Actualité militaire au Niger

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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 04 juin 2019, 20:54

Niger : 4 kamikazes de Boko Haram abattus et 2 autres arrêtés dans le Sud-est 0
BY CHERKAOUI ROUDANI ON 4 JUIN 2019 TERRORISME

Quatre kamikazes du groupe terroriste Boko Haram ont été tués, dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi à Diffa, qui essayaient de se faire exploser à proximité d’un important dépôt d’hydrocarbures, ont annoncé les autorités locales.

C’est le deuxième attentat-suicide déjoué en quelques heures dans cette ville de 200.000 habitants du Sud-est du Niger, frontalière du Nigeria.

En effet, deux suspects présumés du groupe terroriste Boko Haram qui envisageaient de perpétrer un attentat kamikaze dans la même ville nigérienne de Diffa, ont été arrêtés par la police de la localité, a indiqué lundi une source sécuritaire. Il s’agit d’un garçon de 25 ans (le kamikaze) et de son guide (35 ans), libéré de prison l’année dernière.

Une perquisition au domicile de ces deux suspects a permis de trouver sept charges d’explosifs, a précisé la même source.

Depuis février 2015, la région de Diffa est le théâtre de nombreuses attaques de Boko Haram faisant plusieurs victimes et de déplacés.
http://sahel-intelligence.com/15188-nig ... rettyPhoto


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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 05 juin 2019, 23:12

June 2019
Shutting down Niger’s business of moving people

Agadez, city of migrants
Overnight, in 2015, a law criminalised the main source of income for Agadez in northern Niger, once a major hub for migrants heading to Europe via Libya. It didn’t stop migrancy, but it wrecked the economy.

by Rémi Carayol
JPEG - 802.9 kb
No place to hide: a migrant from Niger conceals her child to avoid deportation at a transit centre in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, in July 2018
Ryad Kramdi · AFP · Getty
The bus station at Agadez was sleepy; the hot season was coming and at dawn a film of dust had settled on the city. But the weather conditions did not explain why there were no travellers. At the ticket office, two clerks were lying on a mattress. One told me, ‘We haven’t had any passengers for a long time. People going north keep a low profile.’ His colleague slept on.

Tourist agencies call Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger, the ‘gateway to the desert’, though it no longer deserves the name. The central bus station was once the heart of the city, the starting point for convoys heading for Dirkou and Libya. Every Monday, up to 200 vehicles would set off into the desert, carrying livestock and migrants, who came from West Africa, and sometimes from the centre and east of the continent, heading mostly for Libya and, with luck, Europe. The convoys had an army escort as far as the Libyan border. To the migrants, they represented hope; to the people of Agadez, they were a source of income. Mahaman Sanoussi, a local activist, said, ‘They provided a living for the whole city. Migration was legal, and the transporters were respectable. They paid their taxes, like other entrepreneurs. But law 2015-36 changed all that.’

This law ‘on the illegal trafficking of migrants’, passed on 26 May 2015, made a once respectable business illegal overnight, and led to many young people being imprisoned. In 2015 the EU built an invisible wall to stop migrants from the south; it was the year of the European Agenda on Migration and the Valetta summit in Malta, when the 28 member states sought to externalise their fight against immigration with the help of some African states. The EU offered these impoverished ‘partners’ more than €2bn to hold back migrants. An EU Emergency Trust Fund ‘for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa’ (EUTF for Africa) financed many projects within the framework of what the European (...)
https://mondediplo.com/2019/06/07niger


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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 05 juin 2019, 23:13

.....Aux alentours de minuit, dans une maison du centre-ville, Azoua , un jeune revendeur d’armes accepte de raconter comment se passe son métier. « J’ai des amis qui apportent les armes en brousse. Parfois, ils m’appellent, parfois, ils les enterrent et me donnent la position. Ensuite, moi je les revends »,explique-t-il. Ses pupilles sont dilatées et il balance nerveusement sa jambe contre le sol. « J’achète les pistolets à 100 000 FCFA [153 euros] et je les revends 150 000 FCFA [229 euros]. Pour une kalash, je l’achète à 300 000 FCFA [458 euros] et je la revends 350 000 [434 euros] »,ajoute Azoua. Cependant, ce bénéfice ne lui permet pas de subvenir entièrement à ses besoins et, à 27 ans, Azoua aimerait bien vivre d’un autre métier. « Moi, avant, j’étais chauffeur. Je travaillais dans la migration. Mais depuis que c’est interdit, je suis au chômage ».

Depuis novembre 2016 et le sommet européen de La Valette, le Niger lutte activement contre le trafic de migrants dans la région. De nombreux Agadéziens qui vivaient de la migration se sont retrouvés dans l’illégalité. Certains passeurs et chauffeurs continuent de convoyer les migrants vers l’Europe clandestinement, mais une grande partie d’entre eux ont abandonné ce métier. L’Union européenne leur a promis une aide à la reconversion, mais jusqu’à présent, seules quelques centaines de personnes sur plusieurs milliers de candidatures ont pu en bénéficier. Certains ex-professionnels de la migration menacent donc de reprendre leurs activités tandis que d’autres se sont tournés vers de nouveaux trafics, comme le transport d’armes et de drogues.

