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  #1  
Old 8 Nov 2004
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Niger : Foreign Office Advice

The U.K. Foreign Office has recently changed its advice for Niger. It now says :-

"We advise against all travel to the Air Massif, Tenere and Kaouar regions, due to recent clashes between the Nigerien security forces and armed groups. It is possible, however, to travel north from Agadez as far as the tree of Tenere and south as far as the Termit Massif"

Can anyone shed any light on why they have taken such a strong line? French advice,which was updated last week, seems to be more relaxed.

We are planning to go from Libya to Bilma and then on to Agadez, so it would be nice to know what is going on.
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  #2  
Old 9 Nov 2004
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Hi,

there were attacks on road transport and busses to Arlit with several persons killed. Later on, fighting between army and "bandits" or "rebels" were reported.

It seems that some of Rhissa ag Boulas clan lost patience/feel harassec by another local clan which is more clever in siding up with authorities.

So for cautious advice, FO makes sense. The French were first with strong warnings and are now not really softer - maybe one can see that they do not believe in "terrorists eveywhere" (which is correct), but the region still can be fatal.

regards,
Peter
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  #3  
Old 9 Nov 2004
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"It is possible, however, to travel north from Agadez as far as the tree of Tenere and south as far as the Termit Massif"

This suggests that the FCO havent even looked at a map or are unfamiliar with the idea of N S E and W.

Whats so safe about the Termit massif? - thats not that far from where one of the buses got done and who goes there anyway?

The FCO never leads with advice in the central Sahara, it merely follows (or gets muddled, as we can see).
Unfortunately it can mean your UK travel insurance, if you use it and expect to rely on it, will not be valid in an FCO-blacklisted country.

The French and German equivalents (and even the US who are still Pan Saheling, I take it) are the ones to trust.

IMO the risk is around Agadez-Arlit and in the Air (as it has been for years) - a Tuareg region where the rebels or whoever have been active again. the Tenere and the Kaouar are empty or not Tuareg regions and a lot quiter than they used to be.
I have a feeling that coming into Agadez across the desert from the east would be safer than leaving from there.
I know 2 groups who have come this way in recent weeks without probs - but down here, like in many places in Africa, anyone can get unlucky and robbed. It is the Sahara after all where travel is not without risks.

Chris S

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Old 9 Nov 2004
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Hi Chris,

don't give too much on geography, travel information is written from an office far away from the region concerned. The main point of information is the date it was given, the reference to certain incidents (which is normally ok) and, in some cases, a reference to bilateral problems.

For Niger, it's obvious that the French DFAE is first choice, but one can also check flow of information within NATO (Dutch, Belgian pages)or level of information of countries somehow involved (Belgium: mining in Arlit). My suggestion: use three or four at least.

The German position is one of the most restrictive ones (seems that travel insurance has most influence) and I do not find any region in the world where they possess genuine information.

Just skim-reading through several countries regarding Niger, the US page is below expectations, Canada and Australia which are ok in many cases do not really care, Swiss and Austrian pages differ heavily: The Swiss missed the last incidents, Austria noticed some of them...

I do not think there's a single page to trust, they are starting points for own investigations and - thanks to the web - there is a lot around. Regarding insurance, it may make sense to contact them before: Regional differences in a single country from a distant European view may be quite a good point.

Regards,
Peter
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Old 11 Nov 2004
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"I do not think there's a single page to trust, they are starting points for own investigations.."

This is very true and thanks for your lucid contributions .... but the web has also made people lazy (not having a go at MG here) - for example the UK travel press like to quote the UK FCO as if it is The Word, which, for the Sahara IMO, it is not.

This is why, despite all the repetition and carnetery, web forums like this (esp the continental ones for Sahara) are useful.

Ch
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  #6  
Old 11 Nov 2004
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Chris,

Thanks for your comments, with which I agree and which are reassuring.

My original question, however, was did anyone know why the advice changed so radically, particularly since you would expect them to follow others, in particular the French. The FCO may not be well informed, but there is no reason to think they are arbitrary or mischievous, at least not in this case!

It is of course understood that it is in the nature of travel advice to be overcautious, but at the moment the British and also the Dutch advice seems to be particularly so. It would be nice to know why in order to see whether there is anything to it. (The French advice isn't that positive either; only the German advice, which Peter mentions is usually restrictive, is neutral for the area we're talking about).

Michael

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Old 11 Nov 2004
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Supplying advice for foreign countries must be a very difficult thing to do for places where info is hard to come by. Couple that with lack of historical links or connections and political constraints (the UK often goes light on Egypt), these sources are just the starting point.

A good example was the UK foreign office advice for Algeria which was showed a relaxation of threats for some time AFTER the 32 eurpoeans were kidnapped there. N Africa just couldn't have been a priority for the foreign office at the time.
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Old 11 Nov 2004
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Editing travel advice is some sort of "black magic":

With a few exceptions (former colonial powers), there is no local source of information.

