 2017 through October 31, 2018. 

While security measures in Bamako have significantly increased, particularly near potential targets (hotels, restaurants, bars, government buildings, embassies, etc.), the terror threat remains high in the capital and the rest of the country. This is notably true for citizens, personnel, and interests affiliated with France, the European Union, and the United Nations.

All trips to Mali, including those to Bamako, should be taken with the greatest care. Once in the country, security measures - such as staying in a secured hotel and carrying a phone or device that will allow you to contact the authorities if needed - should be observed. Be particularly cautious of any suspicious behavior, limit travel on foot as much as possible, keep vehicles in secured places and be sure that they are closed and check the exterior before using them, avoid traveling at night, obey any roadblock set up by armed forces, travel through the city with windows rolled up and doors closed, etc.

SECURITY

Entire areas of the country still remain outside the control of Malian forces. Besides the risk of terrorism prevalent throughout the country, other security risks must be taken into account.

In rural areas, particularly in the central regions of the country, the risk of ethnic clashes is possible and recurrent. Incidents are regularly reported between the Bambara communities in the Dogon ethnic group (farmers) and the Fulani ethnic group (herders), mostly related to cattle rustling. Tensions have been rising since 2012, notably over the use of land, which is less accessible due to the persistent terrorist threat. Since the beginning of 2016, an increase in violence has been observed. This is mainly due to the Malian government arming Bambara militias to fight the MLF, a mainly Fulani jihadist group.

In early July 2017, fighting between Fulani and Dogon militias resulted in the deaths of nearly 80 people in the Mopti region. By mid-June 2017, at least 30 individuals were killed in the same region in violence clashes between the two communities. In February 2017, violence between the Bambara and the Fulani left many victims on both sides. The illegal proliferation of weapons in these regions makes many of the communal clashes deadly.

In addition, tensions remain high between the Ifoghas and Imghads communities. Fighting between Tuareg forces loyal to the government called the Platform, particularly the GATIA group (from the Imghads community), and members of the CMA (alliance of Tuareg rebel group created in 2014; from the Ifoghas community) is regularly reported in the north. On 6 July 2017, fighting in Aguelhok in the Kidal region resulted in the deaths of at least three people. The government is struggling to ensure respect for the peace agreement signed in Algiers in June 2015.

KIDNAPPING

Foreign nationals face a particularly high risk of kidnapping, especially from jihadist groups, throughout the country. Four out of seven hostages that have been abducted in the Sahel region are still detained: a South African tourist, a Colombian nun, a Swiss missionary, and a humanitarian worker.

Though the risk of kidnapping is significantly higher north of Mopti and along the Mauritanian border, the threat exists in the capital as well.

CRIME

Crime has been kept at moderate levels in Mali and mainly consists of pickpocketing, especially in markets and other public places. Armed assaults and carjackings are occasionally reported in the capital, as well as some burglaries perpetrated against local businesses.

Due to these risks, it is important that foreign travelers limit their travel on foot, remain vigilant at night, and keep vehicle doors and windows locked.

Areas of northern Mali are at risk of armed robbery and carjacking. Several vehicles were attacked on August 8, 2016, by highway bandits on the Bamako-Siby route, resulting in several casualties. It is recommended to avoid traveling in this area until further notice. Armed men stopping vehicles and robbing passengers is regularly reported in the Gao region.

Finally, be aware of the risk of internet scams and credit card theft. Maintain vigilance when making payments; try to use cash or keep cards in sight at all times.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Demonstrations are common in Mali, especially in Bamako (on college campuses, on the street to protest against security crisis mismanagement, against arbitrary arrests, etc.), and in the north of the country (particularly in Kidal and Gao where demonstrations are linked to demands for the autonomy of the Azawad, for the implementation of the Algiers agreement of June 2015, and for young former militants' reintegration into society and access to jobs). Security forces often monitor demonstrations, which are generally peaceful. However, violence is known to break out at times.

The security situation remains unstable throughout the country, which has an impact on the country's political climate. Government reorganizations have taken place regularly following jihadist attacks. A new prime minister was appointed in early April 2017.