Cependant, la grande majorité des anciens acteurs de la migration et des jeunes d’Agadez se retrouvent inoccupés. « Ces gens peuvent tomber dans les bras de certains marchands d’illusions », prévient le journaliste Ibrahim Manzo Diallo. « Je ne parle pas de trafiquants de drogue, je ne parle pas non plus de trafiquants d’armes, je parle des terroristes qui pullulent au nord-Mali, qui pullulent au sud de la Libye et qui peuvent rapidement infester cette région d’Agadez »,ajoute-t-il. Pour l’heure, Azoua, lui, rêve d’être chauffeur pour une ONG « Nous, on veut de l’aide. On veut un boulot. Si j’ai trouvé quelque chose, je vais laisser la vente d’armes », affirme-t-il.

Dans leur repère, Rabé et Sitomas lancent eux aussi un appel au Niger pour la création d’emplois : « Certains parmi nous savent très bien travailler. On connait beaucoup de choses. Mais comme il n’y a pas d’emploi, on est ici, comme obligés de se péter la gueule ». https://orientxxi.info/magazine/agadez- ... enres,3117


Topic author
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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 08 juin 2019, 08:15

Le monsieur fait un bon boulot, respect. :super: Il est avec ces troupes, sur le front...exemplaire.
(Bien sur la présence des forces étranger, n’est pas tolérable)

Défense : le ministre Kalla Moutari a fêté l’Aïd avec les soldats sur le front, à la frontière malienne
Publication : 5 juin 2019

Affichages : 3556

Kala Moutari fete Korite avec FDS




Le ministre de la Défense nationale, Kalla Moutari, accompagné des hauts responsables de l'armée, notamment le chef d'état état-major général des armées, le général Ahmed Mohammed, a fêté l'Aïd el Fitr 1440h sur le front, précisément à Tiloa, à 18 km de la frontière malienne.

En mission dans la zone, le ministre Kalla Moutari y a passé la nuit après avoir rompu le 29ème jour de jeûne avec les soldats qui sont en opération de sécurisation des personnes et de leurs biens, dans cette zone où s’activent des groupes armés terroristes et autres narcotrafiquants. « La proximité auprès de nos Forces de Défense et de Sécurité (FDS) a toujours été la priorité et la spécificité de notre département ministériel. C’est à ce titre et surtout au regard des évènements des derniers jours, qu’il était impératif pour le gouvernement de réitérer de vive voix, son soutien et sa détermination sans faille à se tenir auprès de toutes les composantes des Forces Armées Nigériennes (FAN) », a annoncé le ministre dans un communiqué publié par ses services, qui ont également diffusées les images du périple de la délégation ministérielle. « A travers la présence de notre délégation ministérielle, au niveau du front situé à la frontière malienne plus précisément à Andéramboukane, nous tenons à vous transmettre la reconnaissance du peuple et du Gouvernement pour le sacrifice consenti pour la protection de notre patrie » a déclaré le ministre Kalla Moutari devant les soldats. Au cours de son périple, le ministre de la Défense nationale s’est une fois de plus incliné sur les tombes des vingt-sept (27) soldats tombés sur le champ d’honneur, et qui ont été inhumés à Tiloa dans la zone de Tongo Tongo.

« Nos partenaires étrangers nous apportent un soutien et une expertise sans faille », selon Kalla Moutari

Auparavant, le ministre de la Défense nationale était à partir du dimanche 26 mai 2019, dans la région d’Agadez où il a visité les militaires stationnés à Madama, Dirkou, Bilma et Arlit. La délégation ministérielle qui était composée également du chef d’état-major adjoint, le général Ibrah Boulama, ainsi que des directeurs centraux et régionaux et des principaux collaborateurs du ministère, est allée remonter le moral des Forces de Défense et de Sécurité (FDS) et surtout de faire le point sur la situation sécuritaire. A ce titre, et au terme de plusieurs entretiens et visites, la délégation ministérielle s’est attelée à évaluer le maillage des zones frontalières de la Libye, du Tchad et de l’Algérie. Il découle particulièrement de cette mission, selon les services du ministre, « une montée en puissance des bataillons qui assurent la sécurité et la Défense de la zone ». Selon la même source, cette mission a également permis au ministre Kalla Moutari de s’assurer de la mise en place effective des moyens chèrement acquis par l’Etat, ainsi que de statuer sur les programmes de formation assurés par les partenaires techniques. «Il faut reconnaitre que nos partenaires français et américains nous apportent un soutien et une expertise sans faille en matière de lutte contre le terrorisme et le banditisme » a déclaré à ce sujet le ministre Kalla Moutari.

