Niger’s military keeps its word

The Nigerien military, led by Salou Djibo, has handed over power to democratically elected President Mahamadou Issoufou. The military ousted strongman Mamadou Tandja 14 months ago after he attempted to extend his rule beyond the term limit. Twice now, the last time being in 1999, the Nigerien military has intervened in politics in support of democracy.

The new president has promised to tackle poverty and famine in the uranium-rich country.

Former president Tandja had been in power since 1999. In late 2009 he was supposed to leave office at the end of his two terms but amended the constitution in a sham referendum allowing him to stay on for a third term. This forced the military to step in. Mr. Tandja’s presidency did not do much for Niger’s 15 million odd citizens. 63% of them continue to live on less than a dollar a day.

the generals have kept their word

My doubts were misplaced, thank goodness. Soldiers in Niger have overseen elections, one year after overthrowing Mamadou Tandja. President Tandja had attempted to cling on to power after he was term-limited. Gen. Salou Djibo, head of the military junta that carried out the coup one year ago, vowed to hand over power to the elected government in April.

The run-off election pitted opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou against Seini Oumarou, an ally of the ousted former President Tandja. Mr. Issoufou won 36% of the vote in the first round and is confident of winning the runoff.

Uranium-rich Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Nominal per capita income in the country is $370 (Around $700 PPP). The literacy rate (15 years and older) is a dismal 29%. Fertility rate stands at 7.6 children per woman and 63% of its 16.4 million people live below the poverty line.

the fruits of french meddling

News reports indicate that the Nigerien leader is being held by soldiers in the capital in an apparent coup attempt. President Tandja recently extended his rule after the constitutionally mandated two term limit claiming that no one in Niger was good enough to replace him. He had French backing. The French are investing in a Uranium mine in the northern reaches of the Sahelian state. Official France was complicit in the sham referendum in which 92% of Nigeriens supposedly voted to extend Mr. Tandja’s rule so he could personally supervise the projects he had started. Mamadou Tandja has been president of Niger since 1999.

I am not fan of coups. Junior army officers make horrible presidents – just ask the Liberians about one Samuel Doe. That said, President Tandja must go. And his French connections should be exposed for what they are: illegal networks designed to continue to impoverish the vast majority of the country’s 15 million souls while a few French companies and the president’s men enrich themselves from Uranium, Gold and oil exports.

Per capita income in Niger stands at US $700. 63% if Nigeriens live below the poverty line of 1 dollar a day. Life expectancy in Niger is 52 years and the country has the 4th worst record of infant mortality in the world – about 116 deaths per 1000 births. The 2009 Human Development Index report places the country last out of 182 countries ranked, with an HDI value of 0.34. Mr. Tandja is clearly doing an excellent job as president.

sources: the CIA world fact book and the UNDP Human Development Index report

And in other news…. aren’t we at least supposed to respect those that we are helping. Here’s a quote from Care for the Children about photos of needy children that they use in their fundraising:

“We don’t keep records of individuals in our photographs. We don’t know when this photograph was taken, or where. We can only guess it was somewhere in Africa. Or maybe Haiti.”

Nice. Read more here

another african big man won’t leave

Mamadou Tandja, the president of Niger, yesterday announced that he will ignore a court order against a referendum on whether to extend his rule or not after his term expires later this year, adding that he will continue to rule by decree. Mr. Tandja has been in office since 1999 and is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. His second term ends later this year. The country’s parliament was dissolved in May. It is unclear whether parliamentary elections scheduled for August 2oth will be held.

Niger, a nation of 15 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its per capita income is US $700 despite being a major uranium exporter. Most Nigeriens depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood in this mostly desert country. Ever shortening drought cycles, continued desertification in the Sahel and a rapid population growth have conspired to retard meaningful economic development.

It’s weird how things never change. We have heard this story countless times in many an African country. President Tandja belongs to the crazy bunch running the Continent who see themselves as irreplaceable demiurges entitled to rule for life. What amount of hubris would make a scarcely educated 71 year old man think that there is no one else in a country of 15 million that can fill his shoes? And given the dismal state of Niger’s economy it can’t be that hard to outdoor Mr. Tandja. He should simply go home.