Economic policies are often criticized and are the source of unrest across the country (strikes and protests). Since September 2016, magistrates, professors and health workers have initiated several strikes to denounce poor working conditions and demand bonuses.

There are also nationwide tensions due to the food crisis that has afflicted the population since the beginning of the conflict in 2012. It is estimated that 1.5 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid; 1.8 million people suffer from food insecurity in Mali with a level of acute malnutrition that exceeds the emergency threshold.

Travelers to Mali are advised to monitor local media in order to anticipate and avoid any protests.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation conditions are particularly dangerous in Mali. With the exception of main roads, most roads are unpaved, posing a significant risk especially during the rainy season (June to October).

The lack of public lighting, dangerous driving habits, and old vehicles also increase the danger of driving. For any road travel, be sure to pack water, food, and fuel reserves. Only drive by daylight and take a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Travelers should also bring a GPS and a satellite phone. Make sure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.). Accidents may easily escalate into a violent riot in the event of fatalities. In case of an accident, travelers should remain in their vehicle and proceed immediately to the nearest police station. On roads in northern and central Mali there is also the risk of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); driving should be avoided.

Long-distance road travel can be extremely dangerous. Bandits are active on the roads, always armed, and potentially violent. Carjackings are frequent throughout the country. It is advised to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.

Finally, be advised that the rail lines connecting Bamako to Dakar are unsafe.

INFRASTRUCTURE

In addition to the general lack of in access to electricity throughout the territory (25.6 percent of the population has access), power cuts are common in Mali, particularly in Bamako.

Interruptions to the current water supply are regular, including in the capital. This is particularly due to a drought affecting the country but also to power outages that disrupt the operation of water pumping stations, as well as dilapidated water infrastructures. In the northern part of the country, the access rate to water is below the national average, mainly due to the insecurity prevailing in the region.

Individuals using internet in the country occasionally lose access to social networks, which are sometimes cut by the authorities.

HEALTH

Health conditions in Mali are concerning, particularly due to the limited capacity of hospitals and infrastructure in Bamako and the rest of the country. Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance plan covering overseas care and medical evacuation, the latter being highly recommended in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Mali is also facing major public health challenges, foremost of which are diseases transmitted by mosquito bites. These diseases are present across the Sub-Saharan region and are particularly prevalent during the rainy season. Diseases include yellow fever, for which  a vaccination certificate is required for travelers over one year old to enter the country. Vaccination is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for all travelers over nine months traveling south of the Sahara. However, it is not recommended for travelers whose itineraries are limited to the Sahara. Malaria is prevalent in Mali and it is recommended to take individual protective measures against mosquito bites and seek treatment if bitten. Dengue fever and chikungunya are also present southern half of the country.

Cases of bird flu have been reported in the territory; it is recommended to avoid contact with poultry and birds and to avoid visiting poultry farms or markets.

Tap water is not drinkable. Diarrheal diseases are frequent in the country. It is recommended to only drink filtered bottled water, make sure food is properly cooked, and to wash hands several times a day.

To avoid any risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid contact with stagnant water. It is not advised to walk barefoot.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.  

A vaccine against meningitis is highly recommended, as many cases have been reported in the country. The risk of meningitis is particularly high in Mali, which is located in the "meningitis belt". The risk is particularly high during the dry season (March to June).

NATURAL RISKS

Bamako's rainy season lasts from June to October and can lead to large-scale flash flooding and landslides. In July and August 2016, torrential rains hit the country, killing 14 people. Due to the lack of water drainage infrastructures, roads are often impassable and the supply of basic services disrupted.

LEGAL

The majority of the population is Muslim; travelers should respect local traditions and customs, especially those linked to Islam.  

It is illegal to photograph official buildings, such as government or military installations, without permission.

Homosexuality is legal in Mali but sometimes viewed with suspicion.

Climate

Generally speaking, Mali's rainy season lasts from July until September, but is shorter in the Sahel region (in the north of the country). The further south you travel, the more common and abundant rains become. Temperatures can reach 30°C during the months of July, August, December, and January, even reaching 40°C - 50°C in certain regions.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +223 Police in Bamako: 20 22 52 27 or 20 22 52 28 or 20 22 44 05

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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