Second Niger Bridge was originally proposed in 1978, and ever since has been used as a campaign promise by national politicians seeking the support of voters in the southeast. It took more than three decades for the work to begin, but finally the company building the six-lane bridge says it will be ready by 2022.

When done, it will be “a huge sigh of relief to all Easterners in this country,” says Newman Nwankwo, 33, a businessman based in Onitsha who often plans his whole day around bridge traffic. Either he tries to cross at the lunchtime lull between noon and 2 p.m., or he waits until Sunday.

He won’t even attempt the crossing unless he has at least half a tank of gas.

“If I don’t plan well and I meet traffic, I just relax here in the queue, putting my A.C. and music on,” he said.

Stalled on the bridge, I look around and imagine what all these people could be doing if their time weren’t being sucked away by these daily snarl-ups and the four-decade wait for another option across the river. Bridges cause traffic all over the world, but this one’s aging steel rivets seem to be under more pressure than any I have ever crossed.

Another hour ticks by. We move a few inches.

People pass by, selling cold water and Coke. Where there is a go-slow, as traffic jams are known in Nigeria, vendor business blossoms.

Any movement is an on-again, off-again process. At one point when traffic starts forward, the driver in front of us is asleep. No amount of honking wakes him. Someone rushes over to shake him awake.

We go for 30 seconds. We stop for 30 minutes.

At midnight we make it across. It’s taken almost six hours to do three miles.

Leaving the bridge, we pass under a large sign on the Asaba side.

“Welcome,” it reads, optimistically, “to the land of progress.”

Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times.


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Two Spanish Journalists Are Killed in Burkina Faso

At least two European journalists were killed in the Western African nation of Burkina Faso after being kidnapped on Monday, according to the Spanish authorities, amid reports that a third was also abducted and killed.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of two Spanish journalists, whom he identified on Twitter as David Beriain and Roberto Fraile. Both were from northern Spain and were working on a documentary about anti-poaching efforts in Burkina Faso, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said earlier at a news conference.

Ms. González paid respect to the families and to journalists.

“As the situation of these two journalists reminds us, your profession is one of great risk in so many areas around the world,” she told reporters.

The two journalists were part of a group of 40 people who were ambushed on Monday in a nature reserve in southern Burkina Faso near the border with Benin, Ms. González said. The fate of the others in the group was unclear, but Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, said that a third journalist had been killed.

said in a statement. Three soldiers were injured and a fourth was abducted, the statement said.

In recent years, Burkina Faso has faced increasing violence from armed groups, several of them linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Attackers on motorbikes have stormed countless villages and hamlets, forcing villagers to convert to Islam and sometimes killing them even when they do. Others have ambushed military patrols and killed members of the armed forces, and hundreds of schools have been forced to close because of the violence.

But the violence has also come from the military itself, which has killed growing numbers of civilians, sometimes in proportions similar to those killed by Islamic insurgents, according to rights groups and analysts.

In July, the bodies of at least 180 men thought to have been killed by security forces in the preceding eight months were found in the country, according to witnesses’ testimonies collected by human rights researchers.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence and protests.

Last year was also the deadliest for militant Islamist violence in the region, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Defense Department research institution. About 4,250 people were killed, according to the think tank — a 60 percent increase over 2019 — with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara linked to more than half of the deaths.

In Burkina Faso, violence has fueled a fast-growing displacement crisis, with more than one million people fleeing their homes since 2019, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs body. Three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, in a country of 20 million population.

Several foreigners have also been taken hostage in recent years. In 2016, an Australian couple were kidnapped in the north of the country on the day that armed fighters killed dozens of people in the capital, Ouagadougou. In 2018, a Canadian woman and an Italian man were abducted in the country, not released until 15 months later in neighboring Mali. In 2019, a Spanish Catholic missionary was killed, and a few months later two French soldiers were killed in a raid to rescue four hostages — two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean citizen.

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Foreign Leaders Attend Funeral for President Idriss Déby of Chad

The leaders of several African nations and the president of France on Friday attended the funeral of President Idriss Déby of Chad, one of Africa’s most enduring and feared autocrats whose death was announced this week.

Military leaders said on Tuesday that he had died from injuries sustained in clashes between rebels and government forces.

Despite abuses directed at his own people during his 31-year rule, Mr. Déby had benefited from the indulgence of Western powers as he remained a steady linchpin for their military interventions against Islamist insurgents in the region. His death has thrown the future of the vast African nation into uncertainty.

The Chadian military announced this week that Mr. Déby, 68, had died on Monday — the same day that his victory in a sixth election, marred by irregularities, had been confirmed.

Front for Change and Concord in Chad, threatened to march on Ndjamena on Friday, after the funeral, and had warned foreign leaders not to attend.

whether he was in fact killed by a rival.

At the funeral on Friday, Mr. Déby’s family praised “a great fighter” who was “obsessed with peace and the unity of Chadians.”

“You’ve left while walking toward the enemy,” said Abdelkrim Idriss Déby, another of Mr. Déby’s sons.

Mr. Macron said Mr. Déby had lived as a soldier and died as one.

