Growing fears of jihadist threat on Benin Niger border

Along the waters of the Niger river, on the border between Niger and Benin, fishermen have been able to go about their business without the fear of jihadi violence which has plagued the rest of the country for many years.

But in September, armed men attacked a border post in Malanville in the north-east of the country. 

In Gaya, a town very close to the border, people are increasingly nervous.  Mamane Sani Harouna is a resident of Gaya and says: “We live in fear because the evil that happens to your neighbour will likely affect you. 

“We want the authorities to anticipate before it happens to us. If on the other side (Benin) we manage to solve the problem then it will not come to Niger and since the terrorists are on the border of both countries, if they are hunted (in Benin) they will retreat to Niger and we will have trouble.”

Jihadists killed several fishermen from Niger and Nigeria in October for having disobeyed an order to leave the Lake Chad area and Boko Haram, along with its rival the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), now have several bases in the basin.

Assimou Abarchi is the Commissioner of the Gaya Department.  He says: “The security challenge is there but so far, thank God, we sleep well, we wake up well. 

“It is a threat, it is real, we take it into account and we have expressed this to the highest authorities of Niger and arrangements are made for the department of Gaya to be spared.”

Neighbouring Northeast Nigeria has been consumed by a 13-year jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced around two million more. Leaders in Niger and Benin are determined to stop it from spreading

In a statement, President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum said: “Benin is a strategic partner for Niger. It is an important trading partner and when we know the actions of these forces [jihadists] and their desire to open fronts on the other side, we are also called upon to prevent such events.”

As the world’s poorest country by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, Niger has been hit hard by the jihadist insurgency across the Sahel which began in northern Mali ten years ago.