Our new Africa project manager, Chris VanJohnson, and I recently returned from southern Niger, where Boko Haram has been terrorizing the civilian population in their pursuit of a caliphate. Over the past few months, Spirit of America has provided support – medical equipment, metal detectors, flashlights, etc. – to the Nigerien security forces working to safeguard border communities. We first told you about this project here and here.
This trip was designed to introduce Chris to the US advisors and their Nigerien partners, as well as to follow up on that project and determine if there were any other ways we could support this critical effort.
The threat posed by Boko Haram was underscored during assessments in the communities along the border with Nigeria. In one village, Boko Haram militants swept in shortly after dark and burned women and children alive in their homes. The village elder showed us the wreckage and described the fear these atrocities caused.
The Nigerien unit – the 3rd Antiterrorist Company (in French, the language spoken in Niger, this is abbreviated as the 3rd CAT) – we’ve supported is working hard to end this violence. Through their hard work and dedication, not to mention the invaluable training and guidance provided by their US advisors, they are making significant progress in protecting the local population from Boko Haram. And, the equipment provided by Spirit of America has played a role in this effort. As one American advisor relayed to us, the medical kits, headlamps, and Camelbaks have made a real difference to the Nigeriens, both in helping them train more effectively as well as in helping them react to enemy activity:
Over the past few months, your donors have provided first aid kits, collapsible litters, headlamps, metal-detecting wands, and Camelbaks. Having the medical equipment definitely maximized the effects of the training. It helped the 3rd CAT create standard procedures that they have since executed in a combat environment. They used the medical kits to treat real-world casualties during an operation just last month.
The headlamps have been crucial to the 3rd CAT, as most of their operations occur during periods of low light. The Nigerien Army Chief of Staff expressed his gratitude for the lights just this morning when the 3rd CAT used them in a real-world scenario.
I personally think the Camelbaks were the biggest hit with the soldiers themselves. The soldiers immediately began wearing their Camelbaks to training and on missions. In our eyes, they have been more effective and are able to operate much longer in the desert heat. In the soldiers’ eyes, the Camelbaks add to their individual and collective identities.
As you can tell, these items have had a significant impact on the 3rd CAT’s survivability and effectiveness against a very tough enemy. Your support is directly helping them safeguard local communities and will ultimately help restore peace to southern Niger.
Thank you for your generosity! Stay tuned for more updates on this project, as well as for other ways to get involved.
All the best,