Security Situation In Northern Mali

Over the past 12 months the region has suffered increased terrorism and kidnapping threats by members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and sadly these threats have also led to several high profile cases of kidnapping in Niger, Mali and Mauritania. Although several countries have been affected by the actions of this group it is Mali I will focus on and hopefully allay some fears but also drive home the need for caution when travelling in the northern regions of Mali. Mali has long been seen, and justifiably so, as one of the safest countries in West Africa to travel. The foreign offices of all the ‘big’ countries still deem southern Mali as a place that people can visit safely as long as the usual precautions are taken that any sensible traveller would undertake.

Security Situation In Northern Mali

Security Situation In Northern Mali

The real issue lies north of an imaginary line between the town of Mopti and Dogon country in the East. North of this line has effectively been deemed a no go area by most governments in the Western world. The problem with this part of Mali is no matter what anyone tells you, you will visit some incredibly isolated areas and outside of major towns, infrastructure is limited. One of the highlights of any travel undertaken in Mali is a boat (pinasse or pirogue) trip on the Niger River from Mopti towards Lac Debo, Niafounké, Timbuktu and Gao. The reason for its brilliance is not only the amazing scenery you will witness on the journey but also the extreme isolation one can feel. Even though you pass countless fishing villages and some rather large towns on this route you are still on a journey to some of the most remote settlements on the planet.

The bottom line is this, in Mali you will be told that the situation is under control and that the problem areas are far away from the tourist circuit and mainly in the desert regions near the Algerian and Niger borders. The governments of the western world however deem the situation to be otherwise and none of us are in a position to question this because the common man does not have access to their intelligence resources. These have of course been proven faulty on numerous occasions but this is not the forum for this to be judged.

Those who take the opportunity to visit Mali will find it to be a beautiful country with generous and welcoming citizens who pride themselves on their hospitable and peaceful nature. Unfortunately, due to the actions of an isolated few, this image has been tarnished in the west and although this deeply saddens anyone with associations in Mali and more importantly, the overwhelming majority of Mali citizens, the best advice I can offer is the following. Read the travel advice, consult your local guides and make your decision to travel in the north an educated one.

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