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Situated among the chronically unstable nations of Mali and Nigeria, as well as the failed state of Libya, Niger finds itself beset by violent extremists and insecurity in multiple parts of the country. These threats, coupled with endemic poverty-Niger is currently 187th out of 188 on the United Nations Human Development Index-create a situation ripe for instability, conflict, and radicalization. This can be clearly seen along the Niger-Nigeria border where the Boko Haram insurgency has wreaked havoc in Niger for years.
However, due to the hard work of USSOF advisors and their Niger military partners, the situation is improving with one small victory at a time. The US advisors, working alongside the Nigerien military’s Directorate of Influence (DOI), recently identified a window of opportunity in which to capitalize on recent successes and encourage Boko Haram fighters to put down their weapons and return to their families.
The DOI-like the US military’s psyop-is the premier messaging and information outlet for the Nigerien Army. This small group of motivated and enthusiastic soldiers has the difficult job of providing security, public health, and other essential messages to remote communities throughout Niger.
The DOI identified a strong desire within Boko Haram’s rank and file to abandon the fight after suffering successive losses at the hands of regional militaries. However, potential defectors do not have clear information about the outside world, and they lack information on how to leave and an understanding of their government’s willingness to reintegrate them into peaceful society. They do not know where to go or who to talk to, and they fear being prosecuted as criminals.
The DOI has recognized this and, with US assistance, has created a simple solution. The DOI plans to airdrop pamphlets with a message of peace and forgiveness, along with a phone number that Boko Haram members can call to receive instructions on safe defection procedures. In order to get this information to fighters in the field who don’t have access to TV, radio, or newspapers, the DOI will use a small Nigerien Air Force plane to fly over otherwise inaccessible areas with known Boko Haram camps.
Despite the innovation, motivation, and good intentions of the DOI and their US advisors, more is needed to bring this plan to fruition. The Nigerien Army cannot print the number of flyers necessary to spread the information and message of forgiveness, but, with your support, Spirit of America can.