Who is the "Devil" in this.....

Niger’s political crisis has recently made headlines regionally and internationally. When I saw the “Breaking News” as dramatically presented in one of the international news stations, I became puzzled as to why such a country with one of the highest poverty rates, would be in such a mess with the presence of sought after minerals like uranium, which with good leadership can be used to develop the country. Or is this the Afrikan way?
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a close friend who was concerned that “they” may discover oil in Kenya. I was puzzled by her reaction. “But that would be good for the economy. The country would be developed”, I emphasized and she replied, “That would mean corruption, and war in the country. That’s the problems with African countries and African leadership”. Anyway this is a debate for another post, I was talking about Niger.

While trying to gather information for personal knowledge about the coup d’état in Niger I came across a press release made by WAELE, an organisation that campaigns for the "sustainable emancipation of the African Woman". Naturally I was proud of the fact that the women were quick to respond to the crisis not just for the women but for humanity regardless of sex and gender. As I devoured the article, keen to learn of what my fellow women were saying about the crisis I became aware of Dr. Basirati Nahibi’s appeal to leaders to respect the country’s constitution and the need to strengthen democracy.

On the most basic of levels I agree with Dr. Nahibi, a country’s constitution is the highest law and needs to be respected, and democracy is what everyone should strive to maintain both in the public and private sphere. However two issues continue to nag my mind:

• Which constitution is Dr. Nahibi referring to?
• And why did she not speak out earlier?

In my opinion there are two coups d’état that have occurred in Niger in recent history: one in 2009 the other in 2010. The only difference is one was not physically violent. However, though there was no loss of life in the first one, there was loss of democracy which often leads to loss of lives and rights.

To understand my point let us trace the beginning of this particular problem in Niger. President Mamadou Tandja has been Niger’s president for the last two terms; his presidential position was an elected one. However, close to the end of his second and final term as prescribed by the constitution, Mr. Tandja, in a desperate effort to hang on to power as long as possible changed the constitution through a referendum. When the opposition and the masses rejected his move, Tandja abolished the constitution court and parliament. He then called for a referendum that saw a low turnout (comprising of only his supporters) which led to the abolishment of the presidential limit of two terms. He went further and fixed a date, then held presidential elections which was boycotted by the opposition, and as a result declared himself president.

This in my opinion was the first coup d’etat, and that is how national, regional and international organisations should have treated and labelled the case. Democracy was manipulated, and dictatorship was displayed using democratic tools. It is for this reason that I do not understand which constitution Dr. Nahibi is referring to, and why she did not publicly speak with the same urgency earlier. The same applies to all other organisations and countries now responding publicly.

The first coup is responsible for the second coup which occurred on 18th February 2010 in Niger’s capital Niamey, lead by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna. The group, which refers to itself as the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (SCRD) is responsible for the kidnapping of President Tandja which led to the unfortunate and unnesessary killing of several bodyguards. The result is the presense of uncertainity that now grips the country. This makes me wonder whether a vicious cycle is not developing in Niger. Several years earlier, Mamadou Tanja was a key player in another coup. This brings the total number of military coups in Niger to four, and if one factors in Tandja unconstitution means to remain in power, the total number comes to five. Is this the fate of Niger?

Let me not deviate from the point I want to make, which is; the failure to quickly address the first coup, is what has landed Niger in this mess. The same way this second coup is making headlines, drawing public displays of contempt by different organisations and countries, is how the first coup should have been handled, and maybe just maybe we would not have lost lives. Ejecting Niger from ECOWAS, was simply not enough. You would think ECOWAS would learn from leaders such as Mugabe (who has been ejected from different unions and even denied western aid but still remains adamant). The thirst for power and the wealth associated with it and the presence of minerals is a strong cocktail that can give a man like Tandja such will and resolution, such that measures like rejection by ECOWAS simply gives him more rope to misbehave.

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