The struggle against Boko Haram in south-eastern Niger is increasingly sharpening local conflicts over access to resources. There is no military solution to this insurgency, and the authorities should instead put the emphasis on demobilising militants, solving local conflicts, reinvigorating the economy and restoring public services.
Jihadist violence emanating from Mali continued in west and armed violence continued in Diffa region in south east. Unidentified assailants 11 May attacked police station in Ayerou, Tillaberi region near Mali border, stole weapons and five vehicles, no casualties reported. Govt 4 May agreed with other G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) to create joint military force by end of 2017 to counter jihadists and organised crime and 9 May signed agreement with Chad and Mali to strengthen judicial cooperation in fight against terrorism and cross-border crime enabling three countries to arrest, prosecute and convict each other’s nationals. Ethnic Kanuri trader abducted mid-May near Diffa and mediator in charge of negotiating surrender of BH members killed mid-May in Diffa region. Security forces 10 May in Niamey dispersed civil society protest which had been banned on grounds of public order. Unidentified assailants 27 May attacked police station in Tillaberi region in south west near border with Burkina Faso, killing two police and one Ivorian civilian. Civil society activist Abdourahmane Insar, who called for protests against alleged govt corruption, arrested in Agadez in north for “incitement to violence” 13 May. Opposition politician Amadou Djibo arrested 15 May for comments at opposition meeting critical of govt. Civil society representative Ali Idrissa briefly detained 20 and 22 May for involvement in alleged coup plot.
Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
Suicide attacks on military and mining targets, followed by a violent prison break in the capital, revealed Niger’s fragile stability in a crisis-ridden neighbourhood.
The Sahel, a vast region bordering the Sahara Desert and including the countries of Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, is increasingly referred to by the U.S. military as "the new front in the war on terrorism".
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.
La lutte contre Boko Haram doit se faire avec le souci d’éviter les amalgames et d’apaiser les tensions intercommunautaires.
Originally published in Le Monde
Originally published in Jeune Afrique