update has been compiled by Christer Wilkinson from a variety
March 2018 update:
The town of Agades at the southern end of the Air Mountains was the
subject of several news reports in March.
The economy of this once prosperous town with no tourists since the
last rebel uprising some ten years ago, and the migrant smuggling
to Libya curtailed from its boom last year, was uniformly depicted
in these news reports as depressed but with many migrants still hoping
for a break of some kind.
However, it is not clear how many migrants are still being smuggled
out of Niger by other routes northwards and not from Agades. The statistics
published by various agencies do not match up
To the north, Algeria continues to ship detained migrants southwards
back to Niger and Mali. One report indicated that some were simply
left at the Niger frontier. Others mention transshipment to Agades,
which has a number of migrant relief organization centers.
In the north of the Air Mountains, at Iferouane, the 13th festival
of the Air took place despite the poor economy and lack of tourists.
More details of the incident in which four Americans were killed in
December in western Niger have become available, including recovery
of some of the vehicles and weapons, But there are also reports of
another conflict around the same time near Diffa in the south east
of the country also with American ‘Advisers’, which had
a completely different outcome, with numerous reported terrorist death
and no American casualties.
The artisanal gold mining activity in the north of Niger near the
Algerian frontier was the subject of another detailed report: this
time identifying the location...”Tagharaba “at 20.75194N
7.83972E: another source gives 21.23585N 7.62179E However nothing
is visible at either location on Google Earth.
The scale of the artisan effort described in the report, (from “Paris
Match”), was surprising as were the pictures published of the
mines themselves. The report claimed more than 600 mines at 50 centimeters
from each other, presumably along a vein.
There was another curious report in the “Economist” about
Niger, pointing out that with all the smuggling of drugs and migrants
northwards towards Europe, the smugglers have empty trucks heading
back south which has led to a state subsidized pasta smuggling route.
(No, this was not a 1st April joke though it would seem so...)
The journalist from Mali, Baba Alpha from the press agency Bonferey
was freed by the Niger government in March after a year in captivity
in a prison in Niamey.
Alas no news of any kind reported this month. But no new hostages
The ongoing major strike by government employees and other organizations
in Tchad was partially resolved.... until the next time! With a slightly
higher price of oil, and the Glencore debt mitigation, there may be
more funds available.
In the south of Tchad there was reported to be another surge in refugees
from the Central African Republic to add to the many refugees in this
area and in the east of the country.
The government of Tchad announced the creation of a “4th Republic”
with longer presidential terms. Opposition groups claim that this
is no more than another maneuver for the President to stay in power.
There was another clash between Boko Harem and Tchad forces near Lake
Tchad in late March: the first such clash for some time.
Meanwhile over the frontier in Nigeria, Boko Harem captured a large
number of schoolgirls ....again, but released most a few days later
under odd circumstances.
It would be most pleasant to announce that the number of incidents
in Mali has dropped and economist reconstruction is underway. Unfortunately
the opposite is the situation.
A succession of minor incidents, conflicts between groups, and landmine
deaths punctuate the news reports. Security in the main towns of the
north is not assured and there is only limited Mali government presence.
French military participation, as part of operation “Berkhane”
continues, with almost weekly actions. The French announced at least
60 jihadist deaths in the month as a result of these actions. However
an attack to capture Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the head the rebel group
But at the same time there is ongoing discussion on a limitation of
the long term participation of French troops, who have now been in
Mali some five years.
In the far north of Mali, reports indicated that returned migrants
from Algeria were just dumped at the far north frontier near Bordj
Mokhtar, and had to walk to the nearest Mali town. Later they protested
outside the Algerian embassy in Bamako.
Early in April, in the south east of Mali near Menaka, and close to
the Niger frontier a French/Malian patrol intercepted a rebel column
and reportedly killed some 30 rebels. The reports indicated that just
as in the incident which killed four Americans last December, the
rebels attacked in a “swarm” of motorcycles. Clearly this
is the new weapon platform of choice, possibly displacing “Technicals”,
Land Cruiser Pickups with machine guns.
Also in April, a report was published announcing the transfer to the
International Criminal Court in The Hague, of Al Hassan, a member
of Ansar Eddine, (the Islamic group) for war crimes and crimes against
humanity, including the destruction of historic mausoleums during
the brief occupation by Islamic rebel groups of Timbuctoo in 2012/2013.