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UK Arms Exports to Mali (2012-2022)

Country overview

With an area of over 1.24 million square kilometers, Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, and home to various ethnic groups.

The country is a semi-presidential republic with a multi-party system. However, the country has faced political instability and military coups in recent history. A rebellion in 2012 led to a military coup, and the occupation of several regions in northern Mali by armed groups. Various French and regional forces intervened to regain control over the occupied territories. However, challenges surrounding security and political instability persisted. A second coup occurred in August 2020. Both coups were led by Colonel Assimi Goita, who was declared head of state in May 2021.

As of May 2023, the military government aims to hold a constitutional referendum, and promised to hold the first elections since the coup in February.

Mali signed and ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013.

How many licenses for the sale of arms to Mali did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2022?  

Between 2012 and 2022, Mali was granted 88 limited value standard licenses and 29 unlimited-value open licenses by the UK government.

What is the total value of those exports in GBP?

From 2012 to 2022, the UK approved £6.9 m worth of military export licenses to Mali with numbers peaking in 2016 when £2.2m worth of military equipment were exported.

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

What are the top 10 types of arms export licenses Britain is selling to Mali? 

Top 10 military items exported from the UK to Mali between 2012-2022Total number of licenses
military helmets42
components for body armour34
body armour27
military equipment for initiating explosives12
military improvised explosive device decoying/detection/disposal/jamming equipment10
components for military improvised explosive device decoying/detection/disposal/jamming equipment10
bomb suits9
components for munitions/ordnance detection/disposal equipment8
components for military support aircraft7
all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection5
Top 3 military export items from the UK to Mali between 2012-2022 by valueValue in GBP
ML10 ‒ Aircraft, helicopters, drones£2.2m
ML4 ‒ Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures£1.6m
ML13 ‒ Armoured plate, body armour, helmets£1.3m

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

Why should British citizens be concerned about arms sales?

1)  Regionally-based armed groups:  The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) emerged in northern Mali in 2012, challenging the authority of the state. The lack of local administrative and security authorities exposes the population to all forms of violence.

2)  State security forces were responsible for human rights abuses, especially during their counter-terrorism operations.

What has the British government said about these concerns?

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “Removing the weapons and disrupting the terrorist operation will make a real difference to the local community and importantly the intelligence collected will help develop our understanding and help to prevent the threat from armed groups in the future”. The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom are attempting to make a significant contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping effort. Particularly regarding the protection of civilians by hindering the advances of terrorist groups in West Africa.

What evidence is there of human rights abuses that the Mali government has committed since 2012?

In January 2012, separatist fighters affiliated with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) launched military operations against government forces in northern Mali.

The Human Rights Division of MINUSMA recorded a significant increase in arrests. In seven months there were approximately 308 arrests. This was the result of multiple attacks on villages by armed or terrorist groups. 43 out of 149 detainees reported that they were subjected to acts of ill-treatment and torture by the Malian security forces.

According to a report by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali, there were at least 439 security incidents between January and August 2017, with the main threats being attacks on Malian defense and security forces and MINUSMA using improvised explosive devices. A 2019 report by the same research group, noted that the main threats to civilians are acts of violence carried out with automatic weapons against a backdrop of inter-communal tension.

Overall, Mali’s human rights situation deteriorated in 2020. In addition to this, I would also add a few additional points relating to the information found in the article.

In 2021 HRW reported that overall the human right situation in the country deteriorated with ongoing atrocities by all armed groups. According to the report, over 40 unlawful killings of suspects and civilians were conducted by Malian security forces, and at least 20 enforced disappearances.

Despite this catalog of harm, the UK still deems it acceptable to sell weapons and arms to Mali.

Human rights abuses continue.