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Niger 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Niger; Africa > Niger > Niamey

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Niger’s central location and the vast, open Sahara and Sahel Deserts make the transit of terrorists, criminals, weapons, migrants, contraband, and illegal drugs possible

Crime Threats

Niger is rated by the Department of State as High for crime. Crime occurs at all hours in the major cities. 

Non-violent crimes, such as pick-pocketing, purse snatching, backpack theft, and cell phone theft are present, notably in or around places where Westerners gather. 

Violent crimes, such as muggings and assaults, are more commonly committed after dark by multiple individuals. Assailants are aggressive and usually display some form of weapon during a robbery; the most common weapon employed is a knife. Many Nigeriens carry knives or machetes as a convention of their normal dress. There has been an increase in the use of handguns during muggings and robberies. 

There has been an overall decrease in residential robberies in Niamey. Home invasions and residential robberies occur primarily after dark and can be violent. There have been several incidents in which assailants attacked the residential guard or the occupants of the residence. While thieves typically choose to rob homes that have no residential guard and/or visible residential security measures, there have been several incidents in which assailants attacked the residential guard or the occupants of the residence, including some diplomat and NGO residences. There was an incident at an Embassy residence by a violent individual; the Embassy guard on duty physically protected the residence from intrusion. In addition, there have been numerous cases of commercial and NGO office robberies. 

There is a loosely organized criminal element in Niger. With its lengthy and porous borders, Niger has long been a transit route for smugglers. In northern Niger, within the Sahara Desert region, the seminomadic, pastoral Tuareg people have long facilitated trade, including the smuggling of contraband: weapons, drugs, fuel, vehicles, human beings, and cigarettes. Since the 2011 war in Libya, Niger has seen a rise in smuggling activity, and there have been clashes between smugglers and Nigerien security forces. Along the border with Nigeria, criminal elements smuggle everything from fuel to rice to automobiles.  

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions in major cities are hazardous. While there are some paved roads, most residential streets are dirt or sand. On the paved roads, there are a number of roundabouts, and they are often congested. Different roundabouts have different rules of priority, which contributes to the incidence of traffic accidents. Drivers can be aggressive, and the rules of the road are often disregarded. Road accidents occur frequently, mostly due to excessive speed, poor vehicle maintenance, and poor roadways. The roads within Niamey are inundated with motorcycles; motorcycle accidents occur frequently, and many result in fatalities. Taxis in Niamey pose multiple hazards: drivers are notorious for driving erratically; they could target a Westerner for criminal activity; their under-maintained vehicles could break down; and they often stop quickly to pick up fares. The large number of motorcycles, bicycles, push-carts, vendor carts, broken-down vehicles, beggars, and pedestrians on the streets make driving a challenge. Livestock -- camels, cattle, and goats -- wander the streets and frequently cause accidents. 

Traffic police are present at large intersections and conduct enforcement checks at numerous points throughout the city. Despite their presence, traffic police are largely ineffective in preventing accidents and ensuring motorists’ safety. Some traffic officers attempt to extort money. All Péages (toll points) at city limits on major roads are official and should be respected. The driver will receive a receipt of toll payment, which should be kept for the return trip on that road. 

The routes linking Niamey to neighboring countries are focal points for smuggling and other criminal activities. Almost all attacks occur at/after dusk or in the very early morning hours and involve firearms. Bandits are not afraid to use violence and may commit murder when victims show signs of resistance. Daytime highway robberies have occurred but are much less frequent. 

In 2012, vehicle thefts were prevalent in Niamey; however, since the arrest of a Nigerien/Nigerian theft ring, the level has decreased. Most carjackings reported to police occur on the main East-West road (Nigerien Highway N1) along the border with Nigeria. 

Use of taxis should be avoided and is prohibited for all Embassy personnel.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Niger is rated high for political violence. On February 18, 2010, members of the Nigerien military conducted a coup d’état and removed President Tandja from power. In April 2011, a democratically-elected government was installed, and the U.S. restored full bilateral cooperation. 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Niger is rated high for terrorism. Niger has experienced terrorism firsthand, mainly in the form of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) operations and clashes between the Nigerien military and al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or other terrorist groups in the north. The January 2013 French military intervention in Mali against AQIM and its allies caused terrorist elements to threaten reprisals against countries -- including Niger – that participated. In May 2013, AQIM-related forces led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar executed simultaneous suicide attacks with Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) and dismounted gunmen on a Nigerien military camp in Agadez and a French-owned uranium mine in Arlit. 

AQIM and similar terrorist groups are active across the Sahel region; over the years, they have conducted multiple kidnapping operations and killed many people. AQIM has conducted operations in the Sahel since 2006, when the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) became affiliated with al-Qai’da and changed its doctrine and name. In 2012, AQIM and allies took over northern Mali. The French-led military intervention drove them out of power but not out of existence. These groups include some Nigeriens but are essentially external threats to Niger. 