Ces visites du ministre de la Défense nationale sur le terrain interviennent après la recrudescence d’attaques terroristes dans le pays, principalement dans les régions de Tillabéry et de Diffa, ainsi qu’une montée des menaces sécuritaires.

Kala Moutari fete Korite avec FDS BIS

Kala Moutari fete Korite avec FDS BIS1

A.Y.B (Actuniger.com)
https://www.actuniger.com/societe/15187 ... e-malienne


Topic author
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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 10 juin 2019, 12:17

I think there is still a good bit of training required...also equipment-wise, there is scope for improvement.
and same applies for cross-border issues


Topic author
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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 10 juin 2019, 13:02

I guess we will continue to hear about those things going forward.
Overall the country is huge and too large to control with the means they are willing to invest.
And yes any "smart" organization can make life for western forces hard. Actually, I am still surprised a little that we did not hear about more incidents, as it takes for some supply lines for Agadez, Kidal, Madama or Tessalit days and days to arrive...and there are 1001 ways to inflict damage, at relatively low cost and risk...
US military vehicle hits a roadside bomb in Niger, no casualties
By: Howard Altman   18 hours ago
466


NIAMEY, Niger — U.S. service members are being evaluated for potential injuries after their vehicle activated an improvised explosive device in Niger on Saturday, according to officials from U.S. Africa Command.

No one was killed in the incident, which happened as the service members were riding a mine-resistant, all-terrain vehicle while entering a firing range near Oullam, according to a media release from Air Force Col. Christopher Karns, an AFRICOM spokesman.

The medical evaluations are precautionary, he said.

Karns said there were four service members in the vehicle, but he could not immediately say from what branch or unit.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

US AFRICOM

@USAfricaCommand
U.S. Africa Command confirms on Sat., Jun. 8, a U.S. tactical vehicle was damaged on a firing range in Niger. At this time, there are no reported casualties. The cause of the damage is undetermined at this time.

17
11:45 AM - Jun 9, 2019
39 people are talking about this
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Ouallam, in western Niger, is not far from where four U.S. soldiers died during an October 2017 ambush. That attack by Islamic militants also killed four Nigerien soldiers in the joint patrol force.


The ambush drew attention to the U.S. military’s role in training troops in Niger.

Survivors and fallen soldiers of Niger ambush awarded valor medals, but questions linger
Team Ouallam was ambushed by an assaulting force three times their size and equipped with medium and heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars.

By: Kyle Rempfer
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U.S. and Nigerien partner forces were conducting a training exercise when the Saturday explosion occurred, according to the release.

Nigerien partner forces have secured the scene and are assessing the incident.

“U.S. forces are in Niger to assist our African partners in their efforts to counter violent extremist organizations,” said Karns. “A safe, stable, secure and prosperous Africa is an enduring United States interest.”
Attack on US Armored Target in Niger
In Niger, one of the West African countries, an attack targeting the US armored vehicle took place.

Sources reported that it was targeted by an American armored explosive device near Ouallam in the Tillaberi area.


After the attack in Tillaberi, American armored forces
It is thought that the Islamic State, which carried out the attacks in the region, did not cause any casualties after the attack.

This attack was recorded in 2017 as the first reported attack since the attack on Tongo Tongo. African Command (AFRICOM) confirmed the attack.

Islamic State news sources have not yet come to an explanation about the attack.

https://www.idrakmedya.news/nijerde-abd ... n-saldiri/
Dernière modification par malikos le 11 juin 2019, 08:47, modifié 1 fois.


Topic author
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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 10 juin 2019, 13:39

actually, do you think the situation will get any better for your troops...
The current thinking that like in Somalia, with a relatively light operation you can have a huge impact is very different in the Sahel.

The distances are huge, that plays to a major advantage for your enemies, road security does not exist rather than setting your support operations up in Niamey, which is still a relatively secure area, you chose Agadez. It takes days and days to transport things over there, and once your drones start killing local people (irrespective of terrorists or not) locals will very willingly help them, to set you up. That is foreseeable.

The whole concept and idea are based on an over-dimensioned vision for setting up that megabase 201, to control half of the African continent. It is not even an operational need. However as this base is being built, you create that operational need to protect it. In other words, your presence is the issue.

And again to acquire and bring a mortar or small missiles in position in the area of Agadez is relatively easy.
For supply transports, even with drones, you can hardly provide a 100% air-coverage. Moreover, there are always bottleneck points, which can be predicted and prepared...for IED or ambushes.
Seems to me insane to pursue that approach the US is taken in the Sahel...
...well only my thoughts.

