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.
Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) regional force continued to prepare offensive against Boko Haram (BH) bases on Lake Chad islands in Niger and Nigeria. Security forces 3 Feb dismantled presumed BH cell in Baban Rafi, Maradi region in south centre. Heads of state of G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad) in Bamako, Mali’s capital 6-7 Feb pledged to create joint task force to fight terrorism. Following call of civil society groups and opposition parties, thousands 4 Feb protested in Niamey against govt’s alleged poor governance, high cost of living and presence of Western military bases. Suspected jihadists 22 Feb ambushed military patrol 200km N of Niamey near border with Mali killing sixteen soldiers; France 25 Feb said it would send counter-terror contingent to support armed forces.
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