Bonjour from Niger, I’d like to take a moment to update you on a recent effort supported by Spirit of America in southeast Niger. This project was designed to help protect a community from Boko Haram violence, influence, and recruiting through access to information. We first told you about this initiative here. In Diffa, a city of approximately 43,000 people close to Niger’s southeastern border with Nigeria, Niger’s Forces Armées Nigérienne (FAN) recently set up a new radio station with advice and assistance from a US Army Special Operations advisory team. The goal of this station is to provide accurate information to the people about Boko Haram attacks, sightings, and activities. The station, dubbed Radio Bouclier or Radio Shield, also provides public service announcements, entertainment, and home-grown content in the local languages: French, Hausa, and Kanuri. Radio Bouclier is an invaluable resource to the community but is limited by listenership and broadcasting range. To maximize the station’s effects and ensure accurate information reaches the Diffa’s most vulnerable citizens, the FAN, with US assistance, have embarked upon a campaign to better engage the community and promote listenership. Diffa’s citizens have welcomed this FAN activity and are eager to both receive and share information. As the FAN promote the radio station with hand-crank and solar-powered radios and stickers provided by SoA, they are also having in-depth conversations with new segments of the community. During these conversations, the FAN encourage locals to call in to the station to share community news, announcements, and reports of extremist or criminal behavior. More recently, Radio Bouclier started broadcasting messages from the Governor of Diffa encouraging Boko Haram to defect and re-integrate into society. These messages address Boko fighters and supporters directly, calling for them to lay down their arms and come out of the bush. This effort has been extremely successful with more than 50 fighters surrendering to the FAN in Diffa in January alone. With your help, we can continue to support efforts like this one. Your generous donations helped US partners build a solid listener base and credibility for their radio station. Now, as defection-messaging efforts targeting Boko Haram increase across the Lake Chad Basin, this type of support will be more critical than ever. Merci Beaucoup, Chris VanJohnson Project Manager – Africa
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.