In August 2013, Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathamun Battalion and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced their merger under the name “al-Murabitun.” The U.S. State Department has designated al-Mulathamun and its associated aliases as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.

Boko Haram (BH) has an increasing presence; the group is from northern Nigeria, where the population – mostly Hausa and Kanuri – is essentially identical to that on the Nigerien side of the border. In Nigeria, Boko Haram has attacked government forces, slaughtered civilians, and kidnapped foreigners. Niger, whose population is majority Hausa, has experienced an increase in extremist rhetoric in the south (specifically Diffa), and Boko Haram members have been arrested in Niger. 

Civil Unrest

Large and small street demonstrations occur regularly, often near government buildings, university campuses, or other gathering places (i.e. public parks). Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically occur from January-May. During previous student demonstrations, rock-throwing demonstrators have targeted NGO and diplomatic vehicles bearing “IT” or “CD” plates. Many demonstrations have involved rock throwing and tire burning, especially at key intersections in Niamey. Niger experiences violent demonstrations from time to time, notably in Zinder. In December 2011, two days of rioting in Zinder ended in several buildings burned, two civilians killed, and several government officials dismissed. 

Niamey frequently has student marches and protests over the education system. Additionally, trade/service unions and other associations often protest for better wages and working conditions. The protests can result in road closures, rock throwing, and trash burning. In September 2013, two French citizens were beaten and briefly taken hostage by residents of the Goudel neighborhood, approximately 1 km from the Embassy. This incident occurred after Goudel militants had warned that foreigners were not welcome in the neighborhood and in response to road barriers placed by the government in response to heightened terrorist threats. 

Religious or Ethnic Violence 

In September 2012, youth gangs in Zinder burned churches. In January 2013, a church in Ouallam experienced an arson attempt thought to be perpetrated by youth.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Extreme heat is a serious environmental hazard. Temperatures can surpass 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the hot season (March-June). 

During the rainy season (July-September) flash flooding can occur without warning. In 2012, flooding, the worst in over 75 years, damaged villages, roads, and homes in Niamey, and resulted in loss of life. Many 

Nigeriens chronically suffer from high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

Niger has a very small manufacturing sector, so industrial accidents are rare. 

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Because of safety and security concerns, the Peace Corps ceased its operations in Niger in January 2011.

Due to the changing security situation in 2013, foreigners who wish to travel beyond Niamey’s city limits, must have their car registration and personal identification documents (a passport or Nigerien identification card) with them. The Nigerien authorities have stated they will not restrict travel based on nationality, but they do reserve the right to restrict it based on the security situation along the intended route. If you wish to travel in Niger, please remember the security climate can change quickly, and the Nigerien authorities may decide to take additional security measures to ensure your safety.  

Embassy Travel Policy (applicable to all U.S. government executive branch travelers under Chief of Mission authority) requires that all travel north of Niamey and east of Zinder be accompanied by an armed security escort, with guards at hotels for overnight stays. 

Following the murder of a French tourist in Agadez in 2005, the government began requiring that NGOs register and inform the government of each trip they plan to undertake in Niger. To avoid detention and/or expulsion by authorities, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers abide by the following standard operating procedures. Make sure that your NGO has received official recognition from the host government. For details on how to do this, please visit the Managing Office of Decentralized Cooperation and Non-Governmental Organizations (Direction de la Coopération Décentralisée et des Organisations Non Governementales) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et de la Coopération). Carry a copy of the official recognition (Arrêté) of the right of your NGO to operate in Niger. If your NGO sponsor does not have a permanent presence in Niger, verify that your NGO group has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission in Niger. If your NGO is a national NGO with headquarters in Niger, verify that your group has informed the Ministry of Planning, Land Management, and Community Development at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission. In either case, the notice should be in writing and should include the purpose of the mission, the names of the individuals who will be working for the NGO on the mission, the dates of the mission, where the mission will take place, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the mission. The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission, and NGOs should ask for a receipt of any notification provided to a Ministry. In addition, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers present themselves at the regional governor’s office prior to beginning their mission and ask for a receipt of the documents they present. It would be wise to provide the governor with the same written notification that was provided to the ministries listed above. 

Drug-related Crimes

Smuggling of narcotics and other items is prevalent from Mali through Niger to Libya and from Nigeria into Niger. Smuggling is often done in caravans of trucks through the desert. In late 2013, officials interdicted a cocaine smuggling operation through Niamey airport for ground movement to Nigeria. 

Kidnapping Threats

Niger has become a target for KFR operations; this caliber of operations can involve AQIM or other terrorist groups. Between December 2008 and March 2014, AQIM conducted seven kidnapping operations in Niger, four of them successfully. The threat of kidnapping of Westerners is ongoing. The type of assistance that the U.S. government can provide to kidnap victims is limited as is host nation capacity to support a rescue operation.

