Niger, usually pushed down in the headlines by its more famous neighbor Nigeria, is increasingly moving towards a key moment. As the country increases its ties to the US as an ally against terrorism (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram are both relevant threats), the authoritarianism of the president is increasing. Recent elections were not deemed by the opposition to be fair, and crackdowns on any perceived dissidents are beginning to escalate.
Given regional precedents (of Egypt’s Mubarak and Burkina Faso’s Campaore), no amount of US support will be sufficient to keep the government from toppling if it goes to far. This is the dilemma facing the presidents of Niger, Djibouti, Uganda, and Chad, among others, all considered important African allies against terrorism. What will come next for these allies of freedom, but practitioners of authoritarianism?