Thursday, 28.03.2024 - PSCC Talk - Zoom

Presentation of the results of the Policy Paper on "Promoting sustainable security and stability in the Sahel : what prospects for Niger in the aftermath of the military coup ?"

As part of its virtual conferences known as "PSCC Talk", the Peace and Security Competence Centre Sub-Saharan Africa of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES PSCC) Dakar organised a virtual conference on Thursday 28 March 2024 to present the results of the Policy Paper on the theme "Promoting sustainable security and stability in the Sahel : what prospects for Niger in the aftermath of the military coup ? The results of the Policy Paper were disseminated, discussed and commented on by over 40 experts, researchers, CSO members, representatives of regional institutions and defence and security forces from the Sahel, West Africa, the African continent and Europe.

For several years now, Niger has been facing a security challenge of unprecedented scale and duration. The country has had to confront the jihadist group Boko Haram in the Diffa region and the activists of armed terrorist groups based in northern Mali (Islamic State in the Great Sahara and the Groupe de soutien à l'Islam et aux musulmans). Niger must also keep a close eye on its northern border with Libya, where a lucrative trade in weapons of war has developed in the Agadez region, as well as cross-border crime in the Maradi region. As a sign of the scale of the security challenge in Niger, three of the eight regions (Diffa, Tahoua and Tillabéry) have been under a state of emergency since 2015.

However, despite being more exposed and even larger than Burkina Faso and Mali, Niger's security situation has deteriorated less than that of its two neighbours. Behind this resilience lies first and foremost the country's good political stability, marked by the presidential election in December 2020, which may have been hotly contested but never developed into a full-blown post-election crisis. The arrival in power of President Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown on 26 July 2023, was accompanied by a relaxation of relations between the government and the opposition, notably through the resumption of the activities of the National Council for Political Dialogue (CNDP) and the release of political figures imprisoned for their alleged responsibility in the post-election violence of February 2021.

In addition to political stability, Niger's resilience is due above all to the strong social cohesion between the country's nine ethno-linguistic groups. Drawing on the lessons learned from the 1991-1995 rebellion and the 2007 rebellion by the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ), Niger has succeeded in integrating the Tuareg community firmly into the state apparatus. This would explain, among other things, why Niger, unlike Mali, did not experience an armed rebellion after the fall of Muamar Gaddafi in Libya in November 2011 and the return of thousands of Tuareg fighters from Niger. More recently, the signing in January 2023 of the Banibangou inter-community peace agreement in the north-west of the tri-border area and the success of the Repentir contre Pardon programme, which has demobilised dozens of Boko Haram fighters, are further proof of the importance of social cohesion in Niger.

All these factors have enabled Niger to build up a real resilience, but above all to become the focus of Western intervention in the Sahel. Nearly 1,100 American soldiers are stationed in Niger, divided between Agadez, Niamey and Ouallam. Around 1,500 French soldiers were deployed in Niger until the coup on 26 July, when the European Union, in addition to Eucap Sahel Niger, was planning to deploy a military training mission under the name European Training Mission (EUTM-Niger).
Against this backdrop, the CNSP's coup d'état on 26 July 2023 was greeted with surprise. On close analysis, it ushers in a new era of uncertainty in Niger, with a number of possible scenarios.

The conference animated by Dr Seidik ABBA, a specialist in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin and President of the Centre international de réflexions et d'études sur le Sahel, and Dr Aliou LY of IPSA-Afrique provided an opportunity to analyse the contours of the debate on greater involvement and integration of women at all levels in peace processes for a more stable and secure Sahel region.

The discussions, moderated by Prof. Moussa HAMIDOU TALIBI, Full University Professor (CAMES), Director General of Education (Niger), focused on :

  1. What course do the ruling CNSP military intend to take?
  2. The duration of the transition and the agenda for the transitional period ?
  3. The impact of the coup d'état in Niger on regional stability, following the creation by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger of the Alliance of Sahel States ?
  4. The future of the fight against terrorism in the Sahel ?
  5. The de facto opportunity that such a situation represents for armed terrorist groups ?

The discussions were unanimous on a number of points :

  • The occurrence of three major events: the withdrawal of Niger from ECOWAS, the lifting of sanctions against Niger by ECOWAS, the denunciation of the US military presence by the junta on 16 March 2024 after the withdrawal of the last French soldiers from Niger.
  • The deterioration of the security situation, with an increasing number of victims and a repetition of terrorist acts.
  • A weakening of post-coup enthusiasm for security and governance, with a certain lukewarmness between the government and the population that suggests the beginning of a divorce.
  • A context marked by uncertainty: no clear direction or timetable for the transition.
  • The scenario of military intervention by ECOWAS has been totally ruled out.
  • The most plausible scenario is for the transition to be led by General TIANI.

In terms of outlook, there is a fear that the security situation will not improve in the immediate future. In the short term, oil production could improve the state's ability to invest in essential social sectors (education, health, energy, etc.). In the medium term, the security situation could improve with the creation of the ESA and the establishment of common security, even with cooperation with Russia. In the long term, with security progressing, Niger could see a significant improvement in economic growth with the long-term exploitation of oil production.

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