I have a short post up with Al Sharq on the political problems Colonel Qaddhafi’s fall has posed for Niger. An excerpt:
An estimated 75,000 refugees – and counting – have fled Libya to Niger since April, creating a humanitarian emergency in the country’s north. Tuaregs who fought for Qadhafi are moving into Niger. They bring with them the threat of another rebellion such as Niger witnessed in 1990s and in the last decade, a conflict that ended only with Qadhafi’s mediation. Dozens of Qadhafi’s top lieutenants are in Niger, including three generals. Qadhafi’s son Saadi is also in the country. Another son, Saif al Islam, reportedly passed through Niger recently and is now rumored to be in Mali. Finally, Niger and its neighbors fear the spread of Libyan weapons throughout the region, especially the possibility of such weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In mid-September, Niger’s army clashed with a convoy of suspected AQIM members in the northern part of the country.
Just yesterday, another battle occurred between Nigerien soldiers and a convoy attempting to enter from Libya:
Niger’s army has clashed with a heavily armed convoy of vehicles that entered its territory from Libya, killing 13 in the convoy and suffering one casualty on its side, military sources in the West African country said on Wednesday.
The sources said Nigerien authorities took a further 13 prisoners after the incident, which took place on Sunday around the remote northern Nigerien mining town of Arlit just south of the border with Libya.
“I understand it was a convoy of pro-Gaddafi Libyans guided by Malian Tuaregs,” said one army officer who declined to be named, adding that some members of the convoy had fled.
Undoubtedly this incident will keep policymakers in Niamey on edge regarding their northern neighbor.