And to spin the link back to Somalia and to highlight major differences:
1) There is mostly an ethnic conflict ongoing, with few or no clear terrorist targets.
2) People move a lot there and communication is different. Intelligence work is, therefore, more challenging, as based on humans and not technical.
Arms are hidden where you do not find them and cheap to get.
3) Your base 201 is not close to the coast and can not be easily supplied at low risk. Your supply lines and the based itself are easy targets.
4) Your military is not well trained to that environment, since flying in helicopters at night and to surprise your enemy with your technological supremacy such as night vision etc, does not work. No, they have to expose themselves, and last time (Afghanistan an Irak) the humanistic/communication/respectful-social skills of US soldiers were rather "weak".
Of course you can raid camp after camp, night after night, and yes maybe some terrorists will be found, however, the anger of locals will rise, and basically, they are all armed one way or another. Or at leat they have access to arms...that is a war you can not win as you know.
US troops escape injury in Niger roadside bomb blast


By JOHN VANDIVER | Stars and Stripes | Published: June 9, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany — A U.S. military vehicle hit a roadside bomb Saturday en route to a training exercise in Niger, a country that has proved dangerous for U.S. special operations forces who have helped local troops battle militant groups in the region.

U.S. Africa Command said Sunday that a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle activated the bomb while four servicemembers were entering a firing range in the vicinity of Ouallam, Niger.

“At this time, there are no reported U.S. fatalities, however, as a precaution, U.S. service members are being evaluated for injuries,” AFRICOM spokesman Col. Chris Karns said in a statement. “The medical treatment is a precautionary measure. There are no reported injuries.”

Nigerien partner forces have secured the scene and are assessing the incident, Karns said.

AFRICOM declined to say whether the incident will have any effect on how troops operate in the country.

“Due to operational considerations, we won’t go into detail about future operations. Our commitment to our partners remains the same,” Karns said.


Topic author
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Re: Actualité militaire au Niger

Message par malikos » 13 juin 2019, 21:56

quite a good report about the region
A convoy of pickups packed with Nigeriens and other Africans begins a three-day trek from Agadez, Niger, through the Sahara to Libya. Many migrants intend to work there; others hope to reach Europe.
15 MINUTE READ
BY ROBERT DRAPER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PASCAL MAITRE

This story appears in the July 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.
JUST BEFORE DUSK, the first pickup trucks roll past the checkpoint and array themselves across the desert on the outskirts of Agadez, Niger.

Passengers pile in, as many as 25 per vehicle, each carrying no more than a knapsack. They wear sunglasses and scarves to fend off the sand, along with heavy coats for the biting-cold nights on the three-day journey to Libya.

Their youth is palpable. Squeezed together among strangers, they fidget and stare listlessly at the empty landscape awaiting them. Vendors with rusty pushcarts hawk thirdhand coats, sugarcane, plastic bags of water, cigarettes, and wooden poles to use as braces against the possibility of falling out and becoming stranded in the lawless, desolate Sahara as the unpitying motorcade recedes.

Picture of a man in orange sunglasses waiting on a plastic stump outside with other men around
Young men from Niger and elsewhere wait in a migrant “ghetto” in Agadez for a caravan to Libya. With low life expectancy, limited educational opportunities, and a high poverty rate, Niger ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index.
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Trucks keep arriving. More than a hundred will assemble by the time the procession begins. Two military vehicles lumber forth—one to lead, the other to guard the rear. As night falls, a swarm of motorcycles materializes and surges past the city’s checkpoint, ferrying a frantic, last-minute wave of aspiring travelers who wish to negotiate their way into the overstuffed pickups. Amid the swirling sand and the pell-mell assimilation of the stragglers, one motorcycle skids to a halt. Even seated, the rider is a large, imposing figure. With an undomesticated beard and a toothpick wedged between his lips, he considers the melee with an incongruously beatific smile.

The Boss—which is what everyone in Agadez calls the man—is not describing food. He refers, instead, to the composition of the convoy. You have rice: the many hundreds of Nigerien passengers who have joined this weekly caravan to Libya to find work. Then you have others, the beans—no more than maybe seven per pickup—who are from elsewhere, and who are headed elsewhere, for reasons of their own. It is the Boss’s recipe. He is, you could say, an exporter of beans. Countless thousands of them, since he first entered the business in 2001 and continuing even after Niger’s government made it illegal in 2015.

The flow of travelers has not stopped, and it will not stop. West Africa’s intensifying instability guarantees this. The Boss’s job is to manage the flow. As a passeur, he sits at the top of a shadowy network, possibly the biggest in Agadez, consisting of at least a hundred drivers and about as many coxeurs, subordinates who handle the arrangements. Before the trucks arrive at the checkpoint, they obtain their authorization papers at the Agadez bus station from a city official, who happens to be the Boss. Payments are made. Papers signed. Eyes averted. The journey begins.

