On Monday the military junta in Niger appointed a transitional government for the country. The announcement follows last week’s selection of a civilian prime minister, Mahamadou Dandah. The BBC reports that the twenty ministers named included five women and five soldiers, of whom three are “generals close to the former President, Mamadou Tandja.”
The new government and the junta must now contend with domestic reactions and pressures coming from the international community at the same time that they attempt to deal with Niger’s severe food crisis.
Regarding the domestic reaction, AFP reports that “Niger nationals on Tuesday expressed mixed feelings over the make-up of [the] transition government.” They quote a labor leader, civil society representative, politician, and journalist, whose reactions run the gamut from pleased to disappointed. None, however, seem outright hostile to the junta. So the seeds for elite backlash are there, but for the moment it seems to me (based on this very limited sample) that everyone is waiting to see where this is all going.
Regarding the international community, France hosted junta leaders in Paris this week and announced its desire for elections to take place as soon as possible. Given their de facto legitimation of the coup by holding this meeting, it seems France is waiting to see what happens as well.
Still, it seems that relative goodwill toward on the junta on the part of various domestic and international players hinges on the junta’s making a quick transition. Without that, the goodwill might evaporate.
Regarding the hunger crisis, unlike in the other two domains, the junta has an immediate and severe problem on its hands. With millions facing hunger, and even relatively food secure regions like Agadez facing a wave of migration, rising prices, and a poor harvest due to low rainfall, the situation threatens to become catastrophic. Aid workers report feeling more prepared than they were for the last major crisis in 2005, and the junta’s willingness to acknowledge the problem could prove a huge help in the fight to prevent famine. Still, Niger is not out of the woods. With a democratic transition to manage, uncertain support from domestic and foreign elements, and a looming humanitarian disaster, the junta – and the new government – have a difficult road ahead of them.