UN chief urges investment to help Niger fight jihadists

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged the international community to "fully invest" to help impoverished Niger fight jihadist insurgents threatening the government in Niamey and neighbouring countries.

"Today I believe, looking at the remarkable performance of Niger's army, the international community must fully invest to strengthen the capacity of Niger's army," said Guterres, alongside the Sahel nation's President Mohamed Bazoum.

Equipment and training are needed, Guterres said.

"Niger cannot face all these multiple challenges alone," he added, listing major organisations such as the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who are key actors for peace and development in the region.

Guterres acknowledged however that the G5-Sahel, that brings together Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, "has been weakened by the coups d'Etat that took place in some of your neighbours," referring to Mali and Burkina Faso in the last two years.

"While terrorist attacks continue to increase in the Sahel and spread to the states on the Gulf of Guinea, the international community has to understand it is no longer just a regional African question, but really is a global threat," the UN chief said.

"The peace, the stability of Niger, of the whole Sahel, represent an absolute priority for the United Nations."

Several Western countries support Niger in its struggle against groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic state, notably France and the United States, which have military bases in Niamey and the Agadez region in the north.

Niger MPs on April 22 voted in favour of allowing the deployment of new foreign forces fighting jihadists.

Guterres called on Sunday on a visit to Dakar for the military juntas in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali to hand power back to civilians as soon as possible.

He will visit Ouallam on Tuesday, north of Niger's capital, to meet displaced people and refugees who have fled the violence.

Guterres will then visit Nigeria on the last leg of his West African tour.

***AFP***

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