West Africa, a growing powder-keg
Inhabited in the west (Niamey-Tillabery-Dosso-Téra) by Djermans and Sonraïs and in the east (Diffa-Bilma-Dirkou) by Kanuris and Toubous and in the north (Agadez-Tahoua-Arlit) by Tuaregs and Arabs, all of whom practice a moderate Islam, one called weak by extremists and preachers (du 25ème heure?). The center of Niger (Maradi-Zinder-Illéla-Dogon Doutchi) is the fief of ethnic Hausa, many of whom practice Salafi Islam that has grown more radical since the 1990’s, and has given birth to several sects, the best-known of which is Boko Haram which operates near the border Nigeria shares with Niger, Cameroon, and Chad, where merchant Hausa have been operating for centuries.
B. Three scenarios, one possibility
1. A relationship between AQIM and Boko Haram was first established in 2010 according to regional intelligence experts and recently by a senior officer in the Nigerian Air Force during the ECOWAS conference and during a Maghreb-Sahelian meeting in Nuakchott last month.
For natives of the two countries or people who know well the Niger-Nigerian social landscape it is nothing new, knowing that the same ethnic group lives on both sides of the border and knowing the ramifications that the Nigeriens long ignored, an attitude that shocked the Nigerians who reproached Niger for serving as a rear-base for Boko Haram along the lines of the “deal” between the Malians and AQIM. This deal consists of closing their eyes to the actions of terrorist groups who pledged allegiance in return for sparing a “friendly” territory.
2. As in Mali with AQIM, for the last 10 years this “deal” has lasted with Boko Haram, who organized, trained, and reinforced their presence in the great urban centers of Maradi, Zinder, Sarnaoua, Téssaoua, Dan-Barto, Mayayi, Dakoro, Guidan Roumji, Illéla, Keïta, Dakoro, where the sect financed tens of thousands of mosques between 1996 and 2012. This phenomenom has grown so much that the Islamists began early in the 2000’s to “invest” and to preach more and more in the northern, majority Tuareg regions, and more to the west in the majority-Djerma regions in order to “bring back” the “wayward sheep of Niger to the straight path”.
These often aggressive preaching campaigns, including in Niamey, began to attract hundreds of thousands of out of work and hopeless people who began to style themselves as “Satz,” “Moallem,” or “Malam”, meaning professor or teacher or missionary of the Izala sect, which descended from the salafi/Wahhabi current imported from the Gulf countries during the 1980’s. The all-attentive eye of the West African politicians, happy to pass off responsibility for the idle youth, to whom they could propose no other alternative following the “structural adjustments” put forth by the IMF after the 90’s.
The consequences are visible on the ground – in 15 years, Nigerien, Senegalese, Guinean women, like Malians, found themselves with a new way of dressing and styling, with the Hijab, long scarves, and more and more the Burqa, notably in Niamey, Bamako, Conakry, Dakar, Nuakchott, and the areas that had until then been spared like Agadez, Tahoua, Gao, Nouadhibou, Maiduguri, Jos, Abuja, Lagos, Casamance and including certain cities in Burkina recently contaminated by the Salafist frenzy that has spread with stunning rapidity throughout the community of West African states.
3. The passiveness with which the governments of the region observe this phenomenon and feign ignorance of the communicating vessels or the “tolerance” of the 1990’s is in complete contradiction with the arsenal that they begged for from the Western countries to fight salafist terrorists and their AQIM leaders whose leaders are Algerian, including El Para (the paratrooper: former officer and son in law of one of the most influential generals in Algiers, Laghouar (the one-eyed who lost an eye while working with explosives and who is also a former member of the Algerian army nicknamed “Mr. Marlboro” in the Sahel because of his involvement with cigarette trafficking) who know the zone well even before the creation of AQIM, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
It is not a secret that most of the presidential advisors close to those in power have direct acquaintances and are known by all from Bamako to Ouagadougou to Niamey, where the President Issoufou has “his intermediary.” But those in power were trapped by their own schemes and corruption and have become hostage to AQIM and Boko Haram because of the different traffics that pass through Guinea-Bissau and Conakry and transit towards Bamako, Ouaga, and Niamey, where the “toll” for passage is taken out each time.
