Subscribe: IRIN - Niger
http://www.irinnews.org/RSS/Niger.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
groups  humanitarian  irin  mali  mali’s  migrants  migration  minusma  new  peace  region  sahel  security  states  week   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: IRIN - Niger

IRIN - Niger





 



Shifting relationships, growing threats: Who’s who of insurgent groups in the Sahel

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:55:24 +0000

In the six years since a separatist rebellion broke out in northern Mali in January 2012, armed groups in West Africa’s Sahel region have grown considerably in both number and the complexity of their ever-evolving relationships with one another. Some of Mali’s armed groups signed a peace accord in 2015. But implementation of its provisions has been very slow, while insecurity - especially in the central region - continues to deteriorate with the emergence of new jihadist elements, which are also active near the borders in Burkina Faso and Niger. Meanwhile, in Nigeria and some of its neighbouring states, Boko Haram is still causing havoc almost a decade after it started its insurgency. Here’s a brief overview of the key non-state armed actors in the region: Signatories to Mali’s 2015 peace accord   These comprise two opposing camps: Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (The Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA) A loose coalition of former rebel movements with shared interests, such as self-determination (full independence is no longer on their official agenda). Azawad was the name given to the short-lived and unrecognised state in northern Mali in 2012 by the separatist Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA). The CMA also includes the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), and the Haut Comité pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA).   La Plateforme des groupes armées (The Platform of Armed Groups) This is a diverse range of nominally pro-government groups, which purport to defend Mali’s territorial sovereignty and sometimes fight alongside the regular army. They also have their own individual interests. The Platform comprises the Groupe d’autodéfense touareg Imrad et alliés (Tuareg Imrad Self-defence Group and its Allies, or GATIA), a branch of the MAA, and the Coordination des mouvements et Front patriotique de résistance (Coordination of Movements and Patriotic Resistance Front, or CM-FPR). Since the peace accord was signed, clashes have frequently broken out between the two camps, delaying the deal’s implementation, worsening the plight of civilians, and playing into the hands of jihadist groups. In 2016, CMA and Platform members were implicated in 174 cases of abuses against civilians, and a further 72 in the first quarter of 2017, according to the human rights division of the UN stabilisation mission in Mali, MINUSMA. Tensions eased somewhat between two camps after they signed a ceasefire in September 2017. Non-signatories and dissidents Former rebels unhappy with the way in which the CMA is handling the peace process, especially its emphasis on the Kidal region and the Ifoghas confederation of Tuareg clans, have formed several new entities based on geography and community. Congrès pour la Justice de l’Azawad (Congress for Azawad Justice, or CJA) in the Timbuktu region Mouvement pour le Salut de l’Azawad (Movement for Azawad Salvation, or MSA) in the Menaka region Branche dissidente de la CM-MPR (Dissident wing of the CM-MPR)   The exclusion of these new groups from some mechanisms of the peace process, despite their military strength and the portion of the population they represent, calls into question its relevance, given that the context it was signed in has since changed so significantly. In early February 2018, GATIA said it was impossible for the terms of the peace accord to solve Mali’s crisis in its current form, and called for inclusive dialogue on all of the deal’s shortcomings.   Jihadist and related groups   Jamaat Nosrat al-Islam wal-Mouslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, JNIM or GNIM).   In March 2017, the main jihadist groups in the Sahel – Ansar Dine, the Macina Liberation Front, Al-Mourabitoun, and the Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – announced they had formed an alliance under the banner of this new entity.   JNIM bills itself as the official branch of al-Qaeda in Mali. As such, it consolidates that group’s presence in the Sahel and puts Sahel players, especially Ansar Dine, firmly on the global[...]



