Lazy eyes listen
Reuters reported on Thursday that thousands of trucks carrying food headed for Niger had been detained for weeks at the Malanville crossing in northern Benin due to border bans and sanctions put on the new military government in Niamey.
The checkpoint at Malanville, Benin, is said to be one of the busiest in West Africa, with a large amount of transit goods, including humanitarian relief products, passing through into neighboring Niger.
The crossing is apparently at a stop, with a queue of laden vehicles reaching back 25 kilometers “from the muddy shores of the Niger River that marks the frontier,” according to Reuters. Some small traders are alleged to be dodging border authorities by transporting items across the river into the country on wooden boats.
“We don’t know if we’ve been taken hostage or what,” a Nigerien driver told the agency, explaining that he had been stuck at the border with his load of sugar and oil for more than 20 days. “There’s no food, no water, and nowhere to sleep,” he added.
In attempt to force the July 26 coup plotters to return ousted president Mohamed Bazoum, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) limited financial operations and prohibited entrance into Niger from its member countries.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warned last week that the embargo was “greatly affecting the supply of vital foods and medical supplies into Niger,” where at least 3.3 million people were already “acutely food-insecure” prior to the coup.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s acting regional director for Western Africa, Margot van der Velden, has asked “all parties to facilitate humanitarian exemptions, enabling immediate access to people in need of critical food and basic necessities.”
Djaounsede Madjiangar, the WFP’s West African regional spokeswoman, has also warned the media that the agency’s supplies, including cereals, cooking oil, and food for malnourished children, are stuck outside Niger.
Businesses in Nigeria, the country’s southern neighbor, have expressed concern about the sanctions’ impact on cross-border trade. Some people told the Associated Press that business owners had used the border shutdown to hike their prices.