French action in Mali follows rising risks to expats

18 February 2013
By Pelle Neroth
Mobile version
Share |
Troops from across Africa have been flown in to help with the crisis

Troops from across Africa have been flown in to help with the crisis

Why did France intervene in the African state of Mali?

Parts of the country had fallen under Al Qaeda control, but a few weeks’ worth of airstrikes have apparently left the Islamic militants in disarray, and an international force from the African Union is now beginning to take over on the ground.

One reason was obviously to fight terrorism, which has been growing in North Africa since the toppling of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. But France also has economic interests in the region, though no major interests in Mali itself, whose chief export products are cotton and gold. However, several companies, including Total, are prospecting for oil and gas in the Taoudeni basin in northern Mali.

Another regional economic interest for France is that Mali is a neighbour of another desert state, Niger – separated from Mali by just a line in the sand – and Niger is a key supplier of uranium, amounting to 30 per cent of French needs. The loss of the uranium mines at Arlit and Akokan (a third is under construction) in northern Niger would be a disaster for French energy giant Areva. As it would be for Niger’s government, which earns 140 million dollars a year from these mines – 30 per cent of the country’s export income.

Press reports say that French commandos are now guarding the mines at Arlit. The decision was made in the wake of the dramatic hostage incident in Algeria in January. Several hundred gas workers were taken hostage, and 69 people died, including 39 hostages and 29 Islamist militants, after the Algerian army intervened.

The Arlit site has also seen a hostage incident. Seven plant workers, including five Frenchmen, were taken in September 2010, and four are still believed to be captive.

In January 2011 two young Frenchmen, Antoine de Léocour and Vincent Delory, were kidnapped in the centre of Niamey, the capital of Niger, and taken to the terrorist bastions in the north, where they were subsequently killed in a failed rescue attempt.

French soldiers currently guard the space port in French Guyana, and French marines are stationed on ships in the Indian Ocean to protect against Somali piracy. But the presence at Arlit marks the first time French forces have been sent to guard a private installation on land.

According to Le Monde, quoting Algerian security sources, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Mali/Niger haves earned €150m in ransom for hostages in the last couple of years. The region is increasingly becoming a highly dangerous place to work.

The IET has welcomed a call by MP Chi Onwurah, herself an IET Fellow, for the UK government to work with professional bodies to help individuals and companies make informed choices about the risks of working abroad.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T