A dozen shades of khaki: counter-insurgency operations in the Sahel

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 14:19:36 +0000

In 2011, several African states warned about the likely consequences of an international military intervention in Libya aimed at toppling Muammar Gaddafi. Now, six years after his death, security in the Sahel region has never been worse. In a domino effect, from 2012, the spillover from the Libyan crisis bolstered the Tuareg rebellion in Mali, which in turn facilitated a jihadist incursion, which, after briefly being halted by France’s Operation Serval, arose from the ashes stronger than ever and spread across neighbouring states. “Mali’s roots were rotten, it just needed a breeze to make it collapse,” summarised a former Malian minister recently. In Mali, the state is now hardly present across much of the country. In mid-December, barely a quarter of state agents were in their posts in the six northern and central regions. According to an opposition party tally, 2017 was Mali’s most deadly year since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita came to power in 2013. Yet the Sahel region has never been so militarised; it is rife with insurgencies and counter-insurgency forces of various stripes. Relative veterans from France and the United States have recently been joined by troops from Italy and Germany, and by a new regional coalition, as well as by forms of warfare new to the region. Presented as solutions by their political masters, the military missions detailed below are seen by others as pouring fuel on the fire, and as simplistic responses to complex problems. United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Created in April 2013, this UN mission, now consisting of 13,000 troops, was supposed to stabilise northern regions of Mali after the lightning assault launched against jihadist groups there three months earlier by France’s Operation Serval (see below). Instead, MINUSMA faced a resurgence of these groups outside major urban centres and found itself exposed to mobile and seasoned guerrillas. They proved to be beyond the mission’s capabilities to control, and, arguably, peripheral to its mandate. “The UN deployed [here] without a peace accord, which is normally a precursor for a peacekeeping mission,” MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif told IRIN. “On the other hand, the idea that MINUSMA came here to fight terrorists has always been a major misunderstanding between Malians and MINUSMA, and unfortunately one that still exists.” Annual revisions of the mission’s mandate aimed at making the force more reactive have failed to silence critics. Both within and outside Mali, questions have been raised about the utility of spending more than a billion dollars in a single year when the mission has proved unable to fulfil its core tasks of protecting civilians and defending human rights. The killing of civilians during demonstrations by peacekeepers and accusations of rape have helped to sour pubic opinion of MINUMSA. The mission’s relations with the Malian government have frequently been strained, not least over the neutrality MINUSMA has shown towards certain rebel groups, a stance Bamako viewed as impeding the state’s recovery of its sovereignty over the entire country. The force’s limitations have frequently been highlighted. The latest report on Mali by the UN secretary-general, for example, noted that, “the lack of armoured troop carriers, especially of vehicles protected against landmines, remains a major obstacle to the mission's operations”. The previous report, issued in September, said MINUSMA’s civilian protection mandate had been compromised by the “absence of adequate air assets”. Both publically and in private, MINUSMA officials have made no secret of their frustration at being used as a punching ball and cash cow by Malian politicians. Harandane Dicko/MINUSMA Another prominent component of the force’s mandate is to oversee the implementation of the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. MINUSMA itself is paying the price for the breakdown of that accord: 133 [...]



New Sahel anti-terror force: risks and opportunities

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 17:14:24 +0000

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger are teaming up to take on Islamist militants with the launch of a the 5,000-strong "FC-G5S" force in the restive Sahel. But are more boots on the ground the answer? UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently told the Security Council, which votes today on whether to fund the nascent multinational military force, that supporting it was “an opportunity that cannot be missed” and that failing to back it would carry serious risks for a region where insecurity has become “extremely worrying”. The Security Council “welcomed the deployment” of the force in a resolution adopted in June, but put off a decision about financing. The resolution's wording was the subject of a prolonged tussle between France – the G5 force’s main proponent – and the United States, which didn’t believe a resolution was necessary, sees the force’s mandate as too broad, and, as the world body’s biggest contributor, isn’t convinced the UN should bankroll it. On Friday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington wants to know “what the strategy would be, how they see this playing out, what’s involved in it, before we ever commit to UN-assessed funding”.  France has been working hard to win over the United States. On a visit to Washington last week, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the former colonial power had no desire to become the “Praetorian Guard of sovereign African countries”. Existing forces In 2013 and 2014, France’s Operation Serval drove back militants in Mali’s northern desert from some of the towns and other sanctuaries they had taken. With attacks nevertheless continuing and having spread beyond Mali’s borders, 4,000 French troops are currently deployed under the banner of Operation Barkhane across all the G5 states. Mali is also home to the 14,000-strong MINUSMA force, one of the UN’s most expensive peacekeeping missions. It has come under frequent attack by militant groups such as the Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an al-Qaeda-linked coalition forged last March. Some 86 blue helmets have been killed in militant attacks since MINUSMA was established in July 2013.   Meanwhile, efforts by civil society groups to negotiate with some jihadist groups have come to nought, while parties to a 2015 peace agreement between Mali’s government and two coalitions of domestic armed groups – a deal that excluded the jihadists – are embroiled in violent divisions among themselves. Some of these domestic groups are also responsible for attacks against the state.  These divisions have dimmed hopes of forging any kind of common front against the jihadists, and even of properly implementing the 2015 accord. The government’s failure to address widespread political and economic grievance further undermines its position. Sylvain Liechti/UN Photo The MINUSMA Camp in Kidal was targeted by intensive rocket and mortar fire Humanitarian fallout All this insecurity comes at a high price for Mali’s civilians. At the end of the 2016-17 academic year, 500 schools were closed, up from 296 the previous year, while the numbers of refugees and internally displaced reached a record 140,000 and 55,000 respectively. Acute malnutrition among children under five has reached “critical levels” in conflict-affected areas around Timbuktu and Gao, according to UNICEF. The agency predicts that 165,000 children across the country will be acutely malnourished next year. “Repeated criminal acts” prompted the International Committee of the Red Cross to suspend its operations in the northern Kidal region in mid-October. Funding concerns The primary mandate of the G5 force will be to secure the bloc’s common borders and fight “terrorist” and criminal groups. The force’s headquarters were established in September in the central Malian town of Sévaré, but its financing has yet to be secured. “Estimates [...]



