Ongoing armed conflict in Mali since 2012 has created a variety of unwanted problems, with one of the most critical being weapon and explosive contamination. This has proved challenging for stabilisation efforts generally, as well as posing specific threats to the civilian population within communities affected by loss of life and injury. The contamination also inhibits the safe return of refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
Since 2013, security in the region has been the responsibility of MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali). The security challenges faced are numerous, with the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) particularly prevalent.
In light of current and ongoing threats to civilians, The Development Initiative (TDI) have been contracted to deliver a Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) and IED awareness programme to the MINUSMA forces. For this purpose, TDI have sub-contracted Optima Group to provide the highly specialist C-IED and IED skill set. The three-year contract started in September 2014 and to date 3,467 peacekeeping troops have been trained.
Both TDI and Optima Group are leaders in their fields and the partnership capitalises on their respective strengths. TDI has a particularly well-established footprint in Mali and a successful track record in delivering mine action projects on behalf of UNOPS and UNMAS, whilst Optima Group’s team are global leaders in C-IED and IEDs.
Teaching C-IED training to Cambodian Force Protection
Training with bomb suits
The partnership between TDI and Optima Group has the potential of a positive wider impact in the region as Rich Williams, Optima Group’s Director International explains: “The work that Optima Group and TDI have been conducting in support of UNMAS in Mali is essential for improving collective understanding and mitigating the threat from IEDs. Unfortunately, Mali is but one example. Although a relatively contemporary threat, IEDs affect millions globally – according to AOAV between 2011-13 65,303 people were killed by IEDs, 81% (53,008) of whom were civilians”.(https://aoav.org.uk/2014/three-years-explosive-weapons/)
Commenting on the partnership with Optima Group, Hugh Morris, Managing Director, TDI, said: “Our partnership with Optima represents an excellent combination of our operational experience and their C-IED expertise, which is allowing us to fulfil the project effectively and to the highest standards. As ever, we are proud of the work that we do, with our latest efforts to reduce the IED threat to Malian civilians providing another example of the vital support we provide in some of the most challenging and remote locations globally.”