This report from the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) project examines insecurity, terrorism, and trafficking in Niger.

The Sahel hosts multiple conflicts with myriad armed actors destabilizing the entire region. Positioned at the heart of this region, Niger sits at the crossroads of terrorism, trafficking, and conflict.

The Nigerien state has great difficulty in guaranteeing domestic security, which has a devastating impact on social and economic development, in addition to it reinforcing tensions and fueling local conflicts. Older tensions become locked into new insecurity dynamics, such as terrorism, further complicating any future resolutions. Armed banditry, trafficking of weapons and drugs, violent community disputes, and the rise in terrorist attacks are all symptomatic of the State’s struggles.

At the Crossroads of Sahelian Conflicts: Insecurity, Terrorism, and Arms Trafficking in Niger, authored by Savannah de Tessières, a senior consultant to the Survey, draws on extensive fieldwork in the regions of Agadez, Diffa, and Niamey. This included examinations of arms and ammunition seized across the country, as well as dozens of interviews with national and international government and security officials, civil society representatives, gold diggers, former rebels, and other experts.

Some of the Report’s main findings include:

  • Niger presents a privileged arena in which to observe the array of terrorist dynamics across the Sahel, and to take action against them. The country has become a major partner in counter-terrorism strategies for regional and western powers.
  • Relatively spared by the threat of terrorism until 2015, the increase in terrorist attacks in Niger since then, first by Boko Haram and then by AQIM-related groups or splinter cells, run in parallel with the enhanced engagement of the Nigerien authorities against terrorism in the region, including MNJTF, MINUSMA, and G5 Sahel efforts.
  • Sahelian terrorist groups find Niger a fertile recruiting ground and exploit long-standing community divisions, which are in turn exacerbated by increasing insecurity.
  • Niger has served as a key transit route for weapons heading to conflict zones in the region, but the deterioration of the country’s security situation has resulted in an increase in the domestic demand for weapons, particularly for small arms and ammunition.
  • Arms seized from terrorists, or en route to terrorist groups in Niger over the past five years include explosives, small arms and light weapons and ammunition, including MANPADS, machine guns, and mortar rounds, as well as vehicles. Terrorist groups operating in Niger, including those based in Mali and Nigeria, have been obtaining materiel from a variety of sources­—including from national stockpiles in the region—either following the collapse of state control over arsenals, as in Libya or northern Mali, attacks against security positions, or diversion in countries like Niger or Nigeria.