Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja, facing political isolation by his neighbors and the international community, has called on his countrymen to brace for “sacrifices.” The Economic Community of West African States has urged Tandja to accept a power-sharing deal, but negotiations have borne little fruit thus far. With politics deadlocked, we’re starting to see what Nigerien self-sufficiency will mean, and what sacrifices it will entail.
In some areas, the state in Niamey is making a credible bid to go it alone. New generators will make Niger less dependent on neighboring Nigeria for electricity, and Chinese firms are still investing in the country’s uranium.
But for much of the country, the outlook is grim.
More than half of the population of Niger will go without food at some point this year, according to a leaked official survey contradicting public assurances by the government of the poor West African state.
About 7.8 million people in the desert nation of 15 million will face food insecurity — a term that covers stages from missing meals to malnutrition and famine — according to a report in Le Canard Enchaine, one of the country’s newspapers.
“These figures are the same as those found by our survey,” an official involved in the study told Reuters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Food security is a politically sensitive subject in uranium-exporting Niger, which suffered severe shortages in 2005 affecting 4 million people.
The government resisted foreign help and denied there was a famine until media coverage attracted international attention.
The Famine Early Warning System also predicts food shortages in Niger, IRIN reports.
I have said before that I do not believe Tandja is unwilling to cede any substantial amount of power. But if economic conditions change, leaving half his people starving, the political conditions will change too. The pressure on him to alter his course could become too intense to resist. In the meantime, it looks like the sacrifices Nigeriens endure will be very costly indeed.