Niger has played a significant role in the security framework of the Western Sahel region, and has been of strategic importance to both France and the United States.
In addition to hosting their military bases, Niger has received significant international support in recent years, including a €500mn cash injection from the European Union in 2021 and €120mn from France in 2022. Additionally, during the official visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Niamey in March 2023, an additional $150mn in direct financial assistance was announced.
#Niger : le Secrétaire d’Etat américain Antony Blinken effectue une visite de 48h à Niamey. Il a annoncé jeudi une nouvelle aide humanitaire de 150 millions de dollars. «Notre aide n'aurait pas dû être nécessaire, elle l'est à cause de la Russie», a-t-il déclaré. pic.twitter.com/vSU3YiKmTv— LSI AFRICA (@lsiafrica) March 16, 2023
Niger has experienced a relatively stable security environment. Despite the rise in casualties from terrorist attacks across all ECOWAS nations after 2021, Niger notably saw an 80% reduction in civilian losses in 2022.
According to a report presented to the Security Council by ECOWAS Chairperson Omar Touray, there were only 77 civilian casualties documented among a total of 4,593 recorded terrorist attacks during the first half of 2023.
However, the past three years have seen a series of military coups in Mali (2020, 2021), Guinea (2021), Burkina Faso (2022), and most recently Niger (2023), prompting questions about the fundamental strategy behind the extensive military intervention undertaken by both the United States and France in the region.
Undoubtedly, the presence of these foreign military forces has contributed to the emergence of resentment towards Western powers across the African Sahel region. At the same time, this situation has provided opportunities for strategic rivals of Western nations, including Russia and China, to expand their influence.
Conversely, entities operating outside the jurisdiction of official state authorities, encompassing state-sanctioned paramilitary units, various militias, and groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam Wal Muslimin), and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), have effectively solidified their control.
Given the heightened Western engagement, these entities have evolved into de facto governing bodies, and in certain cases, quasi-sovereign entities across the territories under their control.