The United Nations, on Friday, expressed its intention to establish contact with the leaders of the recent coup in Niger, following their decision to restrict the operations of UN agencies and other organizations in military “operation zones.”
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci, speaking in Geneva, stated, “We’ve seen the reports. We are reaching out to the de facto authorities in Niger to better understand what this means and the implications for the humanitarian work.”
The announcement came after Niger’s interior ministry declared late Thursday that it was suspending the activities of UN agencies, NGOs, and international organizations in military “operation zones.”
While the ministry did not specify the affected regions, it cited the “current security situation” as the reason for these measures, temporarily halting all activities and movements in these areas.
Niger’s military leaders assumed power through a coup on July 26, overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum. Among the reasons they cited for ousting the democratically-elected leader was the dire security situation in the landlocked Sahel nation, which is grappling with two jihadist insurgencies.
One insurgency in southeastern Niger is a spillover from the long-running conflict in neighbouring Nigeria, while the other is an offensive in the southwest by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.
Despite the change in leadership, these attacks have persisted, with the UN refugee agency reporting over 20,000 people displaced due to violence in the past month alone.
Niger already hosts more than 710,000 internally displaced people, including Nigerien citizens and refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN agency, has raised concerns about overcrowding in migrant transit centres it operates in Niger. These centres accommodate approximately 5,000 migrants along migration routes in the country.
IOM reported that more than 1,400 people, primarily from Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Nigeria, were unable to access these overcrowded centres and were awaiting assistance outside.
Christopher Gascon, IOM’s regional director for West and Central Africa, called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors to allow people to return to their countries of origin and alleviate the strain on the centres. He emphasized that the lack of charter flight possibilities meant people could remain in these conditions for weeks or months.
Creating humanitarian corridors would enable aid workers to facilitate the safe return of migrants to the airport and arrange charter flights for their repatriation.