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Niger: Widespread opposition to president's bid to extend rule

Tensions are on the rise in Niger as President Mamadou Tandja moves forward with a referendum that, if passed, would allow the 71 year-old leader to modify the constitution and extend his 10-year rule.

M Tandja, president of niger

Mamadou Tandja, President of Niger since 1999, wants to amend the constitution so he can stay in office.

Last week, Tandja dissolved the National Assembly following a ruling by Niger's constitutional court that holding such a referendum would be a breach of his oath of office, and thus illegal. Monday, a demonstration in Niamey, the capital, turned violent when security forces fired tear gas on protestors, while in Dosso, 140 km to the west, protesters set fire to vehicles.  An array of opposition parties, unions and NGOs have announced massive demonstrations and strikes for June 7th.

It was difficult to find citizen media, blogs, or online forums within Niger discussing the referendum, however bloggers in neighboring countries like Burkina Faso and Chad are closely watching as events unfold.

tchad futur writes:

Ces derniers temps, dans la plupart des pays d'Afrique, les modifications constitutionnelles sont à la mode, se  réalisent malgré l'opposition des sensibilités socio-politiques et au gré des dirigeants.

Le Niger, pays qui a donné l'exemple d'une bonne léçon de la démocratie avec  la réalisation de sa première alternance politique et démocratique, est  happé par ces révisons constitutionnelles au nez et à la barbe de l'opinion internationale.

In most African countries, constitutional modifications have become the fashion, for the pleasure of the leaders, in spite of opposition from socio-political elements.

Niger, a country that, with the realization of its first democratic  handover, has become an example of democracy, is mired by these constitutional revisions, right under the nose of international opinion.

So far, Libyan president Moummar Kadhafi is the only head of state to publicly support the referendum.  Both the US and Canada have spoken out against it.  tchad futur predicts France will stay quiet given the uranium deal the French company AREVA signed with Niger in January.

En Afrique, les révisions constitutionnelles ne font pas avec la volonté du peuple mais au gré des puissances étrangères, dont les intérêts doivent être garantis au détriment des valeurs démocratiques ou des droits de l'homme baffoués.

In Africa, constitutional amendments do not happen with the will of the people, but rather at the pleasure of foreign powers, whose interests must be protected, to the detriment of democratic values and human rights.

On Burkinabe news site LeFaso.net, Alain Saint Robespierre writes about Niger's “Constitutional Coup d'Etat”:

Dans cet imbroglio politique, une chose est néanmoins sûre : l’homme fort de Niamey ne reculera devient rien ni personne pour faire aboutir le projet de prolongation de son mandat à la tête du pays. Et là, pas du tout. Pour tous ceux qui croyaient le chef de l’Etat nigérien capable de faire machine arrière dans sa volonté de prolonger, au mépris de la loi, son bail présidentiel, l’heure est à la désillusion.

Nonetheless, in this political imbroglio, one this is sure: the strong man of Niamey will not retreat for anything or anyone in order to realize his plan to prolong his mandate at the head of the country.  For all those who believed the Nigerian commander-in-chief capable of moving backward in order to extend , at the expense of the law, his presidential lease, we are in the hour of disillusion.

In response, a reader named koudka writes:

Pauvre de nous africains ! il faut que ça change. le peuple nigérien ne mérite pas cela. quand je pense que il y en des chefs d’état qui estiment que leur pays ne sera rien sans eux alors que depuis longtemps qu’ils sont chefs rien n’a été fait.  j’ai envis de changer de planête tout simplement…

We poor Africans!  This has to change.  The Nigerien people don't deserve this.  When I think that there are heads of state who believe their country will be nothing without them, while in all the time they have been head of state, they have done nothing.  Quite simply, I want to change the world…

Laye, referring to former president Ibrahim Bare Mainassa‘s assassination, thinks Tandja is playing with fire, and ignoring history:

Comme quelqu’un qui m’a devancé l’a déjà dit, il y en a qui ont oublié ce que c’est que le Wankage. Et c’est clair qu’il y aura coup d’Etat au Niger, et très clair que Tandja sera tué. De tte façon il ne mérite pas mieux.

As someone noted before me, some have forgotten Wanke.  It's clear there will be a coup d'Etat in Niger, and that Tandja will be killed.  At any rate, he doesn't deserve any better.

And applauds those who are standing up to Tandja:

Bravo à l’Assemblée Nationale Nigérienne, à Mahamane Ousmane, à la Cour Constitutionnelle, au Président Guermakoye, à …, aux Nigériens !

Bravo to the Nigerien National Assembly, to Mahamane Ousame, to the Constitutional Court, to President Guermakoye, to…to the Nigeriens!

Traps:

Mr Tandja , ce qu’on a pas pu faire en dix ans on le fera jamais en deux ou trois ans . Il etait temps pour toi de t’en aller. Tu as insulte la democratie africaine. Mr Tandja tu aurais du donner le bon exemple a tes freres acrochards de pouvoir. Tandja . Vas t’en . Aller ouste .

Mr. Tandja, what you could not do in ten years, you will never do in two or three.  It is time for you to go.  You insult African democracy.  Mr. Tandja, you should have been a good example to your brothers holding onto power.  Tandja, get out of here.  Off you go.

  • claire

    Thanks for covering a little covered country in France…

  • http://jenbrea.typepad.com/africabeat Jennifer Brea

    Thanks, Claire. And if anyone reading this knows of blogs in Niger, we’d love to know about them!

  • Hassane Harouna

    I am presently living in Niger and member of the opposition party. Thanks a lot for this information brought to people outside Niger. Democracy is in danger in this country which experienced stability for ten years and which was considered by many as the Democracy Laboratory.

  • http://none Leslie Dean

    Al Jazeera

    UPDATED ON:
    Sunday, November 22, 2009
    20:42 Mecca time, 17:42 GMT
    News Africa

    Niger protest for president to quit

    To date, numerous protests in Niger have met with little reaction from the presidency [EPA]

    Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Niger’s capital, Niamey, calling for the resignation of President Mamadou Tandja.

    Brandishing placards such as “Tandja must go” and “Down with the Destroyer of democracy,”, demonstrators on Sunday called for former prime minister and opposition figure Hama Amandou to take the president’s place.

    The opposition disputes an August 4 referendum that allowed Tandja to stay in power until 2012, after he was supposed to step down in December after two five-year terms in a row.

    “It is up to us to end this autocratic rule,” Muhammad Bazoum, a leader of the opposition Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic (CFDR), told the rally

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