Since the outbreak of conflict in 2012, explosive hazards have presented a new threat in Mali, with a broad ranging detrimental impact on safety and freedom of movement in the central and northern parts of the country.
Civilians living in areas now affected by Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) as a result of clashes, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been exposed to potential loss of life and injury (2012: 51 victims; 2013: 54 victims; 2014: 34 victims; Jan-NOV 2015: 28 victims). This contamination also impedes the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, as well as access to livelihoods, freedom of movement and economic recovery for the population. Improvised explosive devices (IED) have emerged as a weapon of choice for perpetrators of violence in Mali, especially targeting the Malian government and French and MINUSMA troops. Since the deployment of the Mission in July 2013, UNMAS recorded 280 IED incidents which have resulted in the death of 99 people, and the injury of 382 more. Among the victims, the majority have been MINUSMA troops (40%). Civilians (32%), Malian armed forces (16.6%) and French forces (7.9%) were also impacted. IED have made MINUSMA the most dangerous UN peacekeeping mission in the world, impeding the implementation of the mandate. In addition, the number of civilian victims of IEDs has increased significantly thus far during 2015.
Despite the efforts of the Mali authorities, the national capacities for mitigating the explosive risks and responding to the threat remain limited, while efforts are needed to ensure safe and secure storage of weapons and ammunition, as well as disposal of obsolete and unsafe ammunition to prevent accidental explosions.
Mandated by Security Council Resolution 2227 adopted on 27 June 2015, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) helps the Mission to:
UNMAS provides explosive threat mitigation support for MINUSMA, facilitating freedom of movement for peacekeeping and civilian personnel, and ensuring safety for the delivery of the Mission mandate. Given the ongoing insecurity in the north of the country, the mitigation of explosive threats has become an intrinsic Mission requirement to ensure stability.
UNMAS is delivering a wide range of training, including explosive hazard awareness, IED response, and training in the use of individual first aid kits. Specialized training, technical assistance and equipment have also been provided to the MINUSMA Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) companies deployed in the North. In addition, UNMAS provides technical expertise to MINUSMA contingents for safe handling, storage and disposal of their weapons and ammunition, as well as those identifies during the course of disarmament initiatives.
To help ensure infantry troops arrive in Mali adequately prepared to operate effectively in an IED threat environment, UNMAS is also providing IED avoidance training to the infantry contingents deployed with MINUSMA.
UNMAS is helping the National authorities to develop technical capacity to safely manage explosive threats, to coordinate the explosive threat response and to comply with International Mine Action Standards through the training, technical equipment and support, and the mentorship of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF).
In addition, UNMAS provides advisory and training in weapons and ammunition storage and management to help the Malian authorities to minimise the risk of accidental explosions or looting. A rehabilitation project for weapons and ammunition storage areas is ongoing with the MDSF.
At the request of the national authorities, UNMAS has assessed over 30 ammunition storage facilities and stockpiles of ammunition. Following these assessments, a total of 290 tons of obsolete, unsafe and unserviceable ammunition were safely destroyed since 2014, with the support of UNMAS. Over 256 tons of additional explosive ordnances are currently being destroyed, which will be the largest stockpile to be disposed of by UNMAS and a national authority to date.
UNMAS is also advising the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (CNALPC) on Mali’s international obligations regarding mines, ERW and weapons and ammunition, especially for the implementation of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
UNMAS is implementing, supporting and coordinating humanitarian mine action activities, which include survey, marking and clearance of prioritised dangerous areas; risk education on explosive threats and small arms light weapons; victim assistance; and armed violence reduction.
At the request of the Protection Cluster, in August UNMAS has deployed a humanitarian operation in the region of Timbuktu. Emergency risk education sessions were delivered in areas heavily contaminated by ERW as a result of ongoing clashes; accompanied with non-technical surveys and clearance activities.
UNMAS further ensures that international partners work in compliance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) through Quality Assurance in all areas of deployment from its field offices in Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Tessalit.
UNMAS in Mali thanks its bilateral donors: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as Benin, Switzerland and the Netherlands for in-kind support.
Updated November 2015