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Cablegate: Niger: Civil Society Protests Against National Assembly

VZCZCXRO9966
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0545 1421504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211504Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4322
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0683

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000545

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM SOCI NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: CIVIL SOCIETY PROTESTS AGAINST NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
BENEFITS PACKAGE

REF: NIAMEY 509

1. On May 21, the Movement of Citizens for Peace and the Republic (a
group of civil society associations) organized a peaceful march and
rally to protest the recent bill increasing National Assembly
members' benefits (reftel). Thousands of demonstrators marched to
the National Assembly square, where they expressed discontent with
the measure and renewed a call to President Tandja that he not
promulgate the bill into law and that he repeal any laws that grant
"exorbitant benefits" to current and former government officials.
Similar protests took place in Zinder, the Niger's second largest
city.

2. Concurrently, the Citizens' Convergence (a new umbrella group
made up of labor unions, human rights associations, women's
organizations and journalists) issued a statement on current
national issues, including the National Assembly benefits package.
The Citizens' Convergence challenged the bill as a "violation of the
principles of equality, non-discrimination, and social justice
provided by the constitution" in a context of scarce resources. The
group also requested that the president reject the bill. It demanded
the government to revise the requirements for candidacy to the
National Assembly and to establish the BEPC (middle school diploma)
as a minimum educational level for future deputies. It further
called on the government to revise and harmonize the compensation
system applicable to senior officials. It asserted taking a
"historical responsibility to thwart the parliamentarian conspiracy
against the people."

3. Comment: On the eve of these protests, the National Assembly
called a day-long special session in an attempt to explain to the
public that there was much ado about nothing. During the debate,
most interventions aimed at showing that the media and public
opinion had been misled by some "petty" intellectuals and "renegade"
politicians including one of their colleagues who opposed the bill
(reftel).

ALLEN

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