Challenge and Opportunity in the Heart of the Sahel: Discussion with Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou

On Friday, August 8, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, president of the Republic of Niger, for a roundtable discussion moderated by J. Peter Pham, Africa Center director. After introductory remarks by Pham, President Issoufou made an opening statement outlining the challenges and opportunities in his country as well as the ongoing crisis in the Sahel, noting the continuing insecurity and conflict in Mali, Libya, and Nigeria, all of which border Niger.

Participants in the ensuing discussion included former US Africa Command commander General Carter Ham, as well as Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs; the Honorable Bisa Williams, deputy assistant secretary of the US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs; the Honorable Johnnie Carson, former assistant secretary in charge of the Bureau of African Affairs; the Honorable Princeton Lyman, former special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan; and the Honorable Frances Cook, former US director of the Office of West African Affairs. Other participants included a number of Nigerien cabinet ministers and government officials, including H.E. Maman Sidikou Nigerien ambassador to the United States; H.E. Mahamadou Karidjo, minister of national defense; H.E. Boubacar Boureima, Nigerien permanent representative to the United Nations; H.E. Alma Oumarou, minister of trade and private sector promotion; and H.E. Saidou Sidibé, chief of staff to the president. Also in attendance were former US military personnel, representatives from private industry, US government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

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During his remarks, President Issoufou outlined the five drivers of conflict in the region: terrorism; organized crime; Africa’s identity crisis; poor economic and political governance; and poverty and inequality. He spoke at length about how each had affected Niger’s security, and what steps his government is taking to mitigate them. He also praised the strong Nigerien-US security relationship, and expressed hope that it would continue and deepen.

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