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Voters in Niger concerned about insecurity as polls loom

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ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP or licensors


The streets of the Nigerien capital, Niamey looked calm and peaceful on Tuesday as posters and banners of candidates vying for the country's top job awash major streets.

Niger is set for a presidential election on December 27. Voters in Niamey say there's a need to tackle the prevailing insecurity in the country.

"The main problem is that there is a lot of insecurity in the country. I used to live 30 kilometres away but I can't go there by motorbike anymore. So you can't say you're safe", Omar Halidou, an Electronics repairman said.

Fighters with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have increasingly mounted attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region in recent years.

The violence has hit Mali and Burkina Faso the hardest but has spilled into western Niger, which shares borders with its two neighbours.

Niger's southeast has also witnessed unrest from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province armed group, a breakaway group from Boko Haram.

But it could be a very peaceful vote.

Outgoing Nigerien President Mamadou Issoufou isn't standing for re-election, having already served for two terms, the country's constitution forbids him from running for another.

Issoufou has been praised for his decision to step down, unlike other West African presidents who have pushed through constitutional changes to extend their time in office.

His move leaves the way for a more peaceful transition of power, which would be a first for Niger, which has seen four coups since independence Experts do not believe the election will be seriously disrupted.

In November, Niger’s constitutional court blocked main opposition leader Hama Amadou from running due to a 2017 conviction for baby-smuggling.

He says the case was claimed was politically motivated.

The ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism’s candidate Mohamed Bozaum is seen as the favorite to win. But some locals seem unperturbed by the impending civic exercise.

Salamou Hassane, a pancake seller is concerned about the lack of attention paid to the poor.

"I would like everyone to benefit from politics, because for the moment it is just for him (the president), his family and his wife's family. It's really not normal, we never think about the poor", she said.

Niamey resident, Issoufou Mohamadou says he doesn’t trust any political figure in the country.

"I don't support any candidate. I think about myself, about what I'm going to be able to eat. I don't trust anyone", he said.

Some 7.4 million people are eligible to vote in the polls across 266 municipalities on Sunday.

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