By Rida Lyammouri
September 5th, 2016
Video started circulating on the messenger application Whatsapp of Tebu armed movement. The group was supposedly created in 2008 but never really conducted any violent attacks against Nigerien authorities. In the video, a representative of the group confirmed the group was indeed established back in 2008 and its members are disappointed at the Nigerien government for not addressing their claims. I am quoting here the group’s representative then followed by my comments:
“We have created since 2008 Mouvement pour la Justice et la Rehabilitation du Niger (Movement for Justice and Rehabilitation of Niger). Since we came to existence we didn’t have fundamental rights in Niger. All doors were closed and was no channel for us to claim our rights, thus we have created an armed movement. If it happens we will attack Niger because we didn’t have an opportunity for an open dialogue with Nigerien government. We are here on the ground and engaged to claim our rights in Niger. We are here to claim our rights because we are marginalized, there is petrol and uranium in this area but we are not benefiting. As a result members of this group have decided to re-organize and get armed to claim their rights to live, eat, and rights to education and health services. We have two points: We demand our rights from the Nigerien government, and second, our rights from the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC).”
- At this point it is too early to know how serious the group is about its threat toward the Nigerien government, and its capabilities to conduct violent attacks against Nigerien forces and foreign interests in Niger. However it should not be underestimated since from the video the group appears to have at least dozens of armed fighters with 5 vehicles, rocket launcher and machine guns. These capabilities are enough to cause harm to local forces and disrupt foreign interests based in remote areas where there is little presence of Nigerien forces.
- Despite that spokesperson did not indicate group’s area of operation, northeastern and eastern Niger on the borders with Libya and Chad are the most likely areas of their presence if any. Both regions are categorized by Tebu communities presence and home to uranium mines in Agadez region in northeastern Niger and oil refinery in Diffa region. Any disruption by this group will further result harm to Niger’s economy while there are already tensions between Niger and its French and Chinese partners.
- The small size of their unit is likely to make them more mobile and to focus on guerrilla type of attacks rather than conventional war with Nigerien forces.