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Coup in Niger: Bloggers sigh in relief at the ousting of President Tandja

A mural of Mamadou Tandja hanging in the office of President (Photo by Jacob Silberberg for Panos Pictures)

A mural of Mamadou Tandja hanging in the office of President (Photo by Jacob Silberberg for Panos Pictures)

On Thursday, February 18th a coup took place in Niger in which President Mamadou Tandja was captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey, led by led by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna (who was was the former aide-de-camp of Niger's previous coup leader Maj. Daouda Mallam Wanke). In a quite unpoplar move, a few months ago Tandja illegally changed the constitution to allow him a third term in what was generally considered a mass fraud referendum (see Jen Brea's roundup on the reactions caused by that decision).

For a few hours, confusion reigned about what was going on. Raffaella Toticchi in Niamey wrote on Thursday afternoon [Es]:

Se han oído también disparos y algunas personas han sido heridas y trasladadas al hospital más cercano, pero de momento no se sabe mucho más.

Gunshots have been heard and some people have been wounded and taken to the nearest hospital, but for the time being we don't know much more than that.

In a televised announcement, spokesman for the plotters Abdoul Karim Goukouyé said Niger's constitution had been suspended and all state institutions dissolved. Instantanés du Niger [Fr], the blog of a French expat in Niamey, reported that the the national TV station ORTN broadcasted military music for most of the evening leading up to the announcement. She also reported that the rest of the evening and the following day were calm.

Blogger Texas in Africa gives some background on the reasons for the coup:

First, about 7.8 million (3/5) of Niger's citizens experience severe or moderate food insecurity. Mass starvation is never a stabilizing force.

Second, and more importantly, President Tandja had angered many Nigeriens in 2009 when he dissolved parliament and enacted constitutional reforms that gave him broad powers with few checks or balances. Tandja was constitutionally required to step down from office in December, as that was the end of his second five-year term in office, but the changes he made to the constitution allowed him to stay in office for three more years. These moves were extremely unpopular; 10,000 protesters came out on Sunday to dispute Tandja's actions.

Clearly, this coup is the result of the ongoing political crisis.

As put by Nigerien commenter Ali Dan-Bouzoua in a discussion list about internet in Niger, unfortuntely there hasn't been much citizen media covering the event:

Tres peu de blogs ou de tweeter, de photo … sur la situation au Niger.

On consomme sur le net mais on ne produit rien. Les guinéens sont tres actifs et tres present sur le net.

Very few blogs or tweets, photos… on the situation in Niger.

We consume online [content] but we produce none. Guineans are very active and present online.

However, Nigeriens have expressed themselves through comments left on news sites such as tamtaminfo.com seemed to approve of the ousting of President Tandja albeit with some reservations for the transitional government:

Ousman Diallo Yacoubou:

Militaires de notre cher pays tout le peuple nigerien vous salut vous avez prouve que vous etes les vrais garants du peuple et de la democratie. Mais il y'a une chose jusqu'a present on ne connait pas la duree de votre transition.

To the military of our dear country, the whole Nigerien people salute you, you have proved that you are the true guards of the people and democracy. But until now there is one thing that we don't know: the length of your transition.

Sabitou Oumarou:

C'est domage que des democrates comme nous applaudisse un coup d”Etat. Mais nous devons savoir qu'il y a deux manière de combattre : l'une avec la raison et l'autre avec la force. La première est propre aux hommes la deuxième nous est commun avec les animaux. Mais quand la première montre c'est limites il faut bien recourir a la deuxième pour remettre l'ordre et fait respecter la loi.

It's a shame that democrats like us are applauding a coup d'Etat. But we have to realize that there are two ways of fighting: one with reason and one with force. The first one is unique to human beings, the second one we have in common with animals. But when the first one shows its limitations, it is necessary to reach to the second one to restore order and respect for the law.

