Roundup on Recent Attacks in Northern and Eastern Burkina Faso, and a Bit of Context

Here is just part of what has been occurring in Burkina Faso (drawing on reports here and here), namely three attacks from over the weekend:

  • May 29, on the road between Titao and Sollé, Louroum Province, Nord Region: At least 15 people killed, and others kidnapped, in an attack on traders.
  • May 30, Kompienbiga, Kompienga Province, Est Region: Gunmen entered a livestock market and killed at least 25 people.
  • May 30, on the road between Barsalogho-Foubé, Sanmatenga Province, Centre-Nord Region: At least 10 people killed in an attack on a humanitarian convoy. (See here for my post on a recent convoy traveling to Djibo.)

Here is a map showing, from west to east, Titao, Barsalogho, and Pama (capital of Kompienga Province, near Kompienbiga).

MENASTREAM has a Twitter thread on the Kompienbiga attack, starting here:

For some context on the situation in the East, Le Monde‘s Sophie Douce has a new report out on villages under jihadist sway. Douce discusses the factors that have made the situation so severe in the east – the physical difficulties of access for security forces, the sharp degradation in security in 2019, the ethnic tensions (for example between Peul and Gourmantché), the exactions committed by security forces, and on and on. She notes  that “anger is rising” over the deaths of 12 Peul detainees who appear to have been summarily executed at the gendarmerie in Tanwalbougou, Eastern Region (approximately 150 kilometers north of Pama, by road). The Tanwalbougou incident, which merits its own post, has become a national affair, with President Roch Kaboré announcing last week that there will be an investigation.

For additional context, see Crisis Group’s report from February and the Institute for Peace & Security Studies’ report from March.

Two Recent Reports on Conflict, Children, and Education in Nigeria and Burkina Faso

Two reports came out last week examining, respectively, conflicts in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. They make for effective if troubling paired reading.

The first report is Amnesty International, “‘We Dried Our Tears’: Addressing the Toll on Children of Northeast Nigeria’s Conflict.” An excerpt (p. 6):

Both sides of the long-running armed conflict in the Northeast have committed crimes under international law, including against children. They continue to commit such crimes regularly. Almost everyone in the Northeast has been affected, but the impact on girls and boys has been and continues to be particularly pronounced. Absent a major shift in strategy by the Nigerian authorities, an entire generation may be lost.

And another excerpt (p. 7):

People who recently fled Boko Haram-controlled areas, including children, describe worsening food insecurity. [Abubakar] Shekau’s faction [of the Boko Haram insurgency] seems especially under strain, pillaging villages and forcing families to give larger percentages of their harvest than in prior years. Families struggle to feed themselves, though at times still feel that staying and growing their own food is safer than being displaced to a site where they would depend on inconsistent aid delivery. Food insecurity is exacerbated by Boko Haram’s attacks on aid workers and the Nigerian military’s restrictions on humanitarian access. Amnesty International documented deaths of young children in 2018 and 2019 related to acute malnutrition in Boko Haram-controlled territory.

For further context on food insecurity in northeastern Nigeria, see FEWS Net’s May update.

And a third and final excerpt (p. 8):

The military’s practice of mass unlawful detention is as ineffective as it is inhumane. Many of the children interviewed by Amnesty International, including those who said they had been recruited “voluntarily” by Boko Haram, described hearing messages on the radio that told them if they fled Boko Haram territory, they would find safety and support in government areas. Instead, they often suffered years of unlawful detention and torture or other ill-treatment, while never facing any charges. Many former child detainees said that, after their experience, they would not counsel others to come out from the bush; several former child soldiers said they would not advise those still in Boko Haram to surrender. Some expressed regret at having fled themselves. And women, men, and children who fled Boko Haram-controlled villages in late 2019, after never having any involvement with the group other than being forced to relinquish part of their harvest, told Amnesty International that there were many more people who want to flee, but are reluctant because they fear the military will detain them or their relatives in brutal conditions for an extended period.

Amnesty is critical of the Nigerian government’s Operation Safe Corridor, a program for “rehabilitating” former Boko Haram members – more context on that program here, here, and here.

