Rebellion in Northern Niger Exacts Large Human, Economic Toll

Rebellion in Northern Niger Exacts Large Human, Economic Toll

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso -- Although it has received scant coverage in the international press, the year-old rebellion in the northern half of Niger has exacted a tremendous cost in the West African nation in both human and economic terms.

For starters, at least 50 government soldiers have been killed by the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), the Tuareg-led group spearheading the rebellion. The MNJ also has captured more than 50 soldiers and, in January, they grabbed a regional governor during a daring raid on a northern town. The rebels have also been blamed for laying land mines throughout the northern part of the country, which have caused at least 80 casualties, reported Human Rights Watch.

If this anti-government rebellion in the world's fourth-poorest country receives any notice at all, it is most often through the lens of press freedom. President Mamadou Tandja decreed a state of alert Aug. 24 (and recently extended it to May 24) that criminalizes the act of quoting members of the rebellion and also makes it illegal for reporters to speak to them. The government has also banned the broadcast of any live debates regarding the military and political situation in the north.

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