For several years, Niger has been experiencing a deplorable security and humanitarian situation on all its borders with neighboring countries. In addition to conventional threats such as the circulation of non-conventional weapons, drug and human trafficking and cross-border banditry, Niger is under pressure from non-governmental armed groups (NGAG) on three main fronts.
In the South-East
In the region of Diffa, the security situation remains marked by repeated attacks and kidnappings for ransom demanded by non-governmental armed groups. According to UNOCHA, between January and September of 2020, approximately 402 people were killed, injured, or abducted, which resulted in death, injury, or continuous population movements, in the departments of N'Guigmi, Bosso, Mainé Soroa and Diffa in search for protection. As a reminder, the conflict in the region of Diffa started in 2013 and led to the establishment of the state of emergency by the Niger Government since 11 February 2015 and this is renewed every three months. The last renewal date was 9 January 2021. According to the Niger Government, as the security situation in these communities remains fragile, the decision of renewal is taken to ensure the safety of people and their property and restore public order in these parts of Niger. The state of emergency covers the regions of Diffa, Tillabery and Tahoua. All these regions have been under repeated attacks in recent years by terrorist groups, including Boko Haram Islamists in some locations in Diffa from their positions in Nigeria, and terrorist groups from northern Mali in western Niger.
The last attack in the region of Diffa occurred on 12 December 2020 when the municipality of Toumour was targeted by heavy attacks of the NGAG. These attacks caused enormous damage both in terms of loss of life and essential household items, leaving the population in an increased vulnerability. The first rapid joint needs assessments carried out by the Niger Red Cross and other humanitarian actors revealed that a total of 3,977 affected households, approximately 20,600 people needed emergency assistance. As of 20 January 2021, the number of affected households had almost doubled to 6,854 households with 47,936 people affected. Toumour is a rural commune in the department of Bosso with a population estimated at 60,000 inhabitants of which 31,626 people (approximately 9,250 households) were in a situation of displacement: 19,526 refugees, 8,339 internally displaced people (IDPs), 3,647 returnees and 114 asylum seekers.
In addition, the Diffa region has been hosting Nigerian refugees fleeing terrorist violence in the northern states of Nigeria since 2013. In the wake of the first attacks on the Niger territory in 2015, the situation has dramatically deteriorated. In May 2015, the Nigerien authorities decided to evacuate the population living in the region of Lake Chad Islands towards an internally displaced camp in Kablewa, which was closed in July 2017 following bombing attack in the camp and recurrent insecurity. The organized return of IDPs to their villages of origin explains the decrease in the number of IDPs in Diffa. As of June 2021, Nigerien authorities have committed to facilitate the return in villages of origin of all IDPs. As of July 31; 5,987 households of 32,201 persons have returned in 17 villages of origin, bringing the total number of IDPs in the region to 68,263 households of 243,148 individuals. The security situation continued to be characterized by attacks against military positions, kidnappings against ransom, and targeted killings. Insurgent movements are regularly reported in Niger and Nigerian Territory, in border areas of the of the vicinity of the Nigerien’s communes of Gueskerou, Diffa, Chetimari and Maine-Soroa. 2021_OCHA_A4_Situation hum_Toumour 27012021 V2 (reliefweb.int).
According to the UNHCR factsheet released on 31 January 2021, at least 269,589 people (74,621 households) are in a situation of forced displacement in the region of Diffa. This includes 127,233 Nigerian refugees, 104,588 IDPs, 35 659 returnees, and 2,109 asylum seekers. Narratif mise jour des chiffres globaux - Janvier 2021.pdf
In the North-West
The security situation along the border between Mali and Burkina Faso began to deteriorate in 2017 with repeated incursions of non-state armed groups (NGAG) in the regions of Tillaberi and Tahoua, particularly in localities of 50 to 80 km from the three borders. This phenomenon become much more pronounced in 2019 and 2020, resulting in attacks against the Government Defense and Security Forces (DSF) positions, targeted assassinations, and abuses against civilian populations (abductions, kidnappings, forced tithing, theft of livestock, etc.).
In the South, Region of Maradi
Since April 2019, the northwestern states of Nigeria Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara neighboring the Maradi region of Niger have experienced a rise of insecurity due to armed groups, militias, and unidentified criminal gangs. According to the Nigerian authorities, the attacks of these armed groups began with cattle thefts in Katsina state followed by conflict clashes between farmers and animal herders of different ethnic groups present in the area. Despite security measures taken by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by deploying military and police, the situation deteriorated rapidly. Indeed, armed groups have adapted new operational tactics with use of machetes, thus carrying out abductions of local population followed often by acts of sexual violence. This situation caused a population movement towards the department (local government) of Guidan Roumdji (Maradi region). The number of refugees identified by the UNHCR in collaboration with the National Eligibility Commission as per 30 April 2019, was estimated to 36,469 refugees (9,959 households). The multiplication of attacks on the border strip with Nigeria at the beginning of the year 2020 ended by assassinations, kidnappings and looting of goods. According to the UNOCHA monthly report of September 2020, the biometric registration of refugees reported that, as of 31 August 2020, a total of 10,916 households (41,096 people) was registered in the region of Maradi, out of which 67% were children, 23% women, and 10% men. Among these registered refugees, there are 13,832 people with special needs, which corresponds to 34%. (ner_rapport_mensuel_sous_bureau_maradi_zinder_septembre_2020.pdf (humanitarianresponse.info). Since June 2018, Nigerien security patrols in the Maradi region (Bordering Nigeria) have been reinforced amid rising security concerns, notably an uptick in kidnapping-for-ransom cases in the area. According to the regional governor, criminals responsible for the increasing insecurity are entering the country by posing as one of the many refugees fleeing violence in neighboring Nigeria. Increasingly frequent security operations are to be anticipated throughout Maradi in the coming weeks and months.
Deadly intercommunal clashes and attacks have been ongoing in Zamfara state (Nigeria) for several months, prompting hundreds of civilians to take refuge in neighboring states, including Niger.