Niger: A Rapid Post-Coup Transition?

On Tuesday, the leaders of last week’s coup in Niger, appointed a civilian prime minister, Mahamadou Danda. Is this a sign that a transition to democracy will occur rapidly?

Embassy of the Republic of Niger, Washington

A little background on Danda. The Montreal Gazette (see last link) describes him as “a former communications minister,” who served as “political counsellor in the embassy of Canada in Niger until his nomination.” In a statement yesterday, Danda stressed that he is and will remain unaffiliated with any political party. Danda believes the junta picked him because of his lack of known political ties, and the Gazette adds that “with Danda’s appointment, the junta is believed to be capitalising on a wave of popular support after overthrowing [former President Mamadou] Tandja.”

The military junta has stated its desire to hold elections and return to democracy, but has not set a date. Danda says he will press the transitional president for a timeline. Others are pressuring the junta to set a timeline as well: the Nigerien opposition, the Economic Community of West African States, and the United States, among other segments of the international community. Many voices stress that a return to constitutionalism – Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade believes Niger should submit a draft constitution to a popular referendum – is just as important as another round of elections.

With the junta’s announcement that none of its members will run for office when elections come, their stated aim of cleaning up government and turning over power actually seems pretty sincere to me now. As I said in another post, an acquaintance of mine pointed out to me that these officers are some of the same ones who orchestrated a similar transition in 1999.

Does that mean the international community will welcome the military leaders as credible referees of democracy? No one would say that publicly, of course, but this paragraph from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Foreign governments have criticized the army takeover but diplomats recognize, in private, that it has offered a breakthrough in a stalemate where international mediation failed.

Funny how the incentives work for all players involved. Seems like the coup leaders, whatever one thinks of their actions, took the pulse of Niger’s people and the international community pretty accurately.

3 thoughts on “Niger: A Rapid Post-Coup Transition?

  1. Pingback: will the nigerien colonels keep their word? « Opalo's weblog

  2. If the Nigerien military pulls this off they will be setting a good precedence of the military as the guardians of democracy on the Continent. I hope the generals in Guinea, and indeed in other African states run by personalist dictators are learning from this

    • Thanks for the comment. I won’t say I support military coups, but it does look as though the transition in Niger might go a lot more smoothly than in Guinea.

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