Libya's migration crisis is about more than just security

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 14:53:36 +0000

There’s no shortage of news on Libya’s migration crisis, but there is a serious dearth of policy solutions.   Late last month, the International Organization for Migration announced what passes for good news at the moment: no deaths on the Mediterranean for 20 days. This followed reports, later denied, that Italy had been paying militias to prevent people from leaving Libya’s shores.   But the risk of drowning is far from the only danger facing migrants attempting the central Mediterranean route into Europe. Migrants are subject to arbitrary detention, arrest, harassment, bonded labour, slavery, and sexual exploitation.   And even as drowning numbers are down, IOM says there has been an increase in trafficking rather than smuggling on the central Mediterranean route – the former distinguished by the coercion and extortion that continues after arrival at the destination. This trend is partly because fewer Syrians (and migrants in general) are making the journey, so those plying the route are seeking ways to keep profits up – sub-Saharan African women appear to be paying a horrible price in this shift, finding themselves forced into the sex industry in greater numbers.   Human rights groups, humanitarians, and governments are naturally concerned, but some rights advocates feel the anti-trafficking policies of the European Union and others are more aimed at stopping migration entirely.   “The war on traffickers has been something that – time and time again – when politicians find themselves with the backs to the wall, they reach to,” Mark Micallef, a specialist researcher on the subject at the Global Initiative Against Transnational and Organized Crime, told IRIN.   Fighting trafficking or fighting migration?   The EU’s Operation Sophia, which aims to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks, in part by taking apart the boats themselves, has come under fire for muddling the fight on traffickers and smugglers with stopping migration altogether.   “Trying to stop slavery at the point of destroying boats in the middle of the Mediterranean doesn’t actually help people,” Claire Seaward, humanitarian campaign and advocacy manager at Oxfam, told IRIN. “As we are seeing, migrants will just use different types of boats. They used to be on large wooden boats and now they are on inflatable dinghies."   Tim Eaton, a research fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, believes one of Operation Sophia’s major flaws is looking at migration – and migrants – through a one-dimensional lens, when it’s really about so much more, like economics and hope. “On a policy level, the problem comes when you look at this solely as a security problem,” Eaton told IRIN. Disposable Africans - migration and its consequences Securing borders and clamping down on criminals including traffickers may be useful in some respects, but it won’t stop desperate migrants from coming, nor does it take into account the dangers they face while inside Libya.   Limited options   But there don’t seem to be a whole lot of viable alternatives, especially when many parts of Libya are so dangerous it’s impractical to put aid workers on the ground.   Where NGOs can help is in assisting suspected trafficking victims and training law enforcement officers and emergency responders. Annemarie Loof, operations manager at Médecins Sans Frontières, said the charity gives “[migrants in Libya] a telephone number they can call anywhere from Europe. We talk to them about trafficking and the sex industry. We flag it to the [Italian] authorities.”   Izabella Cooper, spokeswoman for EU border agency Frontex, said it has trained staff to recognise signs of people-trafficking on the ships it deploys as part of Operation Triton, the EU naval mission that backstops Italy’s own rescue operations. “In many cases these girls do not know they are being trafficked,” Cooper told IRIN. “[...]