“They know me everywhere,” he declares. “Even on the internet, you find pictures of the Boss with immigrants.” He facilitates their trans-Saharan passage from Agadez to the central Libyan city of Sabha. Then he enlists a counterpart to guide them from Sabha to Tripoli, and another to ferry them across the Mediterranean to the West. Where the travelers ultimately wind up—in Italy, in the United States, in a deportation cell, or left to die in the desert or to drown in the sea—is outside the Boss’s purview.

Picture of a truck under a purple blue sky with hundreds of goods covered in sheets
A truckload of clothes, furniture, appliances, and various other household items arrives at customs in Agadez. Nigeriens working in Libya send earnings home as goods, not cash, because the Libyan dinar is unstable.
Still, something deeper than a trickster’s boast is evident when he proudly recalls a client who made her way from Cameroon to Agadez to Germany in less than two weeks. A criminal to some, the Boss, who owing to the shadiness of his enterprise does not divulge his name, would prefer to think of himself as a highly entrepreneurial public servant.

The boss is, above all, a stabilizer in a region with few such actors. To the uninitiated, the tableau at the checkpoint looks out of control. But it is not. A system is at work—one that is understood by all and benefits many. Being illegal, it is not the best system. But it is a creative solution to an unavoidable fact, which is that Niger is surrounded by chaos. Though it is a country of myriad woes—deep poverty, rising population, a shortage of arable land made worse by desertification, and a shaky political system—it is not the incubator of violence that its neighbors are. It is a country people flee through, not flee from. Niger’s fate depends on whether it holds off the chaos and maintains a semblance of order, or succumbs to it altogether.

The Boss’s role in Niger’s drama of brinkmanship did not become apparent to me until one Sunday morning, when he and I spent several hours driving together through the migrant “ghettos” of Agadez. It is an ancient, low-slung city with a sultan’s palace and a 500-year-old mosque at its historic center, the outlying neighborhoods composed largely of mud and straw, with more than 130,000 inhabitants, not counting the Boss’s many clients just passing through.


PRECARIOUS CROSSROADS

The arid expanses of Niger have been a nexus of trade and transit for centuries. Impoverished but relatively stable, the country is surrounded by conflict zones where Islamist terrorist groups have taken root. Western, UN, and regional mili­tary forces all increasingly see Niger as a crucial base for combating extremism in the region.


Nearly nine of 10 migrants in northern Africa are on the move to seek better economic opportunities. They follow well-worn routes through lands where the governments

are weak and terrorist groups are thriving.

TERROR IN THE SAHEL

Thousands of UN and French troops are deployed in Mali to maintain regional stability. Yet groups linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda regularly attack both military and civilian targets.

SMUGGLING STOPOVER

An ancient travel hub on the edge of the Sahara, the bustling trading city of Agadez hosts thousands of migrants each year on one of the main routes across the desert.

Since 2011, the insurgent group based in northern Nigeria has sought to recast that country as a state based on sharia, or Islamic law. The group is linked to as many as 37,530 deaths.

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, NGM STAFF; SCOTT ELDER. SOURCES: NATIONAL CONSORTIUM FOR THE STUDY OF TERRORISM AND RESPONSES TO TERRORISM (START), GLOBAL TERRORISM DATABASE (1970-2017, PRELIMINARY DATA: JAN.-OCT. 2018); RICCARDO PRAVETTONI, RHIPTO; INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION; EMMANUEL GRÉGOIRE AND LAURENT GAGNOL, “RUÉES VERS L’OR AU SAHARA,” ECHOGÉO, 2017; U.S. AFRICA COMMAND; ÉTAT-MAJOR DES ARMÉES, FRANCE; UNITED NATIONS; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; EOX IT SERVICES GMBH

We found some of the latter behind mud-brick walls, killing time quietly in back rooms, waiting for the Monday convoy. Four boys, 15 to 18, from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ivory Coast, eyes glassily attuned to a small TV. A wiry 50-year-old man from Cameroon hoping to rejoin his wife in Germany but for now pacing in an unlit room with walls covered in graffiti from others in transit: Ezekiel. Tala. Cherif Kante. May God help us all. Two brothers from a Burkina Faso village, skinny but with impeccable teeth, impeccably innocent: had not gone to school, did not know their ages, had a brother waiting in Algeria, had only a change or two of clothes, hoping somehow to get to a place called Europe.

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That same morning, the day before the convoy was to head out, the Boss escorted me behind a wall and into a courtyard littered with rusted car parts, where a couple dozen young African men—most but not all from Niger—were sleeping or smoking in the shade. An 18-year-old from Agadez named Mohammed was tinkering with the engine of his pickup. He had returned from Libya with the convoy just two hours earlier and was visibly groggy. Tomorrow he would be northbound again. Mohammed said that he had been traveling this circuit every week since he was 15. Bullet holes scarred the passenger seat and left-rear fender of his battered truck. He had been held up in the desert four times in the past three years. Mohammed assured me that such experiences had scared the hell out of him. He had been an auto mechanic and still did repair work, he said, but added, “The money is better here.”

