On April 3, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Mali warning US citizens against travel to Mali and announced the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. It also advised U.S. citizens currently living in Mali to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Excerpt below:
April 3, 2012
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali at this time because of current political instability in the country, an active rebellion in the north, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country. The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. Malian mutineers have refused to return to their barracks, and rival rebel factions are battling each other for control in areas they have seized in the north. The situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Mali to consider their own personal security and contingency plans, including the option of temporarily departing Mali. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated March 26, 2012, to update information on current events in Mali.
Senou International Airport in Bamako is currently open for business; however, the availability of flights in the future is unpredictable and depends on the overall security situation. U.S. citizens currently living in Mali are advised to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Persons wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport’s operational status and flight and seat availability before traveling to the airport.
U.S. citizens should note that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated northern regions of Mali as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents. Prior to traveling to these areas, U.S. government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. This designation is based on an active Tuareg rebellion, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Maghreb (AQIM), as well as banditry in the region. These restrictions are in effect for the regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, where separatist rebels now appear to have control.
Read the full Travel Warning here.
Chelsea, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali blogs about her evacuation in Good Golly Miss Mali: Peace Corps and More:
It’s muggy and hot and we’re exhausted—we’re tired of being frustrated, we’re tired of crying, tired of saying goodbye. And this is only the beginning. We haven’t even met up with our fellow PCVs yet. Last night we had the talk that we never thought we’d have. After forty years of uninterrupted service to the people of Mali, Peace Corps is evacuating. It’s surreal. We keep saying, “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” as if it were some freak accident or Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse or something.
The worst part about all of this is that I have to leave Scout behind (Peace Corps does not allow PCVs to evacuate pets.). Honestly, leaving her has been the largest source of my tears over the past week. [...] I left her with my old site mate’s homologue, an amazing man named Abdoullaye whom I know will take care of her. I really hope I get to see her again someday, if anything just to rub her belly one more time and let her know that I didn’t forget about her.
On April 6, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the temporary suspension of all in country services in Mali, including consular services and the withdrawal of its staff from its Embassy in Bamako. A Foreign Office spokesperson said:
“Given the unstable and unpredictable situation in Mali and the continuing lack of constitutional rule, the UK has decided to temporarily withdraw its staff from its Embassy in Bamako and temporarily suspend all in country services immediately, including consular assistance. Consular assistance will continue to be provided to British nationals from our Embassy in Dakar but the UK’s ability to help British nationals who chose to remain in Mali may become limited. We have recommended since 4 April that British nationals should leave Mali as soon as possible by commercial means.”
Meanwhile, Ansar Dine, an Islamist group which also joined the fight against Malian government forces has reportedly kidnapped seven Algerian Consulate staff in the city of Gao, according to Al Jazeera citing witnesses and the Algerian foreign ministry.
On April 6, Al Jazeera reported that following a coup by army officers in the capital Bamako and advances by Tuareg fighters in the northern towns, the Tuareg rebels have proclaimed the “independence of Azawad.” They have declared the city of Gao as the capital of their new country.
The law of unintended consequences now at play.
- US Embassy Mali Urges U.S. Citizens to Shelter in Place (diplopundit.net)
- British Embassy staff quit Mali after coup (independent.co.uk)
- Mali rebels declare independent ‘Azawad’ (moroccotomorrow.org)
- Mali coup leaders agree to civilian power transfer (abc.net.au)