Hurricane versus Monsoon

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 23:00:00 +0000

US media last week mentioned Hurricane Harvey at least 100 times more than India. Outside the United States, media produced three times more about Texan flooding than Asia's in recent days. Monsoon floods on the other side of the world are worse than Harvey, but aid agencies say America's crisis is sucking up all the attention. Using open data, IRIN has quantified the relative online news coverage and found yawning gaps.  It is important to note that headlines and news coverage are only part of the picture. Fundraisers know that some things will always resonate more with the public and studies show that donors are motivated by far more than just media. Academics differ on how much influence the "CNN effect" really has on international aid funding. However, based on previous experience, Harvey will generate a huge outpouring of public donations at home, while faraway crises have to fight harder for attention and money.  Alison Carlman of GlobalGiving, an agency that fundraises for many often smaller non-profits and mostly in the United States, put it like this: "We're raising money for both floods. South Asian flood orgs have raised just over $12K. Our Harvey Fund is at $1.69M now. The Sierra Leone mudslides have raised $55K." This month, the South Asian floods have hit India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, which are facing exceptional weather and massive humanitarian impacts. Floods across the three countries have affected some 41 million people (That's about 10 times the total population of Metro Houston), according to the UN. In Asia, some 1,200 deaths are reported. In the United States, the death toll is slowly rising and currently stands at 38.  Data GDELT, a huge database of online news from around the world, automatically tags articles with their topics and geographic focus. Of about 30 million stories it scanned, some 200,000 covered natural disasters so far this month.  The GDELT data can help answer the question: How much attention have the Asian and American floods got at home and abroad? First we compared coverage of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal with coverage of the state of Texas. Not surprisingly, US media shows an explosion of coverage since Harvey emerged. The level of coverage of the Asian disasters is so much smaller it is almost insignificant by comparison.  According to this data, at its peak, Texas coverage in the US is about 160 times that of the Asian flooding.   allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="600" id="datawrapper-chart-oJ5xf" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/oJ5xf/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"> Another database, MediaCloud, counts the number of words in articles produced by a range of US media. We searched the last week of news in US media for the word "flooding" and looked at the word counts. The graphic below represents how many times the top 500 words appear. The word "Houston" appears 100 times more than "India". And garnering the attention required to generate the $4.4 billion the UN says is required by July to stave off a humanitarian “catastrophe” is only part of the battle. Devising the correct response strategy and securing the necessary access in complex and fragmented war zones is likely to be even harder. These four famines or near-famines do have similarities, but they also have different origins, different trajectories, and therefore different needs. Local factors are at play, with each country prone to its own combination of flaring conflict, weak governance, poor infrastructure, and failing markets.   Video: Inside the perfect storm of famine Inside the “perfect storm” of famine leer_jason_cattle.jpg Special Report Aid and Policy Conflict Food Health Politics and Economics IRIN Africa [...]



Lake Chad money, Oxfam-GOAL merger, and serial Syria talks: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:10:25 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors takes a look at what lies ahead on the humanitarian agenda and curates a selection of some of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed: What’s coming up? Finding $1.5 billion for Lake Chad The borders of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad meet at Lake Chad. The region is now one of the most critical humanitarian hotspots in the world, with a food security ranking teetering on the edge of full-blown famine in some areas. The UN says it can help about eight million of those in need if it is sufficiently funded.  Attacks by the extremist Boko Haram and counter-insurgency operations against them have uprooted millions and disrupted social services, trade, and agriculture.  Strained relations between Nigerian authorities and the international aid community have also played a part, while formidable logistics and security challenges hamper operations in neighbouring countries.  With South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria all clamouring for media clicks and donor dollars, the "Lake Chad Basin" humanitarian situation has to fight for attention even while its capacity to respond faces setbacks. Last night, fresh attacks and clashes were reported in Maiduguri, the forward base for a still-fragile humanitarian operation in northeastern Nigeria.  A conference in Norway on 24 February aims to stimulate donor contributions and diplomatic attention. Thematic sessions will be held on food, protection, access, and education. The one-day event co-hosted by Nigeria, Norway, and the UN, will include ministers from the affected nations and the most important donor countries, leaders of relevant regional organisations, development finance institutions, and UN bodies. And the pledgers better pledge: the UN-led response plans are costed at $1.5 billion. Own GOAL? The Irish NGO GOAL, reeling from a corruption scandal, has started merger talks with Oxfam Ireland, the two agencies announced. Regular IRIN readers will need no reminding of GOAL's problems. A procurement fraud in Turkey lifted the lid on a shocking web of conflicts of interest that has taken the scalp of the CEO and the COO already, and triggered an investigation by the US government that is still ongoing. GOAL's donors got spooked and its income has collapsed. The latest news confirms that the chances of GOAL surviving in its current form are receding by the day. Is it game over for GOAL? Lost in Syria peace talks One round of Syria peace talks is delayed but under way in the capital of Kazakhstan this week and yet another is due to start the following week in Geneva. The Russia- and Turkey-brokered Astana talks began a day late thanks to disagreements over the agenda, and the UN-sponsored negotiations are on shaky ground too: A key Syrian opposition body has said it wants to talk transition with Damascus, which for its part has no interest in engineering President Bashar al-Assad’s exit from power. Nobody knows exactly who will show up in Geneva, or when, or if they’ll actually do much talking at all. But it’s probably safe to bet that Syria’s long-winded UN rep Bashar al-Jaafari will make an appearance, and that there will be further splits among the opposition delegation, which has presented itself as unified. If all this sounds like déjà vu all over again, you’ve clearly been paying attention for the past six years. With talk now of Pentagon plans for US troops on the ground, tune in next week for our update from Aron Lund on the post-Astana pre-Geneva lay of the land, and what it means for the future of Syria. The big Munich meet-up Conferences often mean strange bedfellows, and the Munich Security Conference that kicks off today is no exception. Participants include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US Vice-President Mike Pence and, um, Bono, obviously. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be in attendance too, as will NAT[...]



