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Cablegate: Nigerien Prime Minister Addresses Donor Concerns

VZCZCXRO5935
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1301/01 2951329
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221329Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3853
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 1400
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0606
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUFGCIN/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NIAMEY 001301

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

ACCRA FOR USAID/WA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MOPS EAID NG
SUBJECT: NIGERIEN PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES DONOR CONCERNS
ABOUT REBELLION IN THE NORTH AND PRESS FREEDOM

REF: (A) NIAMEY 1298 (NOTAL) (B) NIAMEY 1220 (NOTAL)

NIAMEY 00001301 001.2 OF 003


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister addressed
donor concerns about the situation in the north and press
freedom in an October 19 meeting with diplomats and foreign
aid officials. The Prime Minister called the meeting to
discuss these issue in Niamey, rather than in the upcoming
donors meeting in Brussels on the GON's poverty reduction
strategy. Other issues raised included decentralization, aid
for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the
possibility of a regional security conference and land
expropriation. End Summary.

-----------------
Setting the Stage
-----------------

2. (SBU) The GON has been in close contact with donors for
months on its poverty reduction strategy in preparation for
the donors roundtable in Brussels beginning October 25. Due
to GON concerns that some donors may use the Brussels meeting
to raise political issues unrelated to the poverty reduction
strategy, Prime Minister Senyi Oumarou hosted an October 19
meeting with resident diplomats and donors. He invited them
to bring up any subject they wanted, stressing that it was
better to do so in Niamey than in Brussels. He left
three-quarters of the way through the two-hour meeting,
turning it over to Foreign Minister Mindaoudou, who solicited
additional questions and comments.

3. (SBU) Charge led off the comment period by raising U.S.
concerns about the situation in the north and recent GON
actions against the press. He specifically noted that the
MCC is concerned about those developments in the context of
its planned Threshold program. The French and German
ambassadors echoed concerns about the north and the press.
The Swiss development representative asked about progress on
decentralization, and expressed concern about GON plans to
expropriate land for large farms, as well as the situation in
the north and press freedom. Probably reflecting their role
as hosts of the upcoming donors meeting, the EU Charge and
Belgian development representative reiterated the Prime
Minister's call for the Brussels meeting to focus on the
poverty reduction strategy, although the EU charge also
expressed concern about the situation in the north and the
need to develop a new relationship between the EU and the ACP
countries by the end of the year.

4. (SBU) Prime Minister Oumarou synthesized the comments by
saying the focus of donor concerns was insecurity in the
north and press freedom. He said that Niamey-based officials
should always feel free to raise such issues with him or the
foreign minister. He expressed his hope that donors would be
represented in Brussels by people senior enough to make
decisions. He then addressed the issues raised.


--------------------------
The situation in the north
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Oumarou traced the current insecurity in the north
to the peace agreements that ended the conflict there in the
mid 1990s. He claimed that the GON has fulfilled 85 percent
of its commitments under those agreements, and would complete
the rest in the next two years. The Nigerien people had made
many sacrifices for peace, he said. The GON created the High
Commission for Peace Reconciliation. Rebels were integrated
into the Nigerien Armed Forces, often at ranks far above
those for which their education and experience would normally
qualify them. The GON does not regret those actions, which
he stressed were taken in the name of peace.

6. (SBU) Oumarou recalled the attack on military facilities
in Iferouane last February, and the demands that were made
following that attack. Those grievance could have been made
through the democratic process rather than through violence.

NIAMEY 00001301 002.2 OF 003


Those involved in the rebellion of the 1990s did not abide by
the peace agreements, and specifically they did not fully
disarm. The GON therefore needs to be firm. Oumarou
complained that unnamed "forQgn parties" support those
responsible for the violence. (Oumarou never mentioned the
Mouvement des Nigerien pour la Justice (MNJ) by name.)

7. (SBU) The current situation can be resolved in the same
manner as the earlier rebellion, Oumarou said, adding that
the GON is prepared to discuss grievances with "our brothers
in the mountains," but only after they disarm and release
their hostages. He said there are indirect contacts between
the GON and "the armed group" through deputies and
traditional leaders. He cited recent defections from the
armed group (ref A). He agreed with donors that insecurity
in the north does not favor development. It does not favor
development elsewhere in the country either, he added.
Referring to the Swiss representative's remark that the
insecurity in the north has led to high rates of malnutrition
there, the Prime Minister said that malnutrition rates were
even higher in some other parts of the country.

-------------
Press Freedom
-------------

8. (SBU) Oumarou denied that the GON had restricted press
freedom. He said that RFI reporter Moussa Kaka had not been
arrested as a journalist, but as a Nigerien citizen (ref b).
In any event, he claimed, the judiciary was independent in
Niger. Foreign Minister Mindaoudou later said that the two
journalists were arrested for threatening national security,
and not for being journalists. She echoed the Prime
Minister's earlier claim that the judiciary was independent.

9. (U) (The second journalist Mindaoudou referred to is
Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, editor of Air Info. He was reportedly
detained at the Niamey airport on October 9 as he was
preparing to travel to Paris. There are reports that the
authorities think he is linked to RFI, and may have even
confused him with someone else. He has reportedly been
transferred to Agadez. As far as we know, he has not been
charged.)

------------
Other Issues
------------

10. (SBU) Decentralization. In response to the Swiss
representative's question about decentralization, Oumarou
said that some political parties have asked that local
elections scheduled for 2008 be postponed to 2009. This
request will be considered by all of the political parties in
December. He went on to complain that no government work
gets done in the six months leading up to elections, and with
local elections scheduled for 2008 and national elections
scheduled for 2009, the country would be preoccupied with
elections for two years. Implicitly acknowledging that
decentralization (a component of the 1995 peace accords) was
not fully implemented, Oumarou said that a framework is in
place, but further work is needed, specifically: the GON
needs to create a means to transfer resources to local
governments, the local governments need to develop their own
revenue sources, and they need to develop their human
resources.

11. (SBU) OIC aid. In response to a question from the IMF
representative about follow up to the Doha meeting of
Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) donors, Mindaoudou
said that the Prime Minister had recently signed a decree on
the subject, and more information would be available soon.
She said that she had recently met with the OIC Secretary
General in New York, and that the OIC was preparing to send a
delegation to Niamey soon to follow-up on the Doha conference.

12. (SBU) Regional security conference. In response to a
question from the EU charge about addressing security issues
on a regional basis, Mindaoudou said that President Tandja
was the first to propose the idea, and that work was
progressing on the idea. The regional security meeting may
or may not be conducted in the framework of an existing

NIAMEY 00001301 003.2 OF 003


institution.

13. (SBU) GON presence in Brussels. Mindaoudou said that the
GON would be represented at the Brussels donors conference by
the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Agriculture,
Community Development, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Tourism and
Crafts, Commerce, and National Education.

14. (SBU) Land expropriation. Mindaoudou assured the Swiss
representative that land expropriation was being done
legally, and that compensation was being paid. The land
would be used for large scale farms that would be mechanized
and irrigated.
KORAN

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