Niger: Movement Toward A Compromise?

International and domestic pressure on Niger is pushing both President Mamadou Tandja and the opposition toward small compromises in the ongoing crisis over Tandja’s bid for extended time in office. I wonder if larger compromises are on the way.

Niger’s opposition agreed to start talks with the government under the mediation of the Economic Community of West African States, to end the north African country’s political crisis, Radio Anfani reported today.

The talks will start soon and will include the leader of the opposition, Mahamadou Issoufou, and the former president Mahamane Ousmane, the radio station reported. To facilitate the talks, the government has dropped corruption charges against both men and other members of the opposition.

If dropping the charges was the government’s compromise, Nigerien opposition leaders have backed away from two key demands: first, that the talks be held in Abuja, not Niamey; and second, that anything less than Tandja’s exit was unacceptable.

The opposition feels that Obama’s recent message to Tandja urging more democracy “boosts the opposition’s stance in the upcoming negotiations.”

Call me cynical, but if Tandja remains in office I wonder whether the eventual compromise will affect the fundamental power dynamics at work in Niger. Some kind of power-sharing agreement, or framework for new elections down the road, could please the international community but represent only a cosmetic change to the situation as it stands now.

4 thoughts on “Niger: Movement Toward A Compromise?

  1. Just one quibble, I haven’t read anything from the CFDR leader or leaders of the constituent parties that suggests they have backed away from “anything less than Tandja’s exit was unacceptable.” Their major public concession was holding the talks in Niamey. Nigerien press reported that Abdulsalami threatened to walk away if they didn’t give on this point.

    The rumors that a 7th republic with a figurehead Tandja continue to appear in the Nigerien and Burkina press. But these are just rumors. At the same time leadership of the Tandja supporting Mouvement Patriotique pour la Défense du Peuple et de la Nation have long claimed there is nothing to discuss. The signs and speeches at the march on the 16th not only held this line, but demanded a new government for 1 January which would remove those they consider ‘soft’ on the opposition (Mindaoudou, Gamatie, and perhaps Zeine).

    So watch:
    1) if there is a large march on the 22nd or 23rd. If so, if it is suppressed, and how the armed forces react at that point.

    2) if the municipal elections go off on the 27th. If they are canceled/postponed, then there is movement toward scrapping the 6th Republic.

    3) obviously, any announcements by political parties, ESPECIALLY those small parties loosely allied to Tandja such as UDPS-Amana (which already put out a diffident statement last week) or the ruling MNSD whose leadership is uncomfortable with Tandja’s power grab. If the opposition breaks, it will be Mahmane Ousmane and the CDS-Rahama who cracks first.

    • Thanks for the heads up on things to watch. Perhaps a weakness of my blogging is an over-reliance on Western media sources, but the VOA piece linked above had this: “Niger’s opposition coalition has agreed to hold mediated talks after months of refusing to participate. The group had previously said it would accept nothing less than a return to the political order before the August referendum that granted President Tandja a further three years in power.”

      Would you say this reporting is wrong? Or maybe I am reading the passage wrong. But I interpreted it as saying that even the willingness to participate in talks indicated some compromise on the issue of Tandja remaining in office.

  2. I think the VOA line creates a slightly wrong impression. The CFDR had previously said there was nothing to negotiate about, given their demand for Tandja to go and for a return to the constitution of the 5th Republic, which they consider in force. But since Abdulsalami took over mediation, a major plank has been setting up direct negotiations, which the CFDR has acceded to in principle. Now logically that may seem that they’re backing down on accepting the new constitution, but I haven’t seen any statements from them on that, and the rumors are all leading to creation of a compromise new constitution as their “compromise”. This includes Tandja having only transitional figurehead power, not accepting his powers as defined by the 6th, which are dictatorial.

    I think the VOA line is evidence of an understandable but inaccurate supposition on their part of what the CFDR negotiating points are, based solely on the fact they are willing to talk.

    Sorry to be so picky and long winded!

  3. Pingback: Niger: Local Elections Go Forward, International Pressure Mounts « Sahel Blog

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