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 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 year. The group has lost large swathes of its territory and is significantly degraded. More than ever before, Boko Haram fighters – desperate, hungry, and sensing defeat – are willing to lay down their arms and return to society, if only they can find a way.
Previously, Niger’s military with the help of US Army advisors, set up a new radio station, dubbed “Radio Bouclier” or Radio Shield in English, in Diffa to protect communities by providing accurate information about Boko Haram activities and other public service announcements as well as entertainment and home grown content. This station is now also being used to encourage wavering Boko fighters to defect and eventually reintegrate into society. However, with this new effort comes a new target audience: Boko Haram themselves, who live and operate largely in remote areas outside of population centers and the station’s current broadcast range.
Publicizing this new radio station and enabling the local population to tune in are essential for protecting vulnerable villages. At the same time, reaching Boko Haram members and letting them know that there is a path back to their families and communities takes fighters off the field of battle without violence and sets the stage for a future peace. To accomplish both of these tasks, the US Army team advising the Nigerien military has identified the need for promotional materials as well as a taller tower and more powerful transmitter.
With your support Spirit of America can fund this Nigerien effort to provide accurate information to vulnerable communities and encourage Boko Haram defections.