Since attaining independence in 1960, Niger has been tackled with continuous political insurgence like in most post-independence West African countries. The landlocked country is located in the central part of the Sahel with 99.3% of its population being Muslims. Despite being rich in valuable mineral resources, the country is one of the least developed in the world with poor infrastructure and a 37.34% literacy rate.
Niger faces internal security challenges, including ethnic conflicts, cattle rustling, and banditry. These are prevalent in the central and northern parts of the country where farmer- herder conflicts have resulted in violence and displacement of communities. The continuous internal displacement of people in the region disrupts agricultural activities thus, resulting in food shortages and malnutrition. On the 7th of July 2022, the government of Niger announced a state of food insecurity in four of its conflict gripped regions including Diffa and Tillaberi.
Three known jihadist groups, The Macina Liberation Front, The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Ansaroul Islam are believed to be responsible for causing two-thirds of violence from 2015-2019 in Sahelian countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The country is also facing attacks from other jihadist groups, including Boko Haram, ISIS, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). These groups operate in the border regions of Niger, particularly in the Diffa, Tillaberi, and Tahoua regions.
Niger’s border town Diffa is believed to experience the bulk of terrorist attacks carried out by Boko Haram. In 2015, the border town was declared a state of emergency by the Nigerienne government. To control the situation, the mass arrest of over 1000 militants was conducted, and motorbikes were banned as most attacks were made by motor cyclists. groups. This threat is forcing people to flee their homes while also depriving vulnerable communities of critical basic services as armed groups target schools, health centers, and other infrastructure.
One major factor contributing to Niger’s insecurity is the country’s porous borders, which make it easy for terrorist groups to move in and out of the country. The vast and sparsely populated terrain of Niger also makes it difficult for security forces to cover and protect all areas of the country effectively.
The government of Niger and ECOWAS has taken several steps to address the security situation in the country. One of the measures taken is the establishment of a joint military force with neighboring countries, including Chad, Nigeria, and Mali. The force, known as the G5 Sahel Joint Force, aims to fight terrorism and other forms of insecurity in the region particularly drug, weapons, and human trafficking. The government has also increased its military spending and provided support to security forces to enhance their capacity to combat terrorism and other forms of insecurity.
Another step taken by the government is the implementation of a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) program. The program aims to disarm and reintegrate ex-combatants into society. These programs in Diffa, Tahoua, Tillabéri, and Zinder aim to reduce the likelihood of a resurgence of violence while providing former combatants with viable living options. The government has also invested in programs that promote social cohesion, dialogue, and reconciliation to address the root causes of the conflicts in the country.