For the last several months Niger has experienced a surge in attacks against civilians by violent extremists. This includes a series of attacks in March in which hundreds of civilians have been killed. In one particularly egregious act of violence, men on motorbikes conducted coordinated assaults on three villages, killing over 130 civilians on March 24.
This region of west Africa, known as the Sahel, has experienced profound and growing security challenges in recent years. But according to my guest today Ornella Moderan, what distinguishes this new iteration of insecurity in Niger is that civilians are being targeted on the basis of their ethnicity.
Ornella Moderan is the Sahel Program Head for Institute for Security Studies. and I caught up with her recently from Niamey, Niger. She was in Niamey at a significant moment in the history of Niger. On April 2, for the first time since the country’s independence in 1960, there was a peaceful transfer of power from one civilian leader to the next. That almost did not happen because just a few days earlier there was an attempted coup, which was repelled.
We kick off discussing what is driving increasing violence in the southwest of Niger and then turn to a conversation about recent political events in the country. Towards the end of the interview Ornella Moderan makes some important points about the efficacy of a military strategy to combat violent extremism that is being undertaken by a coalition of countries in the region and backed by France, called the G5 Sahel, and argues for a more comprehensive approach to insecurity in the region.
If you have 25 minutes and want to better understand what is driving insecurity in Niger and this part of the Sahel, have a listen