The second report is Human Rights Watch, “‘Their War Against Education’: Armed Group Attacks on Teachers, Students, and Schools in Burkina Faso.” An excerpt:

[Jihadist] attacks, the terror they generated, and worsening insecurity have resulted in a cascade of school closures across the country, undermining students’ right to education. By early March 2020, the Ministry of National Education, Literacy, and the Promotion of National Languages (“education ministry,” or MENAPLN) reported that over 2,500 schools had closed due to attacks or insecurity in Burkina Faso, negatively affecting almost 350,000 students and over 11,200 teachers. This was prior to the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, which resulted in the temporary closure of all schools from mid-March.

And a second excerpt:

Of the five regions most affected by the conflict-related school closures, Sahel region topped the list in early March with a reported 947schools closed (80 percent of the region’s schools), followed by 556 schools in Est (38 percent), 366 in Centre-Nord (21 percent), 357 in Nord (18 percent), and 239 in Boucle du Mouhoun (13 percent). The remaining closed schools were in Centre-Est (46) and Centre-Sud (1).

For additional context, see UNHCR’s most recent humanitarian snapshot for Burkina Faso, Mali, and western Niger. Out of the estimated 4,043 non-functioning schools in this region, Burkina Faso has 62% (2,512), but Mali has approximately half that number, and western Niger has 270 schools closed which is, though nothing like the figures in its neighbors, still a real educational crisis on top of the other multi-faceted crises the region is suffering.

Basic Resources for Following and Contextualizing the COVID-19 Outbreak in the Sahel

This post is meant to help anyone attempting to follow COVID-19, the response, and the wider impact in the Sahel. Most of the below resources are in French. I’ve left Senegal out for now, but I might follow up with a separate post. I welcome suggestions for further resources to include, and will update accordingly.

Tracking Case Counts

Sahelian Ministries of Health provide official case counts. These ministries often have both websites and Facebook pages; the Facebook pages for Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad are particularly active.

The Ministries also often have annual reports or other self-evaluations of health sector capacity, which can be key for gaining a sense of each country’s preparedness and infrastructure if you want a deeper dive.

Local journalists and other non-governmental bodies also provide frequent case count updates (mostly here I’m linking to Twitter accounts):

Key Public Figures

Most of these links are to Twitter accounts. Sahelian heads of state and other top officials are now commenting frequently on COVID-19 and their governments’ responses:

Important Press Coverage and Analysis

Other Useful Resources

  • UNICEF publishes COVID-19 situation reports; for example, here are its reports on Chad from April 15 and May 14;
  • FEWS-Net monitors food insecurity around the world; here is one April update about COVID-19’s impact on food security in Burkina Faso;
  • I previously rounded up IMF statements on disbursements to Sahelian countries. The World Bank has an interactive map detailing their COVID-19 response projects around the world.

Africa-Wide Commentary Relevant to the Sahel

Mali: Another Round of Tensions Between the Government and the CMA, with the Reconstituted Army as a Central Issue

On May 27, the Malian government released a communiqué (French). It reads, in part:

The Government of the Republic of Mali notes with indignation that, for some time, the Coordination of Movements of the Azawad (CMA) has usurped sovereign acts of the State in flagrant violation of the terms of the Accord for Peace and National Reconciliation, derived from the Algiers process.

These anti-republican acts range from a so-called pardon given to some prisoners, to the issuance of licenses for movement on gold-mining sites, through the refusal to receive the doctors in charge of the fight against the coronavirus sickness, and numerous obstacles erected against the presence of the reconstituted National Army.

In front of our people, the Committee for Monitoring the Accord (CSA), our development partners, and the entirety of the international community, the Government of Mali condemns these acts which are detrimental to national sovereignty.

There’s a lot going on here, obviously. For context, the CMA is the formal ex-rebel bloc in the north of Mali, comprising three movements that formed, to oversimplify things quite a bit, either amid the 2012 rebellion in the north or in its immediate aftermath. The CMA’s stronghold is the Kidal Region of northeastern Mali, and the city of Kidal and much of the region is under the CMA’s de facto control. The CMA and the Malian state are two of three key signatories to the 2015 Algiers Accord, the document referenced in the communiqué above; the third signatory is the Platform, a coalition of non-rebel armed groups in the north.

The implementation of the Accord has been a frustrating and contentious process for the signatories and the international community is increasingly frustrated as well, as one can easily see in the reports of the Carter Center, the formal independent observer for implementation. Here is a quote from the Carter Center’s January 2020 report (.pdf, p. 1):

At the close of 2019, the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali is at its lowest point since the Independent Observer began its mandate in January 2018.Despite occasional progress, often made following extremely protracted negotiations, the concrete results for the Malian population, whether in the politico-institutional, security, economic, or rule of law domains, are minimal. Compared to 2018, both implementation and popular support for the agreement have stalled and, in many cases, regressed. The lack of significant action by stakeholders or concrete results is even more striking given the escalation of violence during the year.