“Idriss, you were an exemplary leader and a courageous warrior, but you also knew the value of diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” Mr. Macron said at the funeral on Friday.

known as Operation Barkhane, is headquartered in the capital. The French president’s office said on Monday that the nation had lost “a courageous friend” with Mr. Déby’s death.

Thomas Gassilloud, a French lawmaker who sits on a parliamentary committee focusing on the relationship between France and Chad, said that Mr. Déby had long offered stability in a region where that was difficult to find.

“Chad is at the crossroads of zones that have faced multiple security crises in recent years: Libya to the north, Niger to the west, and the Central African Republic to the south,” he said, noting that Mr. Déby had studied at the prestigious Paris-based military school that trains senior French Army officers. “France was used to working with Déby, and when it came to military operations in the Sahel, they spoke the same language.”

Mr. Macron arrived in Ndjamena on Thursday evening, before the funeral, and met with Mahamat Idriss Déby at the presidential palace. The French authorities have said that “exceptional circumstances” in Chad justified the installation of Mr. Déby’s son as interim president.

Roland Marchal, a longtime expert on Chad at the Paris-based Sciences Po university, said that Mr. Macron’s meeting with Mr. Déby showed French approval for what several analysts consider a coup, noting that Paris had not publicly called for the Chadian Constitution to be respected, unlike U.S. officials have.

“France wants to keep a privileged relationship with the Chadian authorities,” Mr. Marchal said, “and for that it is ready to accept that the constitution of a country be swept away.”

Mahamat Adamou contributed reporting.

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Pentagon Chief Orders New Review of Attack in Kenya That Killed 3 Americans

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered a high-level review of an initial military investigation into an attack on a Kenyan base by Islamic extremists in January 2020 that left three Americans dead, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The brazen assault by about a dozen Shabab fighters at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, marked the largest number of U.S. military-related fatalities in Africa since four soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in October 2017.

The attack by the Shabab, Al Qaeda’s East Africa affiliate, revealed several glaring security shortfalls, an examination by The New York Times found soon after the assault, and underscored the American military’s limits on the continent, where a lack of intelligence, along with Manda Bay’s reputation as a quiet and unchallenged locale, allowed a lethal strike.

American commandos took about an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff members were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle. It would require hours to evacuate one of the wounded to a military hospital in Djibouti, roughly 1,000 miles away.

according to a statement that John F. Kirby, Mr. Austin’s spokesman, released late Monday. The Army appointed Gen. Paul Funk, the head of the service’s Training and Doctrine Command, to conduct the review.

“An independent review will provide added insight, perspective and the ability to assess the totality of this tragic event involving multiple military services and Department of Defense components,” Mr. Kirby said.

“It is the secretary’s desire to ensure there is a full examination and consideration of the contributing factors that led to this tragic event and that appropriate action is taken to reduce the risk of future occurrence,” Mr. Kirby added. “The families impacted deserve nothing less.”

An outside review of the Africa Command’s investigation could seek to avoid a repeat of the contentious Defense Department inquiry into the Niger attack in 2017. That report found widespread problems across all levels of the military counterterrorism operation, but focused in particular on the actions of junior officers leading up to the ambush — unfairly so in the view of many family members, lawmakers and even Jim Mattis, the defense secretary at the time.

ordered most of the 700 American troops in Somalia to leave the country, but not out of the region. Most of the forces transferred to nearby Djibouti or to Kenya, including Manda Bay, now with beefed up security. The Biden administration is conducting a review to determine whether to send any of those troops back to Somalia.

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Kidnapping Schoolchildren in Nigeria Becomes Big Business

KADUNA, Nigeria—The kidnap for ransom business is booming across northern Nigeria, and schoolchildren are its hottest commodity.

Just before midnight on March 11 gunmen barged into a school around 300 yards from a military training college in Kaduna state and seized dozens of students from their dormitories. It took less than 12 hours for the captors to issue a now familiar demand, through a grainy video posted on Facebook.

“They want 500 million Naira,” said one of the terrified hostages from the Federal College of Forestry, sitting shirtless in a forest clearing, a sum equal to around $1 million. Masked men wielding Kalashnikovs paced among the 39 students—mostly young women—then began to hit them with bullwhips.

“Our life is in danger,” a woman screamed. “Just give them what they want.”

On March 13, the Nigerian army foiled an attempt to kidnap 300 more students at a boarding school less than 50 miles away. The following day, children were among a group of 11 people abducted from the town of Suleja, in Nigeria’s Niger state.

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137 People Killed in Niger in Series of Attacks on Villages Along Mali Border

NIAMEY, Niger — Armed attackers riding motorcycles killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger on Sunday, the government said, making it one of the deadliest days in recent memory in a country ravaged by Islamist violence.

The unidentified assailants struck in the afternoon, raiding three villages and other hamlets in the Tahoua region bordering Mali, the government said on Monday, revising the toll up from a previous estimate by local authorities of about 60 killed.

“By systematically targeting civilians, these armed bandits are reaching a new level of horror and savagery,” it said in a statement, announcing three days of national mourning.

It did not say who authorities believed was behind the attacks, but the violence comes amid a wider security crisis across West Africa’s Sahel region, which is being fueled by militants linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and ethnic militias.

a revenge attack on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye in Tillabéri.

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