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 1604

"Should the UK's engineers be in or out of Europe? The IET sets out its official position on the EU referendum this week - will you agree?"

->

E&T jobs

  • SAP TEAM MANAGER GENERAL ENQUIRIES

    SSE
    • Melksham, Swindon or Oxford
    • £33,520 TO £44,269 + CAR (SSE7) DEPENDING ON SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

    An exciting opportunity has arisen for an Overhead Tower Line Manager within Power Distribution covering Southern England.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Engineer - Submarine Operability

    BAE Systems
    • Cumbria, England, Barrow-In-Furness
    • Competitive package

    As a Principal Engineer - Operability, you will be using your knowledge of submarine systems operation to influence the way the systems are designed, ensuring the Royal Navy personnel will be able to operate the system effectively

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • OVERHEAD TOWER LINE MANAGER

    SSE
    • Southern England
    • SALARY £42,149 - £62,427 + CAR (SSE9/10) DEPENDANT ON SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

    An exciting opportunity has arisen for an Overhead Tower Line Manager within Power Distribution covering Southern England.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer - Water

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful Water and Environment Unit is recruiting an electrical engineer....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Design Engineer

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful water business continues to win and deliver a fantastic amount of work....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Programme Manager

    Network Rail
    • England, London
    • £76800 - £86400 per annum

    Do you possess a track record of taking the lead on large projects?

    • Recruiter: Network Rail

    Apply for this job

  • Professor and Head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

    Monash University
    • Australia (AU)

    Shape the future direction of a Department which is currently involved in ground breaking innovative research

    • Recruiter: Monash University

    Apply for this job

  • Rail Engineer

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Burton, Dorking, Glasgow
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    Some of the most exciting infrastructure projects in the UK over the coming years are in rail.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Power & HV Engineers

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Glasgow, Gloucester, Plymouth, Warrington
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    Frazer-Nash is currently embarking on a period of significant growth of our electrical, electronics, control and instrumentation capability.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Control and Instrumentation Engineers

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Dorchester, Glasgow, Gloucester, Plymouth, Warrington
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    Frazer-Nash is currently embarking on a period of significant growth of our electrical, electronics, control and instrumentation capability.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

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

Subscribe to E&T