The number of terrorist attacks in the Sahel region of Africa “continues to increase” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said after he arrived in the capital of Niger, Niamey, the second of three countries he is visiting on a tour of West Africa to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Speaking on Monday after meeting the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, he said that the “international community must realize” that terrorism is “not just a regional or African issue, but one that threatens the whole world”.
He reiterated his call for more resources to tackle the problem saying that “peace, stability and prosperity in Niger and across the Sahel remains an absolute priority for the United Nations”.
President Mohamed Bazoum recognized Guterres’ commitment to finding a solution to the problem of terrorism and awarded him an Order of Merit.
Meanwhile, the former President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, agreed to a request from the African Union Chairperson and the UN Secretary-General, to lead an African Union (AU)-UN Joint Strategic Assessment on security in the Sahel, focusing on developing recommendations on how to strengthen the overall international response to the security crisis in the Sahel.
The assessment will be undertaken in consultation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of Five (G5) Joint Secretariat.
According to the United Nations, insecurity in Niger is being driven by a number of different actors and as the UN Chief noted “civilians are often the first victims” when violence strikes. Figures suggest that almost eight out of ten victims of attacks are civilians.
A range of extremist armed groups are operating mostly in the regions of Tillabéri, Tahoua and Diffa in the northwest, south and southeast of the country respectively. In the Maradi region in the south, armed groups operating from Nigeria frequently cross the border to carry out raids; bandits with weapons within Niger are also a significant threat.
In 2021, the Global Terrorism Index attributed 588 deaths in Niger to terrorism, the highest terror-related death toll in the last decade. In Tillabéri region, deaths more than doubled between 2020 and 2021.