C. Perspectives of terrorist groups based on the evolution of the organizations in West Africa.
Mali is rotting from the inside with corruption linked to drug trafficking and the different “commissions” taken from ransoms paid by the West to AQIM in order to free hostages. They are redistributed by the intermediaries of Koulouba (the Malian presidency) and AQIM. This has sparked strong tensions between Malian, Mauritanian, Burkinese, Nigerien and Algerian intermediaries. A veritable “hive” of double agents who each rely on “their Tuareg” or “their Moor” or “their Toubou” to see more clearly in the games played by their neighbors and traffics throughout their part of the Sahara. These alliances of convenience are made and unmade based on the tastes of the Algerians or their groups that detain or plan to kidnap Western hostages. The kidnapping of UN employees in Niger, the death of two French hostages kidnapped a few meters from the Nigerien presidency, are signs of an all-powerful and omnipresent organization in West African capitals where the waiters in luxury hotels serve as spies or informants for AQIM or its sub-contractors.
The terrorists have reinforced their presence today with the complicity of those in power but also with the complicity of the military and paramilitary commands that do not hesitate to “escort” merchandize into Algeria or Libya, and do not hesitate to sell information about “which patrol will be watching this entrance or that route…”
The commissions are collected upon the return of the Islamist-traffickers, who send a simple SMS message with the coordinates of the “nest egg” which can be as much as 1 million euro for escorting 40 vehicles, according to a military source.
This dangerous game sows doubt among the citizens of these countries, but also among their African and European allies who discover, to their shock, the degree of complicity and just deep the rot goes…
The West feels set adrift since the beginning by the Algerians and their AQIM lackeys, what they discover and refuse to recognize is the bitter reality that this “montage” is shared and desired by their supposed protects governements in the ex-colonies of the French Sudan!
It is urgent that the Europeans and their intelligence services, including the Americans, to become involved with these matters in order to decipher what is going on.
The actual schema will lead ineluctably to more connections between AQIM, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab and other extremists, including Christians like the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda, all in the logic of instrumentalizing religion in order to fusion among them and put their hands on the various traffics in order to gain more and whitewash everything, by conquest or complicity of the powers that be.
For such poor countries to ally themselves with the devil and cede territory so that they can exercise illicit traffics, all in naming as scapegoats the indigenous people – this is a dangerous strategy that will prompt a destructive and dramatic “boomerang” effect, because as their survival goes, so does the fate of the country or nation.
Mali is advancing inexorably towards partition by force as a result of its 20-year old alliances.
Niger risks finding itself pulled in two directions by Boko Haram and AQIM, its president has known this for 15 years. For the moment the country is fighting against AQIM but hesitates to find solutions for its youth and the 4,500 former fighters that have been left to themselves in the north.
Burkina is not threatened but the contamination will take hold if it continues to believe the reports of its neighbors. Senegal contains many “sleeper cells” and could sooner or later become like Mauritania.
Mauritania is the only country that fights against terrorism, unlike Algiers and Bamako which caution it to hold back.
The Tuareg constitute the only rampart against extremism but Algerian, Nigerien, and Malian animosity against this minority make it so that they will always be marginalized, and these states will always prefer an unnatural alliance with AQIM or Boko Haram against the people scattered half in the Sahel and half in the Maghreb, who sooner or later may demand their liberty and their lands, even if they are a certain ally against extremism. A tacit accord has been concluded between Algiers and Bamako and Niamey to once and for all extinguish and reshape the noble struggle of the Tuareg for their rights. The key and the solution remains the Tuareg.
More to follow…