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.

president tandja ousted in coup

Nigerien president Mamadou Tandja has been ousted in a military coup. An announcement on national radio stated that the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy was now in charge of the country. The council includes Col. Salou Djibo (the leader) and and four other colonels.The president and members of his cabinet are being held at a military barracks outside the capital Niamey after they were seized during a cabinet meeting.

Mr. Tandja had been president since 1999. Last year 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. His 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.

It is almost tempting to say good riddance, but given the track record of military rule (remember Guinea?) in West Africa the Nigeriens may have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. Only time will tell. In the meantime condemnation of the coup and calls for an immediate return to democracy keep coming from the AU, ECOWAS, EU and other concerned parties. How things never change.

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.