The blockages in implementation are multiple, at times petty, and perhaps indicative of theparties’ bad faith. Overcoming them absorbs an attention disproportionate to the results achieved. The general result is a bogged-down implementation process that is nevertheless capable of producing, after months of blockages, ad hoc progress.

Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris of the Center for Strategic and International Studies have even argued that “Mali needs a new peace deal.”

One of the most contentious issues in the implementation of the Accord has been the deployment of the “reconstituted” units of the army, which are supposed to draw one-third of their personnel from each signatory’s forces. The Carter Center’s April 2020 report (.pdf, pp. 8-13) goes into detail about this aspect of the process and how it has been going in 2019-2020. It is not surprising that the reconstituted army is a central issue in the Malian government’s recent communiqué.

Serge Daniel of RFI on May 16 published an article on the difficulties the reconstituted units have experienced in deploying to Kidal. In early May, Daniel writes, a unit of 100 men started from Gao to Kidal, but turned back at the behest of the CMA.

The CMA’s decision had to do with negotiating who will command the different reconstituted units throughout the north – and decisions about any one unit can then affect the overall balance of (perceived) power and representation among all the units.

See here (French) for Daniel’s earlier report about a reconstituted unit’s arrival in Kidal in February.

The war of words – and the tug of war over sovereignty – between the CMA and the Malian government is not at all new. I have written in the past that it seems each side regularly and deliberately tests the other’s limits, sometimes disastrously but more often in a way that stops short of blowing up the Accord. The different signatories are wedded to the Accord, at least for the time being, for multiple reasons; the status quo, devastating as it is for many ordinary people, has certain benefits for elites on all sides. Meanwhile, though, the CMA does function as a state in various ways; whether its assumption of sovereign state responsibilities is a good thing or not is an issue for another time, but to my mind it’s undeniable that the CMA does XYZ* various sovereign functions of the state.

*Choose your verb, because they’re all loaded – “take on”? “appropriate”? “usurp”?

Where in the Chain of Command Do Security Force Abuses Originate?

Recently, two pieces that touch on security force abuses in the Sahel caught my eye.

One is Héni Nsaibia’s excellent piece for ACLED, “State Atrocities in the Sahel: The Impetus for Counterinsurgency Results Is Fueling Government Attacks on Civilians.” An excerpt:

Ahead of the end of the rainy season in August 2019, ISGS [the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara] and JNIM [Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin, the Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims] – in tandem – launched an offensive in the tri-state border area, also known as the Liptako-Gourma. It was a campaign in which military outposts were overrun like dominoes, forcing government troops to tactically withdraw from the border areas and leave previously contested territory under militant control. These developments underscored the lack of cooperation and coordination between the constituents of the struggling regional G5-Sahel force, for years promoted as an effective coalition to address the jihadi threat (Ouest-France, 2018). Amid mounting popular discontent in Mali over the presence of foreign forces as Malian soldiers were killed in scores (RFI, 2020), French president Emmanuel Macron summoned the leaders from the G5-Sahel countries to clarify their positions on France’s role in the Sahel. During the summit convened on 13 January 2020 in the French town of Pau, a roadmap was outlined to counter the jihadi onslaught (The Conversation, 2020). France decided to deploy 600 supplemental troops to its Barkhane mission (Le Monde, 2020), ensued by the official launch of ‘Takuba’, a task force gathering special forces from several European countries aimed at shoring up Barkhane and Malian forces in the fight against jihadi groups (Ouest-France, 2020). The primary focus of the counter-offensive was to be ISGS, now the ‘Greater Sahara’ faction of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Although the group carried out some of the deadliest attacks targeting security forces to date, this announcement largely neglected the comparable threat posed by its Al Qaeda counterpart, JNIM (Liberation, 2019; DW, 2020).

In the wake of the Pau meeting, state violence targeting civilians increased in all three countries as local and foreign forces stepped up their operations. If the Pau Summit did not encourage civilian targeting, it evidently appears to be a direct consequence.

