Niger: debate and vote for presence of foreign froces in the country

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Niger's deputies will debate and vote on Friday over the presence of foreign forces to fight jihadists in Niger, denounced by local NGOs, according to the parliamentary and government sources.

With an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly of the ruling party of President Mohamed Bazoum, the result of the vote will leave little room for doubt.

The document submitted to the deputies, consulted by AFP, stresses that Niger "is virtually surrounded by terrorist groups." This is despite efforts to contain the threat around its borders, where the human and economic toll is high.

In a statement, the opposition parties said the government's approach is "to circumvent the obligation to communicate to national deputies the texts relating to defense and security agreements, as part of the regularization of the redeployment of Barkhane and Takuba forces in Niger."

The document added that "the evolution of the security situation requires a joint commitment of the government and other nations for an effective fight against terrorism, within the framework of existing or future bilateral or multilateral cooperation."

"The special forces of friendly countries will be deployed" and "installed on the territories in the member countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) affected by the threat", including "Benin, Ghana, Niger, and Côte d'Ivoire", says the text.

The document further specifies that in Niger "which is already home to foreign force bases, new locations will be created closer to the theaters of operations" in Mali, and "the locations and modalities of operations" will be discussed "with the military hierarchy".

Hassoumi Massoudou, Niger's Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently maintained that his country wanted "an increase in the intervention of our partners", because "with the departure of French forces from northern Mali, we expect greater pressure from terrorists on our country".

In its fight against jihadist movements linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (EI), Niger enjoys the support of several Western countries, including France and the United States, which have military bases in Niamey and the Agadez region (north).

On their part, Nigerien NGOs denounce the presence of foreign troops as "occupying forces" and "a threat to the country's sovereignty."

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