West Africa has witnessed yet another coup, this time in Niger. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group encourages the EU and its member states to support regional efforts to de-escalate tensions with the Nigerien junta.
Islamic State launched deadly attack on military in south-western region, confirming increase in jihadist violence since July coup; France began troop withdrawal.
Major attack confirmed rise in jihadist violence in south west. In Tahoua region, Islamic State-Sahel Province (IS Sahel) 2 Oct ambushed military in Tabatol village, Tillia department; govt claimed 29 soldiers killed though locals reported total may be much higher. Recrudescence of jihadist attacks reported in neighbouring Tillabery region since July coup continued. IS Sahel militants 10 Oct killed 11 civilians in Karkatia village, Bankilare department, and 16 Oct clashed with troops in several areas of Bankilare and Tera departments, reportedly leading to dozens of casualties on both sides.
Standoff with France and others continued. French soldiers early Oct began withdrawal from Tillabery region; departure of 1,500 troops due to be completed by year’s end will likely cause logistical, security, and political challenges. Govt 10 Oct also expelled UN resident coordinator in Niger, Louise Aubin, citing “underhanded manoeuvres” by UN, including non-accreditation of Niger’s representatives at international conferences. Meanwhile, U.S. same day formally acknowledged July military takeover was coup, suspended $500mn in development aid.
Algiers’ mediation attempt suffered setback. Niamey 3 Oct denied having accepted Algerian mediation promoting six-month transition to restore constitutional order, emphasised transition duration could only be decided by “inclusive national forum”, and Algiers 9 Oct announced putting mediation efforts on hold pending “clarifications” (see Algeria).
In another important development. Authorities 19 Oct alleged deposed President Bazoum attempted to escape from house arrest with help of local and foreign actors, though those close to former president denied claim. Public prosecutor at Niamey court of appeal 31 Oct said investigation was under way and 23 people had been arrested in connection with case.
[The coup in Niger marks] the beginning of the end of a sequence of French troops withdrawing from the central Sahel.
If an ECOWAS invasion [of Niger] happened, and there was a regional war, I think that would really put the [U.S.] Defense Department in a tricky position.
Why the U.S. government will find no easy answers in the Sahel's coup belt
On 26 July, high-ranking Nigerien officers announced on national television that they had overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021. In this Q&A, Crisis Group analysts lay out the reasons for the coup as well as the stakes going forward.
In this interview, Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Crisis Group’s Project Director for the Sahel, reflects on the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region, the struggle against expanding jihadist groups, and compares the approaches of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
Insurgents have established bases in an important nature reserve spanning parts of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. They pose a growing danger to local ecosystems and people living around the park. The three countries need to collaborate more closely to keep the threat at bay.
A spate of mass killings in Niger’s Tillabery region has raised the spectre of broader civil strife. Most worrying is the ethnic dimension to the crimes. Authorities should move quickly to prioritize civilian protection lest vigilantes take matters into their own hands.
In south-western Niger, organised banditry could reinforce mistrust between ethnic groups and foster insurgencies that jihadists could exploit. The Nigerien authorities should take action to remedy the injustices experienced by communities living off livestock, initiate intercommunal dialogues and better supervise fledgling self-defence groups.
Since 2013, when it sent troops to Mali, France has led international efforts to root out Islamist militancy from the Sahel. Yet the jihadist threat has grown. Paris and its partners should reorient their military-centred approach toward helping improve governance in the region.
Le Burkina Faso et le Niger se dirigent tous deux vers des élections générales. Rinaldo Depagne et Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim décryptent leurs enjeux et insistent sur la nécessité pour leurs vainqueurs de se pencher sur l’insécurité croissante dans les régions rurales, provoquée en grande partie par la présence de groupes jihadistes.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.