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Cablegate: Niger: Tandja Declares "State of Alert" in Agadez

VZCZCXRO1831
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1112/01 2400940
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 280940Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3744
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0589
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001112

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/W FOR T. AYBAR, DS/IP/AF, CA/OCS
PARIS FOR AF WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC MARR CASC PINR NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: TANDJA DECLARES "STATE OF ALERT" IN AGADEZ

REF: NIAMEY 1055


Summary
-------

1. On August 24, President Tandja declared a "State of Alert" for
three months in the Agadez region plagued by armed conflict between
the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) and government forces. Prime
Minister Seini Oumarou undertook a regional diplomatic outreach to
seek regional support in resolving the crisis. While the "State of
Alert" is provided by law, the local population, the civil society,
and NGOs seem skeptical about its justification.

The "State of Alert"
-------------------

2. Niger's constitution (articles 53, 54 and 86) allows the
President to take exceptional measures in circumstances such as
serious threat to national territorial integrity, the execution of
its international obligations, and the normal operation of public
service. The state of alert is the first stage of these measures -
ranging from "State of Alert" to state of emergency to martial law
depending on the gravity of the situation.

3. The "State of Alert" aims at taking "certain appropriate measures
to ensure the government's freedom of action, to reduce the
vulnerability of the population or major installations, and to
guarantee the security of military forces' mobilization and
implementation operations." Under this law, people can be arrested,
questioned and detained without time limit. The government may
requisition persons, services, and property for the purpose of the
state of alert.

First responses to the "State of Alert"
-------------------------------------

4. The Agadez population and Niger's civil society in general have
expressed concern over the GON's decision, as it gives extended
powers to the military. They felt that the military may use it to
infringe on public liberties and possibly commit other blunders. For
example, since the announcement of this decision, there were reports
that security forces arrested several people in Agadez and Arlit.
The Libyan Consul in Agadez was briefly arrested then expelled from
the country over the weekend. This alert will also limit
donor-funded project activities in the region, to the detriment of
an already desperate and vulnerable population.

The MNJ's response
------------------

5. In an interview with Radio France International (RFI), Mohamed
Acharif, the MNJ's vice-president, said that the GON's measures
would not deter his movement. He stated that the MNJ's action would
not be limited to Agadez alone, but it could hit other locations in
Niger.

6. The MNJ's website reported on August 27 that the army killed
seven civilians near Gougaram, "in retaliation to the death of
several soldiers during previous skirmishes." The site also reported
the arrest of seven other people in Agadez and Arlit. In response to
the purported deaths and arrests the MNJ declared "an eye for an
eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Comment
-------

7. Observers say that the President's decision comes as a response
to the recommendations made on August 11, by a forum on the
situation in northern Niger which gathered civil society groups,
academics, religious leaders, traditional chiefs, and other think
tanks. The forum recommended that the GON recognize the MNJ as a
rebel movement and use existing conflict resolution mechanisms to
work toward a peaceful settlement. In a letter to the Minister of
Interior, the Collective for the Defense of Human Rights and
Democracy, an umbrella group of twenty human rights associations,
offered to visit northern Niger in order to engage mediation with
the MNJ.

8. Also, by declaring a "State of Alert" then immediately sending
his Prime Minister to seek support from Sudan and Libya, President
Tandja uses the carrot and stick approach. This falls in line with
his Independence Day address to the nation on August 2, in which he
said, "we should act candidly, in respect of the friendly and
profitable relations with our traditional partners and those who
show interest in our country" while opting for firmness by stating
that he would "preserve our territorial integrity and carry a

NIAMEY 00001112 002 OF 002


relentless fight against those who have chosen to take arms in this
country".

9. While raising human rights concerns, the President's "State of
Alert" declaration may fuel more accusations in the MNJ's propaganda
campaign. The effectiveness of the President's new strategy remains
to be seen. END COMMENT.

ALLEN

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