Police Response

The police sometimes lack resources, such as vehicles and gasoline, to respond immediately to calls for assistance.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens who experience police harassment or detention should immediately notify the U.S. Embassy Consular section and ask to speak with the American Citizen Services. Outside working hours, call the Duty Officer at (+227) 94-49-90-66. 

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

U.S. citizens who have been victims of crime should immediately contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Local police can be reached by dialing 17 from any phone. If the police are unable to respond, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy, or if after hours, call Marine Post One at 99-49-90-33.

Various Police/Security Agencies 

The Police Nationale is the main law enforcement force for cities and villages and falls under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). The Garde Nationale also falls under the MOI and guards prisons and government buildings. While dressed like soldiers, typically with red berets, Garde members have civilian arrest authority, can conduct checkpoints, and can be called on to quell civil disturbances. 

The Gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Defense and has civilian arrest authority. The Gendarmes typically cover the rural areas and roadways; they typically wear green berets.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care does not meet U.S. standards and is especially limited or non-existent in rural areas. This is a cash society, and physicians and clinics do not take insurance or credit cards. Niger has a substantial trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals that poses a significant hazard for those seeking a valid medicinal remedy.

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Expatriates utilize Clinique Magori and the American-financed CURE Hospital, which specializes in pediatric orthopedics but will also see other minor surgery cases.
 

Medical Facilities

Contact

Address

Office Tel

Clinique Magori

Dr. Ali Ada

BP 10394, east of Army’s DC-MAT near the north side of the Army’s roundabout towards Ecobank headquarters

20-74-33-47

Cure Hospital

(Pediatrics)

Dr. Negrini

Lazaret Area, opposite Algabit Gas Station

20-35-15-94

Kaba Clinic

Dr. Cisse Kaba

BP 232, Terminus area, opposite the Moroccan Embassy and the Tourism Bureau near Grand Hotel roundabout

20-73-21-08

Polyclinique Rayua

Dr. Diatta

Kouara Kano, near the former Malian Embassy

20-74-35-35

Polyclinique Lahya

Dr. Abdoulaye

BP 10842, east of the Art Village and south of Wadata Market on Route Filingue

20-74-09-68

Pasteur Clinic

Dr. Tchiani

Opposite French Cours La Fontaine

20-72-50-16

National Hospital

 

BP 238, street opposite the burnt out Ministry of Justice on the south side of the Calabash roundabout

20-72-23-26

University Hospital

 

BP 10146, street west side of the campus

20-31-68-78

For dental problems, call Tafadeck Dental Clinic at 227-20-73-20-34.

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

THS Niger
Contact: Madame Araoye Helene Amoussou
+227-94-85-99-32, +227-20-73-97-75
thsniger@wanadoo.fr
www.ths.fr

Assistance Medical Africaine in Lome and Libreville
Phone: +241 06-22-69-70, +241 07-41-11-11
E-mail: mafrique@yahoo.fr

Alafia Jet –Cotonou/Benin
Contact: Pierre Vialaret
Phone: +241 21-208-875
 E-mail: alafiajet@yahoo.fr

International SOS Paris
Phone: 0033155633155
Web site: www.internationalsos.com

SOS London
Phone: 00442087628008 
Web site: www.internationalsos.com

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Securing potable water sources is a concern. Water for drinking and cooking should only be consumed from a distiller or sanitized prior to consumption; all other water sources should be assumed to be non-potable.  

For the most current information, please visit the CDC’s Niger page at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/niger.htm.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided 

The Night Market should be avoided after dark, as criminals loiter looking for potential victims. This area is notorious for pickpocketing, purse snatching, muggings, and assaults. 

The area around the Gaweye and Grand Hotels, National Museum, and Kennedy Bridge are other high-risk areas.

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

U.S. citizens are urged to use common sense and vigilance when traveling in Niger. To minimize the chance of becoming a victim, maintain a low profile, avoid high-risk and poorly lit areas, and always be alert to surroundings. Additionally, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid, when possible, known locations where large groups of Westerners routinely congregate, such as bars and restaurants.

Follow standard security practices: do not display large sums of cash or jewelry; do not travel/walk alone, especially at night; drive with your doors locked and windows rolled up; do not use credit cards; and lock all doors/windows in your residence or hotel room. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

Rue des Ambassades, Niamey, Niger.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: (country code 227) 20-72-26-61/62/63/64
Regional Security Office: ext. 4336
Consular Affairs: ext. 4444
Marine Post One: Land line (227) 20-72-31-41 (after hours) or 99-49-90-33
American Citizen Services (after hours number): (227) 94-49-90-66

OSAC Country Council Information

Niger’s OSAC Country Council was launched in January 2012. The RSO is available to meet with American private sector representatives to provide security information. Please contact the RSO at ext. 4336 or BishopBJ@state.gov for any information regarding OSAC.