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Updated Mar 26, 2020

In late February, it was revealed that hundreds of billions worth of CFA francs were unaccounted for in Niger, forcing President Issoufou Mahamadou to order an audit of Niger’s Ministry of Defense. These revelations are particularly troubling, as Niger has suffered casualties against Islamist terror groups in the Sahel, with soldiers on the frontline frequently complaining about insufficient supplies of ammunition and equipment.

Domestically, the revelation has emboldened Niger’s political opposition. Grouped together into an opposition coalition, they intend to use the audit as a pressure point to discredit the ruling PNDS party and its proposed presidential candidate for the elections in December, Mohamed Bazoum. The opposition aims to prove a direct link between the PNDS and the embezzlement, which the PNDS fervently denies. Two former ministers and members of PNDS, Kalla Moutari and Mahamadou Karidjo, are principal suspects in the scandal.

President Issoufou Mahamadou at a summit on the situation in the Sahel region, in the southern French city of Pau on January 13, 2020.

Why It Matters

Niger is part of both the G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force, regional military alliances tasked with combating terrorist groups operating in the Sahara Desert and the Lake Chad region, respectively. They’ve had little military success. Frequent calls for additional funding have been made, as the members of these alliances are some of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Even with the assistance of more than five thousand French troops stationed throughout the region, success against the terrorist groups in question has ranged from minimal to non-existent.

An embezzlement scandal for Niger will only make it harder for funding calls to be taken seriously, while also weakening public support for the military offensives, which have already suffered due to the inability of African militaries to prevent attacks against civilian centers. The scandal also threatens to inflame existing political tensions between the opposition and President Issoufou’s ruling party, as the opposition still contests the results of Niger’s 2016 election.

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