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Cablegate: A Bridge From China to Niger

VZCZCXRO1757
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1359/01 3121540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081540Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3888
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0179
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0609
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001359

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W DENNISON
PARIS FOR AF WATCHER
DEPT PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ENRG EPET SOCI NG CH
SUBJECT: A BRIDGE FROM CHINA TO NIGER

REF: A. NIAMEY 1207
B. NIAMEY 896

NIAMEY 00001359 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary. The November 5, 2007 groundbreaking and laying
of the first stone for a long-awaited second bridge in the
capital city of Niamey symbolizes an increasingly closer
relationship between two friends, the Republic of Niger (RON)
and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Exchanges between
the PRC Communist Party leadership and leaders in the
MNSD-Nassara (the GON ruling party), a GON National Assembly
delegation's visit to counterparts in the PRC Congress,
professional and student exchanges showcase the expanding
political and social relationships between the RON and PRC.
On the economic side, Chinese state enterprises proceed
persistently with bids for oil and uranium concessions to
meet the PRC's growing energy needs (Ref A). Chinese
engagement with Niger is on the upswing. End summary.

2. Described as "a memorable, historic event for Niamey", "a
dream that has become a reality", and the "fulfillment of
President Tandja's promise", the US$40 million bridge project
located 2000 meters downstream from the much celebrated John
F. Kennedy Bridge (USAID project completed in 1969) led the
November 5 and 6 national and local media reports
(television, radio and print). The ceremony that highlighted
GON President Tandja's laying of the first stone opened with
a cultural group performing a song written for the special
occasion. GON Cabinet ministers, other senior government
officials, National Assembly members, the diplomatic corps,
political party leaders and other special guests were present
for the event.

3. The PRC "bridge" delegation, led by PRC Assistant FM Zhai
Jun, had been accompanied from Beijing to Niamey by GON
Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou. Minister of Equipment
Lamido Moumouni Harouna and the Minister of Culture and Arts
Oumarou Hadary met the delegation upon arrival at Niamey
airport.

4. Construction on the four-lane bridge is scheduled to
commence in January 2008 with projected completion in three
years. The projected dimensions are: 600 meters in length,
23 meters in width, four 3.5 meter-wide lanes and a 2
meter-wide median strip to separate both directions across
the bridge. There also are plans for 2.5 meter wide
pedestrian lanes on both sides of the bridge and three
interchanges with access lanes of 1 kilometer 485 meters in
length.

5. Minister of Equipment Harouna, Mayor Abdoulaye Issa of
Niamey Commune IV (location for the new bridge) and Governor
of Niamey Region Tahirou Amadou all had glowing remarks for
GON President Tandja, citing Tandja's personal engagement and
perseverance in securing a partner to build a second bridge
that had been awaited since the early 1980s. All spoke of
the "dynamism of the Sino-Nigerien relationship" and
emphasized that "the new, second bridge" will provide much
needed relief to the congestion on "the first bridge", a
contribution that will enhance the economic and commercial
vitality of Niamey and the corridor leading from Niamey to
the Burkina Faso border. Several recent, ongoing and future
initiatives were cited, such as construction of a new, larger
PRC Embassy (with completion reportedly months away) to make
room for a larger Chinese diplomatic/official presence in
Niger, the completed water treatment plant in Zinder, the
General Seyni Kountche Sports Stadium (built by the PRC for
the 2005 Francophonie games and which will be refurbished by
the Chinese), a housing complex, electrification projects in
Bilma, microcredits to women groups, a couple hundred
tractors to farmers, US$1.4 Million for two rural schools (in
areas to be determined), US$450 Thousand to construct a
Sino-Nigerien Center to Combat Malaria, a medicine donation
(valued at US$200 Thousand) to combat malaria over a two-year
period, agreement to increase from 190 to 442 duty-free
categories of potential exports of Nigerien goods to China
and cancellation of approximtely US$12 Million debt for
Niger.

6. Head o the PRC delegation, Assistant FM Zhai Jun, was
granted separate meetings with GON President Tandja and Prime
Minister Oumarou during the November 4-6, 2007 visit.
Examples of other exchanges over the past 12 months include:
30 medical doctors on year-long rotations to provide health
services in local hospitals; 27 and 70 Nigerien students to
China, respectively, in 2006 and 2007; a September 2007 visit

NIAMEY 00001359 002.2 OF 002


from a Chinese Communist Party delegation to meet with
MNSD-Nassara Party leader Hama Amadou and party members (with
a pledge to construct a party headquarters); a visit by GON
National Assembly President Mahamane Ousmane to the PRC
Congress in September 2007 (at which he secured a pledge for
US$300 Thousand in furnishings for the National Assembly); a
visit from PRC Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao in
December 2006 and GON President Tandja-led delegation to
participate in the November 2006 Beijing Summit on
Sino-African Cooperation. (Note: Tandja's son is a
commercial officer at the Nigerien Embassy in Beijing. End
note.)

7. The PRC appetite to prospect in Niger's extractive
industries has not been curbed by the Mouvement des Nigeriens
pour la Justice (MNJ) July 2007 kidnapping in Agadez of a
Chinese mining executive from Agelik, an affiliate of the
China Nuclear Engineering and Construction firm (Ref B). The
MNJ has accused the Chinese firm of not hiring enough
Nigeriens from the local region and has faulted the firm for
damaging the environment. Chinese workers temporarily have
been recalled to Niamey subsequent to the kidnapping and in
light of threats from MNJ to strike Chinese operations in the
mining areas, but it's unlikely the Chinese will pull out of
the extractive mining business. Despite the negative media
reports on Chinese hiring practices and lack of attention to
environmental concerns (associated with health implications
for the local population in the mining regions), recent wide
coverage of the Chinese "unconditional" goodwill resonates
well with the majority of Nigeriens. In the eyes of many
Nigeriens. Moreover, infrastructure projects that create
landmarks that will be seen on the Nigerien landscape for
many years to come (such as, a bridge, stadium, water plant
or malaria center) may ultimately define PRC-GON partnership.

ALLEN

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