Boko Haram: It’s Not Just Nigeria’s Problem
Referring to the crisis in northern Nigeria as an imminent threat to Nigeria’s neighbors obscures the fact that for many communities in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, the crisis has already arrived. One such community is Diffa, in southeastern Niger, where an influx of over 50,000 displaced persons has an entire region hanging in the balance.
Diffa is a small, regional capital in the extreme southeast of Niger, 1,360 kilometers from the capital of its own nation, but just four kilometers from the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria.
I travelled there in early March as part of an embed with U.S. Special Forces for Flintlock (see my reports from that trip here, here, here, andhere). In the days prior, government officials, diplomats, and analysts in the capital city of Niamey all outlined scenarios in which the crisis in northern Nigeria could spill into Niger.
But on the ground in Diffa, local officials were not speaking in abstract terms. With tens of thousands of refugees and displaced persons pouring into the region, the looming crisis in southern Niger was already well under way. In case there was any confusion as to where Boko Haram — the Islamist sect that burst onto the international scene this week after kidnapping over 300 girls from school and threatening to sell them into slavery — fit into the equation, one official made it perfectly clear: Boko Haram “weekends” in Diffa.
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