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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09NIAMEY234 2009-04-06 16:14:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Niamey
Cable title:  

VISIT OF PRESIDENT SARKOZY; PRESIDENT TANDJA'S REMARKS

Tags:   PGOV KDEN SOCI PHUM PINR NG 
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEN SOCI PHUM PINR NG
SUBJECT: VISIT OF PRESIDENT SARKOZY; PRESIDENT TANDJA'S REMARKS
KEEP POLITICAL SUCCESSION A CONTROVERSY

Ref: a) Niamey 00214, b) 08 Niamey 01176, d) 08 Niamey 01179, d) 08
Niamey 01111

NIAMEY 00000234 001.2 OF 002




1. On March 27, French President Sarkozy paid a four-hour visit to
Niger, where he met with President Tandja to strengthen the
"strategic partnership." Sarkozy also met with the National Council
for Political Dialogue (CNDP), the country's political elite, with
whom he discussed governance issues and praised Niger's political
stability over the past ten years. He then met with local
representatives of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
(EITI), who have criticized French firm Areva's activities in
uranium mining as having a negative impact on the environment and
the health and rights of communities living in its operating zone
(Note: EITI issues covered in septel. End note.) Sarkozy
underscored the mutual benefits of the long-term contract between
Areva and Niger, referring to it as a win-win venture. The two
heads of state held a joint press conference to conclude the visit.


Pres. Tandja: No to Third Mandate, Maybe to Extension


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2. During the press conference, President Tandja declared that he
would step down at the end of his mandate, unless "the people" ask
him to stay. When asked whether he would seek to amend the
constitution and seek a third term, Tandja said, "I feel comfortable
to address this issue today...I highly respect our constitution. I
led a military career, and learned my country's laws and regulations
as a soldier. Then [as a politician] I learned about the
constitution. I loved democracy...I became president and served two
terms, now coming to an end. An elevated act for me is to step down
with my head high...I am not seeking another mandate...Not for a
single moment did I ask any Nigerien for a way to do this or that.
I will never ask Nigeriens to have me change anything or to seek
amendments to our constitution... [However] regions expressed an
opinion requesting a three year's [extension] for the President to
complete the development projects that he had started, for purposes
of stability...This matter concerns the people and the National
Assembly." Then Tandja concluded, "It is up to [the people and the
National Assembly] to decide. As for me, I am ready to leave at the
end of my mandate, next December 22. I will retire."

Missions, Stability, and Completing Work Underway


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. In an interview in Hausa on international media, President Tandja
explained that he had been an army officer, and in military culture,
an officer never failed to accomplish a mission. On March 28, in an
editorial on national television, Iboune Gueye, the head of the
government communication unit said, "Tandja will not violate the
constitution." He cited President Sarkozy, who said that, "Since
Niger's independence, about 50 years ago, there were five Republics,
several coups, and one assassinated president. The only period of
democracy and stability was during President Tandja's two terms, and
this is a fact that nobody denies." Gueye added, "However, the
people will decide" whether it would like to see the president
continue the good work for Niger's people's welfare. The Minister
of Communication and Government Spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar also
indicated on international media that the president should be given
a chance to complete the projects that he had started.

Civil Society Answers Back in Opposition to Extension


--------------------------



--------------------------



4.Civil society quickly responded, stating that any ove to extend
the presidential mandate beyond the two terms provided by the
constitution would be illegal and would be opposed. Civil society
representatives further thought that President Tandja should not
equate the few supporters of "tazartche" (Hausa for "let it
continue") with the Nigerien people as a whole.



5. Former state prosecutor and former Minister of Justice Soli
Abdourahamane said, "The constitution has established the rules of
the game, independently from any construction project." Issa
Moussa, a political analyst, said, "You can never finish a country's
work. You can only contribute to it... Statesmen come and go, the
country is always there." Opposition Member of Parliament Kalla
Ankouraou noted that the constitution clearly states that some of

NIAMEY 00000234 002.2 OF 002


its provisions - including the president's term of office - cannot
be amended. Issoufou Tamboura, Information Secretary for the MNSD
ruling party, however, thought that the people should pressure the
National Assembly to find a solution that would allow President
Tandja to "continue his good work."

Comment


--------------------------





6. President Tandja, through his recent meetings with the UN envoy
and political parties, and the establishment of the CENI, has given
a strong signal that the government will organize elections in 2009.
Some analysts, however, regard his ambiguous remarks as perhaps
reflecting an ulterior motive, and that his March 27 remarks may
fall along the lines of those made on March 14 during the visit of
Libyan President and AU Chairman Qadahfy.


7. Minimize considered.
WHITAKER