The humanitarian cheat sheet: Trouble in CAR and WhatsApp for crises

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:45:26 +0000

Every week, IRIN's team of editors curates a selection of some of the best humanitarian reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed and looks ahead to give you the inside scoop on hot topics coming up: Did you miss it? The nearly man The death of opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi this week has deprived the Democratic Republic of Congo of a unique political figure who was at the forefront of the fight for democracy for over three decades. Arguably, his voice is needed now more than ever. His death plays into the hands of President Joseph Kabila’s supporters, who have consistently sought to delay elections, threatening a New Year’s Eve accord with the opposition in which Kabila agreed to step down this year and not run for a third term. As African Arguments points out, “his departure robs the opposition of a leader able to combine genuine street-level popularity with an ability to squeeze out political deals. As popular anger mounts, the opposition will have to work hard to rebuild a credible leadership.” Branding the Taliban The Taliban cared little about their image when they conquered Afghanistan in the 1990s, and that didn’t change after they were overthrown in late 2001 and began a long and ongoing insurgency. But the group seems to have “woken up to the importance of organisational symbols and their political meaning”, according to this report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network. Perhaps the Taliban are inspired by their newest enemy, the so-called Islamic State, which has launched a barrage of propaganda since moving into the region, as we reported this week. This AAN report is part of a series focusing on changes the Taliban are undergoing, and it focuses on their use of a white flag inscribed with an “Islamic statement of faith” and sometimes their official name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Unlike the group’s previous iterations, the flag is now constantly on display. Among other reasons for this is to “demonstrate to the population that they, not the government, are the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan”, says AAN. Getting the message Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Viber are already being used by more than 2.5 billion people around the world, but humanitarian organisations have yet to get to grips with these new communications technologies and figure out how they can best be used to improve their work, while avoiding potential pitfalls. This report from the International Committee of the Red Cross considers unresolved questions that have held back the use of messaging apps in humanitarian crises, particularly in conflict settings, such as concerns about data protection and security, which messaging app to use, and patchy network connectivity. It looks at how some humanitarian organisations are already using messaging apps to reduce communication costs, coordinate with other staff, and to maintain contact with people in transit, such as refugees, or in conflict or post-disaster situations where other communication methods are unavailable. The report also flags up risks and challenges and provides a handy comparison of privacy-friendly features on various apps.  One from IRIN: EU strategy stems migrant flow from Niger, but at what cost? In researching this story on the EU-funded and EU-inspired crackdown on migrants and smugglers in Niger, IRIN Migration Editor Kristy Siegfried unearthed an unexpected news nugget. The EU had been boasting about the effectiveness of its policy of partnering with African countries by using the incorrect main stat that only 1,525 migrants headed northwards from Niger during November. This represented a stunning 88% drop on the previous month’s figure of 12,654 and a staggering 98% decline since a summer high of 71,904. Okay, the figure was taken from International Organization for Migration reports, which were later amended, but why did the EU not interrogate [...]