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Since September 1, motorcycles have been authorized again in the municipalities of the Tillabéri region, located in western Niger. This part of the country has been plagued for several years by terrorist attacks perpetrated by armed groups. Although the news brings happiness to a large majority of the population, concerns remain.
In the town of Tillabéri, capital of the eponymous region, mopeds run for the first time since January 2020. The ban was aimed at combating terrorism in this part of the country where armed groups affiliated with the organization Islamic State in the Sahel or Al-Qaeda are rife. Two-wheeled vehicles were in fact the preferred means of locomotion for attackers who entered villages to carry out attacks against civilians.
“Here, the motorbike is essential to move from one point to another”
For Djibril, truck driver, this government decision is a relief.
The return of motorcycles to the Tillabéri region was celebrated in the city. People started to go out and check their vehicles that they had parked for a long time.
The motorcycle ban was really tough. Here in Tillabéri, where there are many rural communities, the motorbike is essential for getting from one point to another. Not everyone can afford a vehicle.
Because of this ban, it was necessary to wait until market day, once a week, to hope to find a vehicle to go shopping in the villages. Can you imagine the hassle of those who have to trade on a daily basis?
In town, taxi fares had become much too expensive since there were no longer motorcycle taxis, which had the advantage of being quick and inexpensive. A lot of people have had to change jobs. Motorcycle mechanics have become, for example, welders or drivers. And those who couldn’t do anything else found themselves unemployed.
“Women had to walk three, five kilometers – or even more – to come for an antenatal consultation”
Saidou Hangadoumbo, city doctor and former elected representative of the city of Tillabéri, believes that it was time to lift the ban.
This measure should not be maintained for so long, for economic but also social reasons. Many teachers used motorcycles to go to work in rural schools. They were affected.
Access to health care had become difficult. Especially for women who had to walk three, five kilometers – or even more – to come for an antenatal consultation.
That said, the return of motorcycles is rather timid on the roads because there are no more motorcycles. A lot of people had to sell their machines. The streets are therefore less noisy than before.
“How will the military tell innocent users from ‘bandits’?”
However, this lifting of the traffic ban is not unanimous. Contacted by the editorial staff of the Observers of France 24, Daouda Moukaila, member of the local security committee in the commune of Anzourou, thinks that the decision will further complicate the task of the Nigerien army.
In our demands, we wanted it to be just the urban centers of the region that would be affected by this authorization for the use of motorcycles and not the hamlets and villages.
We fear the consequences this can have on populations. Because the armed groups operate on motorcycles in the villages. How will the military distinguish innocent users from “bandits”?
Before, you could easily alert the army as soon as a motorcycle was traveling in an area. We fear that the army, in its fight against the jihadists, will make mistakes by not clearly distinguishing the average citizen from the attackers who will take advantage of this new authorization to blend in with the mass.
We have made people aware so that they do not take their motorcycles for the moment.
In May, more than 10,000 people fled Anzourou in 48 hours, located in the so-called “three borders” area, after repeated attacks by jihadists. “The terrorists entered the villages on motorbikes. Before killing the inhabitants, they stole the cattle and burned about fifty granaries,” a local resident told the Observers de France 24 editorial office.
>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Attacks in Niger: “The populations are targeted because they collaborate with the State”
According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, more than 420 civilians have been killed since the start of the year in the west of the country. This assessment does not take into account the 37 civilians killed on August 16 in the attack on the village of Darey-Daye.