The other piece that struck me was Judd Devermont and Leanne Erdberg Steadman’s “Defending the U.S. Military Presence in Africa for Reasons Beyond Counterterrorism,” published at Lawfare. Obviously, from the title, their article is only partly about security force abuses, but here is what they said on that score:

In places like Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia, U.S. forces and partner militaries can support longer term efforts to prevent violent extremism from taking hold in the first place. The United States can help partners set up joint operations centers where, in real time, the U.S. military can showcase how intelligence-driven operations reduce accidents, lower civilian casualties, and foster information sharing (including with gendarmes and police) that saves lives. And it can do more to promoteopen dialogues with communities on threats and prevention strategies.

 

If the United States wants to reduce the threat of terrorism in Africa, partnerships need to mean much more than just limited counterterrorism objectives. In too many African contexts, terrorists easily step in to establish themselves as a viable alternative to the government when those in power are corrupt, venal, and direct security forces to kill and abuse civilians for political gain. [Emphasis mine – Alex.] In those cases, the U.S. military’s most effective intervention is assisting partner nations to improve their behavior and rebuild trust. Because when U.S. forces support efforts to repair the broken bonds of governance and positively impact the behavior of African security forces, it reinforces the idea that the state’s job is to protect people, instead of going after them. And that might end up being the most potent type of counterterrorism the United States can ever help with.

These posts got me thinking: Where exactly do security force abuses originate within the chain of command? I am definitely open to the argument that they are top-down. Nsaibia builds a strong, if circumstantial, case for the effect of the Pau summit. But I find Devermont and Steadman’s characterization too strong – I don’t think security force abuses are necessarily directed from the top, and I don’t think that when civilian leaders order or tolerate abuses, it is necessarily because they see political advantage in them. Sometimes leaders may be cognizant that an abuse-laden strategy of collective punishment is a poor approach – they may even realize that is counterproductive – but then acquiesce to it or order it anyways, perceiving themselves to have no alternative. None of this is to exculpate the Sahel’s leaders – but I am not sure that individual-level venality, or even the venality of different countries’ political classes as a whole, has that much explanatory power.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any academic literature on these questions in my initial searches on Google Scholar (that doesn’t mean it’s not out there!).* If any readers know of relevant work, please point it out.

Here are a few points that occurred to me. As a provisional framework, it made sense to me to think about five levels where the decision to commit abuses might originate: the individual soldier, the unit, the theater/campaign, the top military leadership, and the civilian leadership. Building on Nsaibia’s piece, one could add a sixth level – the foreign patron government – if one wants to be cynical about who takes orders from whom, or at least who responds to pressure from whom.

1: There Is a Difference Between Top-Down Systems of Abuse and Systems of Impunity; But Impunity for Major Abuses Runs, By Definition, All the Way Up the Chain.

The analyst cannot always be sure where abuses originate within the chain of command; the data are often limited and hard to confirm, and the workings of any given military chain of command and military culture can be opaque to outsiders. It is worth it, though, to make an analytical distinction between “systems of abuse” and “systems of impunity,” because they might look roughly the same from a distance but have very different internal mechanisms and very different policy ramifications (more on this below). Just because abuse is widespread does not necessarily mean there is a top-down, centrally-directed system of abuse; not everyone in the chain of command is automatically implicated in the abuse itself. Yet impunity for abuses does implicate everyone, by definition, because even if the top military leadership or the civilian authorities are not ordering abuses, their acquiescence is needed to create a system of impunity. Consider three possibilities:

  1. Civilian authorities create a system of abuse and a system of impunity;
  2. Abuses originate down the chain, so there is not necessarily a system of abuse, but civilian authorities provide a system of impunity in response or by default;
  3. Abuses originate down the chain and civilian authorities punish abusers.

2: Widespread Individual-Level Abuses Point to a System of Impunity

This is an extension of the previous point. Even if, for the sake or argument, all abuses in a given country were generated at the individual level (for example, the soldier pressuring a woman for sex in an IDP camp), I think that if such abuses are widespread it indicates that a system of impunity, by design or by default, is in place – otherwise most individuals would not continue to abuse. In other words, the “bad apples” argument cannot be sustained if a lot of individuals are committing abuses.

3: Unit-Level Abuses Can Be Self-Generated or Directed from Above

When a particular unit becomes infamous for committing abuses, that in and of itself does not necessarily tell us whether there is a wider system of abuse in place. On the one hand, the unit could be a “rotten egg” whose abuses are known and deplored, but which is also provided impunity by superiors (military or civilian) in the chain of command. Perhaps the unit is particularly feared, or the costs of disciplining it are perceived as too great, and so superiors do not act. On the other hand, an abuse-prone unit may in and of itself constitute a top-down system of abuse if superiors deliberately leverage that unit for a particular purpose, “letting it off the leash” while keeping other units restrained – or attempting to play “good cop, bad cop.”

