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.