This week, we shine the spotlight on Niger:
FRENCH AMBASSADOR SENT HOME
The French ambassador in Niger Antoine Anfré was discreetly removed from his position and sent back to Paris last Thursday. His forced departure — a first for a French ambassador in Niger — was demanded by Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, according to Jeune Afrique. The French investigative website Mondafrique adds that the relations between Antoine Anfré and Nigerien authorities had recently deteriorated. Analysts say the 52-year-old, who became Niger's ambassador in March 2014, was "inflexible" in his demand for free and open elections in 2016.
Ouestaf reports that about 7.5 million people (out of a population of 17 million) are expected to vote in general elections next year. In June, President Issoufou said he also wanted transparent elections, as Jeune Afrique reported. But the opposition also accused the Constitutional Court, in charge of validating candidacies, of supporting the government in power.
BATTLING BOKO HARAM
Like several of its neighbors, Niger is in the middle of a simmering war with Islamist terror army Boko Haram. Nigerien armed forces killed at least 30 Boko Haram fighters and captured three last week, including one senior leader, along the Yobe River that marks the border between Niger and Nigeria, according to the website Afrik. This comes after an attack by the Islamist sect on July 15 in the village of Gangara, near the Nigerian border, in which up to 15 locals were killed and four others injured, Radio France Internationale Afrique reports.
Defense Minister Karidjo Mahamadou encouraged the Nigerien army to "relentlessly pursue their noble mission for the defense of the integrity of the national territory and the protection of people and their goods." Niger and its neighbors Nigeria, Cameroun and Chad have been facing a rise in violence by Boko Haram since the beginning of the year.
The humanitarian situation in the southeastern region of Diffa, an area that has been desperately poor for years, has significantly deteriorated these past few months as both floods and droughts are now combined with the threat of Boko Haram, StarAfrica reports. At least 150,000 people have currently been relocated in the region, according to RFI. The few NGOs onsite are starting to be overwhelmed and aid programs are crumbling due to the increasing number of refugees fleeing Boko Haram.