If you're less stribgent, you may get sued for liability: Some relatives of the people killed in Djerba sued the German government. The German FO made satiric jokes if this means that they have to predict every terrorist attack...

If you're too rigid, this may damage relations and, subsequently, business...There is a lot of pressure from affected governments to lift travel warnings, I only got a glimpse of what happened after the Austrian travel warning for Algeria (seems to be motivated by poor Algeria co-operation during the hostage crisis: So far the position is that if you do not get clear information from the government, a country is unsafe)

Regarding the text on Niger: Someone got some information which alerted him. Can be individual "failure" or carefully "designed information". Some possibilities (of many):

There is a lot of information communicated within NATO (Czech republic was the second country to issue a travel warning for Algeria when the hostage crisis broke out), and due to the Pan Sahel initiative, bad news are good news: If a local government can raise banditry to terrorist threat, they get more money.

Or: A representative of a local tourist agency wants to direct tourists to another region (yes, vodoo marketing is present in Niger, including robbery to show that the agency cannot protect its customers...), tells this to a diplomat who writes a report and thigs go the bureaucratic path.

etc, etc.

Regards,
Peter
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Old 13 Nov 2004
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I think everyone agrees, there has been no new bad news from Niger for 3 months - havent read it myself but the the FCo was probably just catching up.
IMO Niger in the places I mentioned above is as 'bad' as it always been (ie, mainly banditry), but that has no wiped out tourism or solo travels across the Tenere.

Ch
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  #10  
Old 13 Nov 2004
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Chris,

Thanks

Michael
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Old 13 Nov 2004
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chris, you mentioned "I know 2 groups who have come this way in recent weeks without probs" in one of your posts on this strain. could you give me (and michael) an email address or contact information for one of these folks? i'm scheduled to come into Agadez from the east in mid december and i'd love to get some first-hand reports on others' recent experiences.

i'm trying to decide how much time to give myself in niger and libya. if the risks in niger sound "same as the past few years", then i'm inclined to do 15 days in each country (exploring the Air and Tenere loops in niger). if niger sounds like risk is increasing, i may decide to spend more time in libya and do more of a straight route to agadez from the east.

thanks!
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  #12  
Old 14 Nov 2004
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Look at www.amsterdam2capetown.com for a recent trip-report Libya-Niger, done in october 2004.
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Old 15 Nov 2004
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Hello tmborden
you can also contact biselli@online.de or wendel@smile.ch for Libya-Niger done in october 2004.
Ferdi, Germany
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Old 1 Dec 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Scott:
"It is possible, however, to travel north from Agadez as far as the tree of Tenere and south as far as the Termit Massif"

This suggests that the FCO havent even looked at a map or are unfamiliar with the idea of N S E and W.

Whats so safe about the Termit massif? - thats not that far from where one of the buses got done and who goes there anyway?

The FCO never leads with advice in the central Sahara, it merely follows (or gets muddled, as we can see).
Unfortunately it can mean your UK travel insurance, if you use it and expect to rely on it, will not be valid in an FCO-blacklisted country.

The French and German equivalents (and even the US who are still Pan Saheling, I take it) are the ones to trust.

IMO the risk is around Agadez-Arlit and in the Air (as it has been for years) - a Tuareg region where the rebels or whoever have been active again. the Tenere and the Kaouar are empty or not Tuareg regions and a lot quiter than they used to be.
I have a feeling that coming into Agadez across the desert from the east would be safer than leaving from there.
I know 2 groups who have come this way in recent weeks without probs - but down here, like in many places in Africa, anyone can get unlucky and robbed. It is the Sahara after all where travel is not without risks.

Chris S


Why the coment about "...who travels there anyway...Termit Massif)". Is it not worth it? I'm planning to visit that area in a few weeks. Have you been there? I sense you don't care for it... please coment.

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  #15  
Old 1 Dec 2004
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I havent been to the Termit massif but from what I know of it, its profile in the Saharan compass, the fact that few tours go there,it's a bit 'Sahelian' for most Saharan's tastes; a transitionary envionment neither here nor there. Francis Rodd came up with an apposite quote on the Nigeran Sahel along the lines of "Hell is travelling through the Sahel for eternity".
Also the last time I was in the area (4 years ago) Termit was in Tubu (Kanuri) hands and Agadez tours were reluctant to risk it.
I think that risk is down to normal levels now now but IMO, if you are in Niger the true desert to the north is much more appealling.
I do hear it's a a good place for spotting wildlife: migrating birds and maybe even mouflons (waddans) if they have not all been shot out yet. And the dinosaur excavations of Paul Soreno (Chicago Uni) are vaguely west of the area too.
And - I believe Nick Middleton' s extreme TV show a year or 2 ago started from Termit on the way to Bilma and that series is out now in paperback. You may gain some impressions there.
So, it depends what you are in to - if you like the Sahara then Termit may not be your cup of tea. Let us know how it went.

Chris S
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