By Ebi Kesiena
Amnesty International (AI) has disclosed that an increasing number of children are being killed or targeted for recruitment by armed groups in conflicts raging at Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.
In a report published on Monday, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for crisis response, Matt Wells, stated that armed groups have repeatedly attacked schools and reserves, and are targeting children for recruitment.
“In Niger’s Tillaberi region, an entire generation is growing up surrounded by death and destruction,” he stated.
Amnesty blamed the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) for causing the devastating impact on children in the region.
The rights group released a 57-page report documenting the impact on children of the conflict in Niger’s western Tillaberi, an area of 100,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles) on the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso that is home to different ethnic groups such as Djerma, Fulani, Tuareg and Hausa.
According to conflict tracking organization ACLED, cited by Amnesty, violence against civilians has led to 544 conflict-related deaths from January to July 23 this year, already exceeding the 397 people killed in the whole of 2020.
Armed groups have killed more than 60 children in Niger’s tri-border area in 2021. The ISGS, which operates primarily on the border with Mali, appears responsible for most of the large-scale killing.