Niger, a landlocked country in Western Africa about twice the size of Texas, bridges the Sahara and the Sahel, linking Northern Africa to coastal West African countries. This location has made Niger a trade hub for thousands of years. Today, traffickers exploit these ancient routes and porous regional borders to transport weapons and ammunition to multiple terrorist organizations operating in Northern and Western Africa.
Through the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) program, the State Department assists Nigerien security forces with securing and managing their stockpiles to prevent theft and pilferage. Since 2015, the CWD program has supported an implementing partner, Humanity & Inclusion, in providing weapons destruction infrastructure at two sites for the Nigerien Armed Forces and at a third site for the National Guard. Militaries regularly replace their weapons, but if they cannot destroy retired weapons, those weapons can become a ripe target for diversion. In countries where secure storage space is severely limited, excess weapons become a logistical burden and are often stored in vulnerable conditions or overlooked.
In August, I visited one of the sites in Niamey to see first-hand how the Nigerien Armed Forces was using it. In the corner of a warehouse filled with crates of excess weapons, Chief Warrant Officer Two Issaka Boureina showed us the weapons cutting equipment – a hydraulic shear and circular saw – and his team demonstrated the destruction process.
Clad in protective aprons, helmets, goggles, and ear protection, the team immediately fell into what was clearly a professional and well-practiced routine. A line formed to pass each weapon to a soldier who read the serial number to Boureina, who recorded it in a register. The machine operator carefully cut each weapon into at least three parts, ensuring the scraps could not be used to assemble or repair another weapon. Read more…