The sanctions imposed on Niger by the Economic Community of West African States after its July coup are hurting civilians more than anyone else. Led by Nigeria, the bloc should revise these measures to narrowly target the generals responsible for disrupting democracy.
Junta asked Togo for help to extract concessions from erstwhile partners as sanctions continued to cripple economy and state finances; jihadist threat remained elevated.
Ruling military turned to Togo to mediate with regional bloc. Military govt continued to grapple with economic crisis sparked in large part by West African regional bloc’s (ECOWAS) sanctions, and budget reduction of around 40% following withdrawal of much of country’s foreign aid. Authorities 31 Oct-4 Nov detained Central Bank of West African States local director in likely bid to pressure institution to lift economic and financial sanctions. Defence minister Gen. Salifou Mody 6 Nov asked Togolese President Gnassingbé to facilitate dialogue between Niger and ECOWAS and serve as guarantor of French withdrawal from Niger, which in Nov continued apace; Togo’s FM Robert Dussey said Lomé ready to “help as a facilitator”.
Govt denied rumours of large-scale jihadist attack amid persistent insecurity. Junta mid-Nov denied rumours of complex ambush on army convoy by Islamic State Sahel Province (IS Sahel) in Tissilatane area, along border with Mali; unconfirmed reports claimed as many as 200 soldiers killed. Smaller-scale incidents involving al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and IS Sahel continued in Tillabery region (south west), where presumed JNIM fighters 10 Nov killed six civilians and abducted 11 more in Kakou village, Torodi department. Meanwhile in Diffa region (south east), JAS faction of Boko Haram 8 Nov killed three soldiers along Nigerian border near Abadam village, Diffa department. As part of close security cooperation between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, Nigerien Air Force early Nov reportedly contributed to capture of Kidal town by Malian forces (see Mali); Niamey 15 Nov congratulated Bamako on “liberation of Kidal”.
In other important developments. In southern region of Maradi, herder-farmer violence 4 Nov killed three people in Danja village, Madarounfa department. Junta 25 Nov revoked 2015 law aimed at curbing migration to Europe, adding new twist to growing political tensions between Niger and EU countries.
[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.
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.
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.
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