4: Theater-Level Abuses Would Be Difficult to Sustain Without Buy-In from the Top Military Brass

As discussed above, if one finds a single unit regularly committing abuses, it’s plausible under certain circumstances that the unit itself is generating those abuses without orders from above. But a pattern of abuses throughout an entire theater of operations – say, northeastern Nigeria – is very unlikely to persist without approval and probably direction from the top military brass. That is, in a context where multiple units are committing abuses within the same theater, and where the pattern persists despite rotations in theater commanders and other key personnel, then a real system of abuse very likely exists all the way up and down the chain of command.

5: Theater-Level or Military-Wide Abuses Can Be Generated by Commanders or by Pressure from Civilian Leaders; If the Former, Civilian Leaders Are Likely Cowed

If an entire theater, or an entire military, is characterized by abuses, this automatically implicates the civilian leadership in a system of impunity, but it does not mean that civilian leaders are directing the abuses. Civilian leaders could, conceivably, be deploring the abuses but feel powerless to stop them – perhaps out of fear of a coup, or through more subtle forms of intimidation that militaries can bring to bear against civilian leaders (strategic leaks of government deliberations, for example).

6: Civilian Leaders Can Encourage/Order Abuses Enthusiastically or Reluctantly

Now we are discussing situations where the system of abuse is truly systemic, and runs not only up and down the military chain of command but includes the civilian leaders as well. Even in such situations, however, there are still multiple variants. Consider a scenario like that suggested by Devermont and Steadman above: Civilian leaders enthusiastically order abuses in the pursuit of perceived political gain, punishing political opponents and intimidating the population writ large. But other scenarios are possible: civilian leaders, particularly in states with few resources and where the central state’s knowledge of restive peripheries is thin, might feel that they have no real option other than to “crack a few heads.” Civilian leaders may be influenced by select interlocutors from the conflict zones, who promote harsh approaches, demonize particular communities, and sell the central authorities on a strategy of deliberate abuse. And then there is the scenario that Nsaibia suggests – pressure from above, in other words from a major foreign power.

7: The Net Effects of Unit-Generated Abuses Combined with Systems of Impunity, Versus Top-Down Systems of Abuse, May Appear Similar – But the Policy Responses May Have to Be Different

This takes us back to the discussion in points 1 and 3 – it is not always easy to tell how deliberately or systematically the civilian leaders are promoting abuses. The net effects of different scenarios may look the same: in other words, widespread abuses and suffering. If widespread abuses are encouraged up and down the chain, then the policy response by international actors may need to involve substantial pressure on the actors at the top of the chain to make them cut off the flow of orders promoting abuses. But if one concludes that civilian leaders are only reluctantly allowing impunity for abuses, that civilians are hostages to the military leadership on this issue, or that the top military brass’ role in the abuses is ambivalent because of fear of a particular unit or of backlash from the rank-and-file generally, then the policy focus may need to shift elsewhere – to creating conditions that would give space to civilian leaders to discipline those abuse-prone units, etc.

*There is, obviously, a wide literature on civil-military relations. My superficial sense is that much of the literature on civil-military relations in Africa concerns coups. Then there is the massive NGO literature on incidents of abuse, and I am implicitly drawing on some of that here, but I have not seen an NGO report present a systematic typology of where and how abuses occur; impressionistically, many reports seem to describe abuses at what I am calling the unit and theater levels.

Notes on the Joint Burkinabè-Ivoirian “Operation Comoé”

Bloomberg, May 24:

Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso troops dismantled an Islamist militant camp in the first such joint operation between the neighbors that’s part of regional efforts to curb the spread of jihadist attacks.

Soldiers killed eight suspected militants and seized automatic weapons, ammunition, motorbikes and mobile phones at the base in Alidougou in southern Burkina Faso, according to an army official who declined to be identified in line with official policy. Several dozen other militants were captured and helicopter gunships were used in the operation, he said.