Likewise, a few African bloggers and tweeterers have reacted to the coup, mostly expressing relief or celebrating Tandja's removal due to the illegal constitutional changes he approved last year. Like Ato Kwamena Dadzie from Ghana, who echoed a common sentiment:

tweet by atokd

Awada Ehemir from Chad [Fr] thinks the reactions to the coup are hypocritical:

tweet by dadouar

Coup d'État in Niger… It is inmediately condemned, but next month it will be accepted by everybody. a classic in Africa…

tweet by

And the African Union who pretends to condemn it! At the next meeting, they will roll out the red carpet for their new “friends”!

Tony Cassius Bolamba from the DRC [Fr] shows some understanding for the coup plotters in his blog:

Si je me penche du côté de la raison je condamnerai tout putsch et tout tripatouillage de constitutions en Afrique, mais la compréhension m’oblige de comprendre certains putschistes.

Raison aux pensées de Pascal ? « Ne pouvant justifier la justice, on a justifié la force ».

L’Homme ne récolte ce qu’il sème et t il faut avoir le flair de quitter les choses avant qu’elles ne vous quittent.

Espérant que ce nouveau coup de force au Niger bénéficiera au vrai détenteur du pouvoir: le peuple !

If I have to lean on the side of reason, I condemn all coups and constitutional tampering in Africa, but I'm obliged to feel some understanding for coup leaders.

Was Pascal right? “Not being able to justify justice, we justify force”.

Men reap what they sow and they need to sense when to leave things alone before things leave them.

Hoping that this new coup de force in Niger will benefit the real power holder: the people!

In a similar vein, the blog Guinée 50 [Fr] hopes for the coup to restore democracy in Niger:

Ni lui (Tandja) ni les militaires qui l’ont renversé, ne portent le manteau de la légalité constitutionnelle. Il n’est donc pas question pour nous citoyens africains, de juger la manière dont nous en sommes soulagés.
La bonne question n’est pas non plus de d’applaudir aveuglement ces militaires. Mais, d’exiger leur neutralité dans la restauration de la démocratie dans un bref délai.
[...]
Nous sommes optimistes pour la suite, car à force de mal aller, tout ira bien dans le sens voulu par nos peuples qui sont les seuls souverains.

Neither him (Tandja) nor the junta who overthrew him are enjoying a cover of consitutional legality. Therefore, there is no way that we African citizens can judge the way we felt relieved.
It isn't any better to applaud blindly these junta. But to demand their neutrality in the prompt restauration of democracy.
[...]
We are optimistic for what will come next since, when things keep going wrong, then everything will go well in the sense wished by our peoples, who are the only holders of power.

At the citizen media portal Sahara Reporters, many commenters from Nigeria drew parallels between the situation in Niger and the one in their own country. Here are two samples:

OHYN:

This is what happens when civilian and civil institutions are too weak, too cowardly, too much “talk-talk-only,” to defend their own freedom from usurping so-called leaders. This describes Nigeria perfectly: so, Nigeria is next in the coup movement: it is only logical and ripe.

Toyin Ade:

There is no difference b/w what has happened in Niger & Nigeria b/c in Nigeria, we have souless, wicked & unpatriotic cabals holding us to ransom as Tanja did in Niger. If there should be any coup at all in Nigeria, it should be targetted at those useless clowns calling themselves Yar'Adua's kitchen/toilet cabinet that have arrogated to themselves what they don't have.

Daniel Hongramngaye from Chad, also draws a parallel between Niger and his own country at the blog Makaïla [Fr]:

Ce qui se passe sous nos yeux chez nos voisins nigériens doit à plusieurs égards inspirer nos officiers supérieurs, nos militaires, nos dignes soldats s’il en existe encore. [...]

La situation politique au Tchad est pourtant plus exécrable que celle du Niger.

En effet, Idriss Deby Itno est identique à Mamadou Tandja si non pire.

What is happening under our eyes in neighboring Niger, in many respects ought to inspire our officers, our military, our worthy soldiers if there are still any left. [...]

The political situation in Chad is more execrable than the Niger's.

Indeed, Idriss Deby Itno is identical to Mamadou Tandja if not worse.

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