The teenage truck driver, his fidgety passengers, even the Boss: In the end, their stories converge. Unrest is the abiding narrative of West Africa. It is a region thrashed by economic despair, spiking and drastically shifting population, environmental degradation, political instability, and, increasingly, violence. It is spinning out of control. And Niger, haloed as it is by five of the continent’s greatest incubators of Islamist extremist groups—Algeria and Libya to the north, Mali to the west, Chad to the east, and Nigeria to the south—is poorer than all of them and yet the most pacific, for now. As the U.S. ambassador to the country, Eric Whitaker, gently puts it, “Niger is a good country in a rough neighborhood.”

Picture of a landscape of old mud buildings
The historic Agadez city center is built of mud brick and dates to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Preserving its safe distance from peril is a vexing proposition. But given the country’s status as “a critical actor in regional efforts to counter terrorism and promote stability” (as the State Department puts it), a tacit understanding among some Western powers seems to have coalesced: Lose Niger—the one country in its “rough neighborhood” that has not become a cauldron of violence and extremist activity—and all bets are off. It is why an air base was being built by the U.S. Air Force on the outskirts of Agadez when I was there and why U.S. special operations forces have participated in counterterrorism missions in Niger—one of which in October 2017 led to the deaths of four U.S. soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers, and a Nigerien interpreter in an ambush by Islamist militants. It is why foreign aid makes up 40 percent of Niger’s budget. It is also why the Boss, while dispersing West Africans across the globe, is in his own paradoxical way helping to hold a region together that could very easily come apart.

One morning the Boss paid a visit to my hotel in Agadez. He slouched in a chair on the patio, wearing sunglasses and a turban, a toothpick in his mouth, brooding as he listened to a French radio program on his smartphone. Eventually he muttered, “The European community has blocked everything. Tourism, migration, the mines. What else is there to do but sleep? Someone bites you and then tells you not to cry.”

The villagers of Goofat, an hour’s drive from Agadez, gathered one day last December. Mostly Tuaregs, a semi-settled, largely Muslim group, they were electing a chief for the first time. The event was one of scrupulous fanfare. A cow was slaughtered, and a band played folk songs. The women wore gold jewelry with their faces tinted yellow as they sat cross-legged on rugs. The men wore bright turbans and their best robes. One by one, a representative from each of the village’s 270 or so families—often a woman—was called by last name to fill out a ballot for or against the sole candidate and drop it into a plastic bin.


Picture of a bustling outdoor market, a man rides in a motorcycle in the foreground
Agadez has long been a crossroads of trade, connecting the Sahel to North Africa and West Africa to the Middle East. The city’s bus station is the hub for migrants.
After nearly two hours of voting and ballot counting, the landslide winner, a slender, middle-aged man from the Kourouza family, dutifully stepped forward, took his place in a chair, and affected a regal scowl while village elders solemnly wrapped his head in a purple turban.

Beneath the pageantry, however, lurked a disquieting reality: The families elected Mohamed Kourouza chief because they had decided Goofat had grown too big to remain ungoverned. Infants and small children far outnumbered the adults in their dazzling wardrobes. The agrarian village’s population, about 2,300, has roughly doubled in less than 20 years. With more babies comes the need for more schools, more social services, and more grazing land, along with the potential for more conflict. Writ small, Goofat is the cautionary parable of Niger—a country nearly twice the size of Texas, with about three and a half times its fertility rate but a mere 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product.

Even by a troubled continent’s standards, Niger’s predicament is grave, bracketed by two sobering statistics: a GDP per capita of about a thousand dollars, one of the world’s lowest, and a fertility rate of seven births per woman, which is the highest. But demography does not fully explain the precarious state of Niger. As a landlocked desert country, it has faced punishing droughts, and climate change is expected to make them harsher. Poverty and environmental fragility have in turn exacerbated political instability.

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Niger has endured four military coups, the latest in 2010. In the past 30 years, it has also experienced two bloody Tuareg rebellions. The most recent, which ended a decade ago, left an abiding scar across the largest of Niger’s eight regions, Agadez. Until then, the city of Agadez had been a tourist gateway to the Sahara, receiving up to 20,000 visitors annually, many via direct flights from Paris. The three years of violent skirmishes between the rebels and Niger’s army had the effect of vaporizing the predominant industry. The travel business began to regard Agadez as a zone rouge.

Picture of a woman wearing all white with gold ascents casting a vote otuside
A Tuareg woman in Goofat casts her family’s vote in the election of a village chief. Within the past 20 years, the village population has doubled to 2,300, paralleling a nationwide demographic trend.

Into the void stepped the Boss and others in the migrant-moving trade. Because of the city’s geographic position, Agadez—derived from the Tuareg word egdez, “to visit”—had for centuries been a transit point for salt caravans and other camel-borne nomadic traders. As a hub for African migrants, Agadez was well situated and, for that matter, well equipped with former tourist guides and drivers.

