The assassination perpetrated against six French aid workers from the NGO Acted and their companions nigerians by armed men on a motorcycle at Kouré, less than 100 kilometres from Niamey, the capital of Niger, has something to throw disarray in a country where the notion of a "safe zone" has become more than hypothetical. This comes at a time when the heart of the Sahel Niger is facing the health crisis of the Covid-19, its economic consequences, while plunging into the turmoil safe imposed by the jihadists at the time when the country needs to prepare for a presidential election with high stakes that should be held in December next. The challenges are many for a landlocked country that suffered the assaults of islamists of various persuasions extremists (islamic State, Al-Qaeda...) with the objectives of destabilisation of the Sahel region is no longer a secret. Suffice to say that there are all the elements that justifies a strong mobilization of the nigerian army, whose Niagalé Bagayoko, president of the african Network on security sector, says that she is " highly sought on three fronts of destabilization ".
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The triple challenge of security faced by the Niger
The first thing to remember is that, in the West, the immense and unstable region of Tillaberi is part of the so-called area of the "three borders" between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Jihadist groups are established for several years, and address regularly to the symbols of the State, on the spot. This is going to military camps to the authorities, whose officials are often abducted and murdered.
according to the AFP, the main group jihadist implanted is that of Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi, named by its enemies the islamic State to the Great Sahara (SAES) and member since 2015 to the organization islamic State (EI). It is the origin of dozens of attacks from camps in the three countries, and particularly in Niger. One recalls the end of 2019 the episode Inatès, where 71 soldiers were killed, Chinégodar also, beginning 2020, where 89 soldiers have lost their lives. Are also present in this area of the elements of the Group of support to islam and muslims (GSIM, which is affiliated to Al-Qaeda).
Important to know : if they have in the past been able to collaborate sporadically on targeted attacks, the different jihadist groups linked to the AR and Al-Qaeda are fighting against each other since the beginning of 2020 in the Sahel, principally in the Gourma, Mali. In Niger, as elsewhere in the Sahel, these groups thrive on a sense of abandonment of rural populations and pre-existing conflicts between communities. In a recent report, the think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG) explained that the conflict in the area of Tillaberi was " fundamentally driven by the competition between inter-and intra-community around the rights and resources, a conflict that the islamic State was able to exploit to its own advantage ".
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The East and the North : the other fronts with which it takes
In the East, Niger is facing another threat jihadist, on the shores of lake Chad : this is the group known as Boko Haram, which is rife, such as ISWAP (group jihadist linked to the AR, born from a split with Boko Haram in 2016). The jihadist attacks in the Niger region are numerous in the past five years, notably in Diffa, the main city in South-eastern niger. Finally, the north of Niger is bordered to the Libya conflict. The pass of el Salvador, a huge expanse of desert on the border between the two countries and the Chad, is deemed to be an area of illicit trafficking in arms, drugs and migrants. "If the nigerian army is on all fronts, we must not forget the multinational commitments of the Niger," said Niagalé Bagayoko. The army is present in two forces, sub-regional, the joint Force of the G5 Sahel in the Sahel and the multinational Force mixed to lake Chad, as well as within the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma). Although considered to be a " more robust ", according to Niagalé Bagayoko, that some armies in the region, the nigerian army remains under-trained and under-equipped. It pays a heavy human toll since the beginning of the crisis.
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It is in this context that Niamey discusses the presidential election at the end of December. The president Mahamadou Issoufou, after two terms, is not. One of the pillars of power, the former Interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, will be the candidate of the presidential party.
The threat is growing
" The image of lock stable in the region of the Niger has been tarnished by the many recent attacks on the military and the scandals of misappropriation of funds ", said Yvan Guichaoua, researcher at the university of Kent (Great Britain). Because, despite " the efforts made in terms of consolidation of peace ", there are "problems of governance in the security sector, as revealed by the audit of the fraudulent management of the defence budget, the adoption of the disputed law on cyber security and the arrest of journalists and bloggers," says Niagalé Bagayoko. Finally, the capital Niamey sees the security threat is closer to : the prison, the better guarded in the country to Koutoukalé (60 km north of Niamey) has suffered an attack in may 2018 and a police post at the gates of the capital had been attacked in June 2019 with a balance of two police officers killed. On Sunday, it was the first attack in the area of the natural park of Kouré, 60 km from Niamey, the place to visit on a weekend, many residents of the capital, Nigerians as expatriates. Not to reassure the population and especially the sign of a cancer of a terrorist metastases are increasing in the country and closer and closer to the centres of decision-making.
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