Cablegate: Niger: In News From Abroad Gon President Tandja Rules Out


DE RUEHNM #1270/01 2831554
R 101554Z OCT 07






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: NIGER: In News from Abroad GON President Tandja Rules Out
Third Term, Invites Mouvement des Nigeriens Pour La Justice (MNJ) to
Lay Down Arms

REF: A) Niamey 1237 (NOTAL) B) Niamey 1220 and previous

1. (U) Summary. Local newspapers have reported and are commenting
on excerpts of Government of Niger (GON) President Mamadou Tandja's
October 2 interview with "Le Monde". In that interview Tandja rules
out running for a third term and invites combatants in northern
Niger to lay down their arms. He also addressed a question of
whether the U.S. is planning to build a military base in Niger and
emphasized Niger's need to take advantage of the recent hike in the
price of uranium. Some local commentary noted that a foreign
journal abroad was granted the interview, as opposed to granting
equal opportunity to local media in Niger. End summary.

2. (U) The October 9 publications of several local newspapers "Le
Canard Dechaine", "L'Enqueteur", "L'Evenement" and "La Griffe"
reported on GON President Tandja's October 2 interview with "Le

3. (U) In response to reporters' questions about the Mouvement des
Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ), Tandja did not recognize the MNJ as
a legitimate political group. He is quoted as saying the combatants
are no more than "drug traffickers seeking to dress themselves up as
noble rebels." Tandja reiterated the GON will not negotiate with
drug traffickers and bandits, but cracked open a door for possible
negotiation by stating that "peace will be reached eventually" and
that his government is "willing to hold discussions with no
limitations on subject matter, but only if the combatants lay down
their arms."

4. (U) On the issue of whether he plans to run for a third term of
office (ref A), Tandja ruled out that possibility. He added he is
democratic and will leave office at the end of his mandate, that he
can serve his nation in other ways.

5. (SBU) When asked whether the U.S. is planning to install a
military base in Niger as part of the plan to fight against
terrorists, Tandja responded that the GON had not been asked about
one. He further stated "the U.S. has no need for one, as the
Americans can detect a ping pong ball in the Sahara Desert through
the use of satellites, far better than any armed person." He added
"there are no Islamic extremists in northern Niger, no one has seen
or heard anything."

6. (U) Briefly touching on the subject of Niger's uranium deposits,
Tandja stated that Niger, as the world's third largest exporter,
must take advantage of the current rise in market prices to maximize
its profits. He put Areva (the French firm that holds uranium
concessions) on notice that they must offer better remuneration to
Niger, that he's prepared to take the matter to the politicians in
Paris, if necessary. He added that Niger will sell its share of the
uranium produced on the open market.

7. (SBU) While excerpts of President Tandja's October 2 interview
were covered, some media commentary lodged criticism about the
interview being conducted with a journal abroad, instead of with
local media in Niger. At the same time, local journalists continue
to face possible arrest, the most recent case that of Director of
Publication for "Info de l'Air", Ibrahim Manzo, arrested last night
at the Niamey airport while waiting to board a flight to Paris. He
allegedly was asked whether he was the Radio France International
(RFI) correspondent. Embassy learned that Manzo was transferred
earlier today (10/10) to the National Police, but no public
information has been released on the reason for the arrest. The
President of the Association of Niger Editors (ANEPI) condemned the
arrest and called for national and international media and civil
society to react firmly against the arrest.

8. (U) There have been press reports that a French
journalist/documentary filmmaker, Francois Bergeron, was expelled
from Niger on October 5. The Nigerien authorities had reportedly
arrested him in Agadez on suspicion of having ties with the MNJ.
The government prohibits foreign journalists from traveling to the

9. (SBU) Comment. In Ambassador's recent discussions with GON
Cabinet members (two as recently as this week) about journalists'
arrests and reporting restrictions, the consistent response has been
that the journalists arrested haven't been arrested because of their
profession or affiliation with a particular media organ, but rather
because of their collaboration with individuals causing insecurity
in the North. They claim that restrictions are necessary because
some journalists are sympathizers with the MNJ and, consequently,
present biased reporting potentially demoralizing to military

officers and their families. They also state that the GON sometimes
does not counter false reports because they don't want to alienate
the general population against a particular ethnic group. End

© Scoop Media

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