“As many as 300,000 migrants came through here every year,” recalled the city’s mayor, Rhissa Feltou. “Drivers, hotels, markets, banks, telephone companies—the whole city benefited.”

The migrant flow became a gusher in 2011, after the fall of Libya’s ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, ruptured Niger’s border with Libya. But the southbound traffic now included guns diverted from Libyan government stockpiles. The barely checked acceleration of migrants further strained social resources in European countries while creating humanitarian tragedies in the desert and at sea. The porousness of African borders raised concerns about the spread of terrorism—all the more so since the U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and in Iraq against ISIS had compelled those groups to seek a more hospitable refuge.

After the European Union offered financial inducements, Niger’s government in 2015 criminalized transporting migrants. In Agadez the police confiscated scores of pickup trucks. Coxeurs and drivers were arrested, along with the Boss, who spent three weeks in jail. The city’s number one source of revenue had been officially banned, in effect consigning Agadez’s post-tourism economy to the black market.

Picture of a man hoisting camels out of shelter in a butcher shop
Buyers choose animals at the livestock market and send them to this slaughterhouse in Agadez, where camels, goats, sheep, and other animals are killed and then sent to butchers who sell the meat.
Even with the crackdown on human smuggling, Agadez’s location ensures it will remain a transit point for foreign travelers. Today it has a new type of guest. Known as Air Base 201, it is a military installation owned by the Nigerien government but leased by the U.S. and inhabited by some 550 of the latter’s Air Force personnel. Its existence is hardly a secret, but its American occupants are a discreet presence—showing up in Agadez to rebuild a school, or in a nearby village to construct a water well, but largely staying on base. When I visited in December, American military engineers were busily constructing a mile-long runway that can withstand desert conditions. C-17 and C-130 aircraft will use the runway, along with weaponized MQ-9 drones, which will not only monitor the activities of extremist groups but also target them.

These operations will extend well beyond the Agadez region and into the “rough neighborhood” that has bred extremist groups. “The enemy exploits these borders—which are very porous—all the time,” said Samantha Reho, spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command, responsible for overseeing the U.S. military’s role in Niger.

The counterterrorism mission comes with obvious risks, attested to by the October 2017 ambush. (No incidents of U.S. troops drawing fire have been reported in the past year.) But the American military presence is an act of national security self-interest, not foreign benevolence. As the State Department starkly describes it, “U.S. foreign assistance to Niger plays a critical role in preserving stability in a country vulnerable to political volatility, terrorism and the spread of violent extremism, food insecurity, and regional instability.”


Agadez itself has not been named in recent intelligence threat assessments, according to a U.S. defense official. But the presence of a military base and the city’s distance from the borderlands can protect Agadez for only so long. The conversations behind mud-brick walls reflect a gathering discontent. Young men enumerating their all but exhausted options. They had attended school, looked for work, played by the rules. With few jobs to be had, some found their place in the Boss’s racket. After seeing friends get arrested and their trucks impounded, they withdrew. And now they are waiting for whatever might come next.

Picture of two tuareg women smoking shisha inside
Two Tuareg women socialize in a hookah bar in the historic city center of Agadez.
Meanwhile they were hearing about other young men making appeals: Looking for a job? We will pay. Need money for a wedding? We will pay. The YouTube videos and WhatsApp texts from the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram were making the rounds.

One evening at a fada—an ad hoc social gathering of young Nigerien men over hot tea and card games—an enterprising individual who had once made a decent living importing pickups but now had few takers bowed out of the crazy eights game and considered his lot morosely.

“Things cannot keep going at this rate,” he said quietly. “It will become a jungle.”

At the southern edge of the Sahara, a West African gold rush is under way. Thousands of men attack a rubble-strewn scrubland. Some swing pickaxes and use shovels. A few operate a power drill. Others have no tools at all—only rocks to loosen the dirt by hand. 


Occasionally the ground shakes, accompanied by a muffled concussive boom: dynamite. It’s a more efficient way of digging, if rather dangerous and for that matter illegal—though many if not most of these men already are going about their work without an official government permit.

All around them stretches what one might call a tent city, except that the tents have been tattered by the winds into ribbons that flap above miners who lie snoring on the ground.

The squatter village is called Amzeguer, and it did not exist until about five years ago.

Picture of girls and boys in school separated by a wall
In Agadez, an Izala school educates about 1,300 students. Izala is a back-to-basics Islamic reformist movement that adheres to conservative practices, such as women covering their faces, but also prizes education.

In a drearily familiar African paradox, Niger is mineral rich, the world’s fifth largest producer of uranium, even as it ranks lowest on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. (Its three largest mines are joint ventures with French multinationals. The plummeting price of uranium has led to layoffs of Nigerien workers.)

