The three-year transition rejected and a jihadist threat difficult to measure

Did you miss the latest events on the conflict in Niger? 20 minutes takes stock for you every evening at 8 p.m. Who did what ? Who said what? Where are we ? The answer below.

The fact of the day

The West African countries opposed to the coup d’etat in Niger rejected the idea of ​​a maximum three-year transition launched this weekend by the soldiers who took power, a sign that a way out of the crisis diplomacy still seems distant. “A three-year transition period is unacceptable,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, commissioner for political affairs, peace and security of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “We want constitutional order to be restored as soon as possible,” he added in an interview with Al-Jazeera, reaffirming the regional organization’s inflexible stance since the July 26 coup.

Saturday evening, when an ECOWAS delegation was in Niamey to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, Niger’s new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani, announced that he was considering a transition of “three years” maximum, before returning power to civilians. An unthinkable idea for ECOWAS, which has been insisting since the coup that the overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum must be released and reinstated in power.

The number of the day

2. This is, in millions, the number of children in “need of humanitarian aid” in Niger, said the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), in a press release sent to AFP. “Before the recent civil unrest and political instability in Niger”, UNICEF already estimated in 2023 “at 1.5 million the number of children under 5 suffering from malnutrition, including at least 430,000 suffering from the form the deadliest form of malnutrition”. According to Unicef, these figures may increase “if food prices continue to rise and an economic recession hits families, households and incomes”.

sentence of the day

If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park that some believe. »

These are the words of General Tiani spoken when Abdel-Fatau Musah, commissioner for political affairs, peace and security of ECOWAS, had just indicated that “on the day of the intervention” of the “force in expectation” was set, as were “the strategic objectives, the necessary equipment and the commitment of the Member States”.

The trend of the day

Several deadly attacks have hit Niger since the July 26 coup that toppled elected president Mohamed Bazoum, but analysts warn against a hasty interpretation of the scant data available. As soon as they came to power, the soldiers who overthrew President Bazoum argued that the security situation had deteriorated to justify their coup. A perception shared by some Nigeriens, but which seems contradicted by the statistics.

In the first six months of 2023, attacks on civilians had thus fallen by 49% compared to the first six months of 2022, and the number of deaths by 16%, according to the NGO Acled. An improvement partly attributed to the “outstretched hand” strategy (peace agreements between communities, development projects, negotiations with leaders of armed groups, etc.) implemented to fight against jihadist groups by Bazoum, unique in the Sahel.

Moreover, the number of attacks and victims does not necessarily reflect the feeling of insecurity maintained by the jihadist groups, which exercise a form of indirect control, sometimes very far from their bases. “If visible violence is decreasing, that does not necessarily mean that people are living better. Taxes are still levied, and even if the number of attacks is falling, the influence of armed groups is spreading inside Niger, ”says Tatiana Smirnova, researcher at the Center Franco Paix in conflict resolution. An influence that is reflected in particular by the closure of primary and secondary schools in the Sahel. About 890 schools were closed in August 2022 due to insecurity in the four regions of Niger most affected by the attacks, including Tillabéri, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In May 2023, the Nigerien Ministry of Education indicated that more than 900 schools were no longer functioning in the Tillabéri region alone.

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