This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood are joined by Sahel Project Director Jean-Hervé Jezequel to discuss how Sahelian states and their main backers in France can use dialogue and better governance to craft a more effective strategy against Islamist insurgents.
Jihadists launched large-scale attack, leaving over 100 civilians dead. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 2 Jan stormed ethnic Zarma villages Tchoma Bangou and Zerma Dare in Ouallam department, killing over 100 villagers and wounding at least 26 more; attack reportedly in retaliation for recent killing of several ethnic Fulani civilians or ISGS members in same villages; UN office for humanitarian affairs 6 Jan said attack displaced over 10,000. In response to incident, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada 4 Jan announced deployment of additional soldiers to area bordering Mali. Also in Tillabery region, ISGS militants 5 Jan reportedly extorted taxes and seized livestock in Ndjeleye village, Tera department. Security situation in Diffa region (south east) remained precarious. Notably, roadside bomb planted by suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants 18 Jan reportedly killed four Nigerien soldiers near Chetima Wangou village; also, combatants of BH faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) and BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 13 Jan allegedly clashed near Maniram village. Further west, bandits continued attacks against villages bordering Nigeria in Maradi region, involving cattle rustling and kidnappings. Following Dec presidential election, electoral commission 2 Jan released provisional results: ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum obtained 39% of vote, falling short of majority, while former President Mahamane Ousmane came in second with 17%. Constitutional Court 30 Jan confirmed results. Second round of elections scheduled for 21 Feb. Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism secured 80 of the 171 seats in Dec legislative elections. Cap 20/21 opposition coalition 3 Jan denounced results of legislative elections and first round of presidential election, citing electoral fraud in some areas; later announced it would lodge appeal before Constitutional Court, and called on followers to vote for Ousmane in presidential election run-off.
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.
Islamist militants are making further inroads into Tillabery, a region on Niger’s border with Mali. To fend off the threat, Niamey should supplement its counter-insurgency campaign with initiatives aimed at soothing communal tensions along the frontier and starting dialogue with locals in the jihadists’ orbit.
Trafficking – a catch-all term for illicit movement of goods and people – has long sustained livelihoods in northern Niger. But conflicts are emerging due to heightened competition and European pressure to curb migration. Authorities should persevere in managing the extralegal exchange to contain violence.
Au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Niger, le boom aurifère représente une nouvelle source de financement, voire un terrain de recrutement pour divers groupes armés, y compris jihadistes. Les Etats sahéliens devraient rétablir leur présence aux abords des mines d’or et mieux formaliser l’exploitation aurifère artisanale.
Le primat donné aux réponses militaires et le recours à des groupes armés à base communautaire pour combattre les mouvements jihadistes implantés dans la zone frontalière entre le Niger et le Mali n’ont fait qu’accentuer les tensions intercommunautaires. Les autorités nigériennes doivent adopter une approche plus politique, incluant réconciliation entre communautés, dialogue avec les militants et amnistie dans certains cas.
Créée en février 2017, la Force conjointe du G5 Sahel est une force de nouvelle génération dans un espace sahélien où se bousculent des initiatives militaires et diplomatiques parfois concurrentes. Il ne suffira pas de fournir des armes et de l’argent pour résoudre les crises sahéliennes. Pour atteindre ses objectifs, la force doit gagner la confiance des populations et des puissances régionales et obtenir leur soutien.
The problem, in Niger’s case, is that policies aimed at disrupting trafficking in the north could inadvertently end up fueling instability.
The main fault-line for conflict in the Mali-Niger border has shifted. A year ago, it was drawn between communities. Now it lies between militants loosely fighting under an IS banner and state forces.
Les groupes djihadistes sont passés experts dans l’instrumentalisation des conflits pour mieux s'implanter.
Jihadist groups present since the 2012 crisis in Mali exploited local unrest and the weak presence of the state in northern Mali to launch cross-border attacks against the Nigerien army... Despite direct support from Chadian troops since 2015 and closer collaboration with the Nigerian army, Nigerien forces have been unable to fully secure the border with Nigeria from attacks, including some linked to the Islamic State.
Crisis group's Sahel Senior Analyst Hannah Armstrong and Africa Deputy Program Director Dino Mahtani held a panel moderated by our Director for Africa Regional Advocacy Elissa Jobson, on the renewed spike in jihadist attacks in Niger’s Tillabery region and Niamey’s response to it.
L’analyste Hannah Armstrong regrette que Niamey délaisse le dialogue avec les communautés frontalières de la région de Tillabéri, notamment les nomades peuls.
Originally published in Le Monde
Au Niger, alors que le ramadan va débuter dans la soirée du 23 avril, les tensions autour de la fermeture des mosquées dans le contexte de la pandémie de Covid-19 s’accentuent. Le gouvernement devrait autoriser la réouverture des mosquées en la conditionnant au respect strict des règles sanitaires préconisées par l’OMS.
Crisis Group's Sahel Expert Hannah Armstrong explains that trafficking has long sustained livelihoods in northern Niger. But conflicts are emerging due to heightened competition and European pressure to curb migration. Authorities should persevere in managing the extralegal exchange to contain violence.