Located in Niger’s arid southeast on the edge of the Sahara Desert and only a short distance from the border with Nigeria, the Diffa Region is at the forefront of the fight against Boko Haram and the violence and chaos they have spread across the Lake Chad Basin. Life has always been hard here in this remote region of the world’s poorest country but frequent attacks and a stream of refugees have made it even more precarious.
Increased pressure from regional militaries and the African Union’s Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has dealt a significant blow to Boko Haram over the past few months. The group has lost large swathes of its territory and is significantly degraded. However, this pressure has also caused internal fractures, desperation, and a change in tactics. Now, the group frequently attacks villages solely to loot and feed themselves and is more willing to mass their fighters as they struggle to survive.
In an attempt to protect communities and adjust to Boko’s new tactics, Niger’s military, the Forces Armées Nigérienne (FAN), has set up a new radio station in Diffa, with the help of US Army advisors, to provide accurate information to the people about Boko Haram attacks, sightings, and activities. The station, dubbed Radio Bouclier or Radio Shield, will also provide other public service announcements, entertainment, and home grown content in the local languages, Hausa and Kanuri.
Publicizing this new radio station and enabling the local population to tune in are essential to the success of this effort. Spreading the word and gaining listeners will be the first significant step in providing the city and surrounding villages with critical information. To do this the FAN will distribute SoA-provided bumper stickers and radios to local influencers and groups. Key among these groups are the local “fadas.” These small, informal social groups are generally composed of 10-15 young men who gather regularly at night to socialize and pass the time. By engaging these groups, the FAN hopes to spread their messages and news quickly through a population that is particularly at risk of extremist influence, victimization, and recruitment.
With your support Spirit of America can fund this effort to empower the Diffa community with accurate information about Boko Haram activities and other local security concerns.