AFP/Le Parisien has more details (French):

  • The Operation was named “Comoé” after the river along the border, and took place between Ferkéssédougou in Côte d’Ivoire and Banfora in Burkina Faso (see map below).
  • There were 38 arrests (24 in Burkina Faso, 14 in Cote d’Ivoire).
  • The above-mentioned camp was at Alidougou, Comoé Province, Cascasdes Region, Burkina Faso (see photos via MENASTREAM/Héni Nsaibia below).
  • Clashes occurred near the villages of Tinadalla and Diambeh, on the Ivoirian side near the border. Ivoirian military officials say there are no jihadist camps on their territory, but some indications (French) suggest otherwise.

For further context about what prompted Operation Comoé, see Nsaibia’s piece from 2019 on violence in southwestern Burkina Faso, as well as his ongoing and extremely detailed coverage of violence in Burkina generally.

Map showing Ferkéssédougou and Banfora:

MENASTREAM and Jessica Moody have also pointed out, citing this Jeune Afrique article (French), that the operation did not go entirely smoothly – an Ivoirian commander reportedly leaked details of the operation to a civilian, leading to the commander’s arrest.

As part of a longer thread that goes into much greater detail than I am doing here, MENASTREAM discusses the Ivoirian commander’s alleged leak, and also includes photos of the camp at Alidougou:

Deutsche Welle (French) places this incident into what it calls a wider pattern of internal military scandals in the region, including the Nigerien procurement scandal that I wrote about yesterday.

On another note, I also want to point out that this is an instance of an anti-jihadist operation proceeding amid the COVID-19 pandemic – a data point to consider for those who say that the pandemic implicitly favors jihadists. That’s not to say that an operation like this in and of itself is a success, just that the pandemic is not necessarily leading to the kinds of postures that analysts initially envisioned.

Finally, one detail – not even necessarily connected directly to this operation, since I didn’t have time to dig into the full context – caught my eye. There was apparently some outcry over uniforms that some Burkinabè soldiers have been wearing in certain conflict zones, green uniforms associated at least in some citizens’ minds with the President Security Regiment (French acronym RSP), prominent under former President Blaise Compaoré but deeply controversial (and, since 2015, formally disbanded) in the post-Compaoré era. The outcry was strong enough that Army Chief of Staff Major-General Moïse Minoungou made a public statement about it (French) while touring two areas experiencing insurgency, the Est and Cascades Regions; Minoungou said that the uniforms were chosen to match wooded terrain, and for no other reason. Still, the outcry indicates that fear of an RSP resurgence is still out there. I could not, as I said, fully uncover the context, so I couldn’t determine whether these uniforms were being worn specifically in Operation Comoé; reader insights, as always, are welcome.

A Defense Procurement Scandal in Niger

A major scandal and its consequences are unfolding in Niger, connected to a reported 76 billion FCFA misappropriation of funds at the Ministry of Defense. Back in February, the Inspector General of the Armies completed a fifty-three page report which, according to one press account (French), “reveals an organized system of overcharging” for purchases; contracts were inflated and some purchases, for example of vehicles and weapons, were never delivered. I’ve read different accounts concerning what period the audit covered; Jeune Afrique says 2011-2019, in other words the entirety of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s tenure in office. Twelve firms, including some that are allegedly “fictitious,” were involved, and some firms reportedly belong to several prominent businessmen (French) in the country. Foreign firms (Russian, Chinese, Ukrainian, and Israeli) were also reportedly involved. The audit was transmitted to Nigerien Prosecutor Chaibou Samna in early April (French).

The scandal has, obviously, ramifications for the political class and the military hierarchy. Picking back up with Jeune Afrique‘s account, the audit concerns the tenures of two ministers of defense, Mahamadou Karidjo (currently minister of transportation) et Kalla Moutari (who left the government in February). At least one high-ranking military officer has already been fired, Air Force Chief of Staff, Major Colonel Boulama Issa Zana Boukar. Rumors have circulated about others being arrested or placed under surveillance, but I couldn’t confirm.

The scandal does not seem, so far, to have directly implicated President Mahamadou Issoufou or his hand-picked successor, Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum, who is the ruling PNDS TARAYYA party’s presidential candidate for the 2021 elections. The opposition, of course, hopes to leverage the scandal to weaken Bazoum politically (French). Civil society groups organized a demonstration in connection with the affair on March 15 (French), with three deaths and five arrests. With multiple senior members of PNDS potentially implicated in the scandal, and with journalists and the public keenly following the fallout, Issoufou and Bazoum will likely be reacting to the situation for months to come.