Security, Safety, and Health Risks in Mali


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20150111

The aim of this paper is to identify security, safety, and health risks facing international civilian police and spotlight some of these risks and applicable strategies in the case of Mali. Chapter 6 and 7 of the Police Officer Training Institute text illustrates the different safety, security, and health risks that confront international civilian police; Hijacking, detainment, abduction, sniper fire, mines, loss of radio contact, food poisoning, diseases, heat exposure, snake bites, scorpion bites, stress, PTSD, and accidental injuries (Lanholtz 2009). It is beyond the scope of this paper to demonstrate every possible risk faced or every possible strategy for mitigation. Nevertheless, diseases, mines, sniper fire, and loss of radio contact were chosen in relativity to their potential impact in Mali.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013 (UN 2015).  According to the United Nations, a further adoption of resolution 2164 clarified duties such as “…ensuring security, stabilization and protection of civilians; supporting national political dialogue and reconciliation; and assisting the reestablishment of State authority, the rebuilding of the security sector, and the promotion and protection of human rights in that country” (UN 2015). Unfortunately, in regard to human rights, peacekeepers have been increasingly involved in prostitution and sex trafficking throughout various missions. For example, according to Agathangelou and Ling, “The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)-a peacekeeping mission to Cambodia from 1992-2003-increased local prostitution in Phnom Penh 3.5 times during its stay, with 25 percent of its peacekeepers returning home HIV positive” (2003, 142). Accordingly, on September 20, 2013, MINUSMA was alleged of sexual abuse in Gao (UN 2013). By merely observing, reporting to the proper channels, and refusing to participate in sexual exploitation, the international civilian police would fulfill their duty to promote and protect human rights and avoid the associated diseases. In January 2013, the security situation in Mali deteriorated as elements of Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaida advanced against the Malian army, forcing soldiers to withdraw (UN 2015). The situation improved after “Operation Serval” led by French and accompanied by African and Malian armies, but some terrorists have blended into the local communities (UN 2015). Since July 1, 2013 there has been 31 peacekeepers killed and 91 wounded (UN News Centre 2015). These deaths have occurred from a mixture of “unguided rockets fired randomly, mortar shells, suicide attacks, and ambushes” (UN News Centre 2015). All of these risks have a surprise element to them and increase the prospect that mines and sniper fire may pose the most genuine threat in the near future.

Therefore, international civilian police should remain conscious of areas that are suspect for conflicting parties to use explosive devices against each other such as around abandoned equipment, exits, and forks in roads (Langholtz 2009). When walking and driving it is important to vary routes in and out and remain prepared to retract once a mined area has been discovered. Familiarization with the various types and components of mines will increase detectability. If unsure, they should not proceed further, but report potential objects to local authorities and fellow colleagues. Sniper fire can be mitigated by avoiding open windows, lit areas at night, and remaining stationary for unnecessarily long periods of time. International civilian police should remain vigilant at all times remaining constantly aware of potential walls that may be used for cover. A spare set of radios should be kept to prevent loss of contact when attempting to radio for assistance. If unsuccessful, the international civilian police should return to the last known location (Langholtz 2009).



Agathangelou, Anna M., and L.H.M. Ling. “Desire Industries: Sex Trafficking, UN Peacekeeping, and the Neo-Liberal World Order.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 10, no. 1 (Fall2003 2003): 133. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed January 09, 2015).

Langholtz, Harvey J. (ed). 2009. United Nations Police: Restoring Civil Order Following Hostilities. Peace Operations Training Institute.

UN News Centre. Mali: Ban voices ‘outrage’ as UN peacekeeper killed in second deadly attack this month. 2015. (accessed January 08, 2015).

United Nations. “Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.” United Nations. September 23, 2013. (accessed January 07, 2013).

—. Supporting political process and helping stabilize Mali. 2015. (accessed January 09, 2015).




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