In 2017 the government closed its largest gold-mining area, on the Djado Plateau to the north—ostensibly because of terrorist activity, though more likely because of foreign miners coming in from Chad, Sudan, and Libya. Many of the Nigerien miners were now here, along with other men from Agadez whose labors constituted a desperate stab at a quasi-legitimate livelihood.

“Do I have hope?” says a 46-year-old man named Jamal, who then pulls his scarf away to reveal his sand-caked face. “Look at my beard. It’s turning white from hoping.”

Jamal stands on a hill pocked with deep holes. “We dug down to 53 meters deep, but then we hit water,” he says. “We need to flush it out. There’s a pump all of us share, but it broke down.” He points several yards away, to a lanky miner in a blue jumpsuit almost entirely coated with a film of dust. The man, along with his 11 sons (ages 12 to 30), had managed to dig a hole to 60 meters and had encountered traces of the precious mineral. “The gold’s right there waiting,” Jamal maintains. “We just need to find some money to fix our pump.”

Picture of hundreds of men working above ground at a gold mine
Hundreds of shafts line a gold mine in northern Niger on the border with Algeria. Teams turn cranks to lower miners more than 300 feet to gold-bearing layers. The miners bring up rock to be crushed, releasing the treasure.
Amzeguer has been Jamal’s workplace for nearly three years. Before that he was a desert guide for migrants based in Agadez, with six drivers under his supervision. After the migration ban took effect, the police seized two of his pickups. Now he is a penniless artisanal miner. Several of his new colleagues died in the shafts after a tool was dropped on them or a mine collapsed. “Both jobs are risky,” he says.

“But,” he muses, “if someone calls me from the city, saying, ‘I’ve got 50 migrants, and can you help move them?’ of course I’ll do it.” Jamal’s voice is matter-of-fact. “If I can’t find gold, I’ll go back,” he says. “If not on a Hilux truck, then on a camel caravan, the way they used to.”

“Until very recently, you did not find thieves in Agadez,” said Sheikh Salahadine Madani, the imam of Agadez’s strict Islamic school, Daroul Kouran. “They would work in tourism or with migrants or go to the mines to find gold. Now, when I visit the prison, I see people I would never expect to see there. They are honest people who became desperate.”

The imam, visiting my hotel, sipped a Coca-Cola under the shade of a patio umbrella. His voice was heavy with lament. Nonetheless, he bristled when I mentioned to him that the orthodox Islamic movement he’s part of, known as Izala, has historical ties to Boko Haram’s founder.

“The Quran doesn’t say that you should kill innocents in the name of Islam,” he pointed out. Madani conceded, however, that the path from economic desperation to violent extremism was well worn. “Yes, I’ve seen this,” he said. “You hear kids sometimes talking about how they have no opportunities. You hear them in the streets talking about how maybe this is the only option left.”

Picture of a young teen boy dusted with sand wearing a purple head scarf
A teenager is dusted with sand from toiling in a mine. He is one of many Nigeriens who joined the rush for gold in the north, the last hope for jobless men after tourism plunged, uranium mining declined, and a law made transporting migrants a crime.

Still, this option—calamitously antisocial, blasphemous, ultimately self-nullifying—seems anathema to West Africans, who go to astounding lengths to avoid it. Whatever one may think of the Boss and his clients, their sheer tenacity is astounding.

One morning at a shelter in Agadez that helps migrants return to their homelands, I met Mohamed, a 19-year-old from Ivory Coast who wore a necklace with a razor blade dangling from it. Mohamed had been there for five days.

He said, without going into specifics, that there had been family problems back in his village—and that, regardless, his dream had always been to live in America. And so, in August 2018, Mohamed paid for a six-day drive in the back of a pickup to Gao, in Mali. Along the way, he and the 19 other passengers were robbed and several of their water bottles slashed by bandits. They walked the final 70 miles in the desert to Algeria.

Mohamed spent a month working as an auto mechanic in the border town of Bordj Badji Mokhtar. He then traveled by foot and hitched rides into Morocco, hoping to find passage by water to Spain and from there to the U.S.

Instead Moroccan immigration authorities jailed him for five days. He then escaped back to Algeria, where he was briefly jailed again before being relieved of the last of his money. Finding no further use for him, Algerian authorities deposited Mohamed onto the back of a dump truck, which drove him into Niger and left him in the desert. After several days on foot, he arrived in Agadez, four months from the beginning of his fruitless journey.

When the mechanic had finished telling me his story, he did not seem particularly discouraged by it. Before I could offer any sympathy, he blurted out, “I don’t want to go home. I’ve decided on my goal.”

Mohamed had a new plan. He would return to Ivory Coast, make money, get a passport, and buy a direct flight to Morocco, bypassing the desert altogether. And then to the sea.

“If God gives me the chance,” he said, “and I arrive in Europe alive and healthy, I think I can make it”—by which he meant make it to America, a land of millions of vehicles in need of a clever mechanic.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/maga ... st-africa/

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