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Cablegate: Niger: Mnj Rebel Leader Reported to Have Announced

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OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0800/01 2321429
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191429Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4505
INFO RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0715
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1620

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000800

STATE for AF/W (Heflin/Dennison)

PARIS for AF Watcher

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS SOCI PGOV CASC ASEC NG LY
SUBJECT: NIGER: MNJ Rebel Leader Reported to Have Announced
Intention to Lay Down Arms, But Situation Remains Murky

NIAMEY 00000800 001.2 OF 002


REFTEL: 07 Niamey 1184

1. Summary. On August 18, a late evening announcement on Tele-Sahel
public television reported Mouvement Nigerien pour la Justice (MNJ)
leader Agali Alambo had decided to have MNJ rebels lay down their
arms. Alambo reportedly arrived at the decision at a meeting in
Libya with "Great Sahara" community leaders, notably Libyan leader
Muammar Khaddafi. The Government of Niger (GON) Spokesperson,
Minister of Communications (MOC) Ben Omar, welcomed Alambo's
announcement as good news and expressed, on behalf of GON President
Mamadou Tandja and the people of Niger, appreciation to the Libyan
leader. End summary.

2. Late night August 18, GON MOC Ben Omar announced on Tele-Sahel
public television the MNJ's decision to lay down arms, effective
August 18. MNJ leader Alambo is reported to have announced this
decision during a meeting of the "Great Sahara" leaders hosted by
Libyan leader Khaddafi on August 17 in the southwestern Libyan town
of Ubari. Tele-Sahel aired footage of the meeting covered by Libyan
television, featuring Alambo's remarks in Tamacheq (the local Tuareg
language) translated into Arabic, in which the MNJ leader reiterated
the Tuareg communities' allegiance to the "Great Amghar", an
honorary title the Tuareg leaders have conferred upon Khaddafi.
Alambo, who also claimed to have been delegated to speak on behalf
of Malian rebel leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, declared that Malian and
Nigerien rebels are receptive to Khaddafi's call for peace. He said
both rebel leaders recognized Khaddafi as the sole mediator for the
conflict and that they will abide by Khaddafi's advice to voice
grievances and demands through political means. Alambo is reported
to have announced that the Tuareg rebel movements will release about
60 hostages to Khaddafi.

3. GON MOC Omar summarized Khaddafi's intervention in the August 18
newscast, stating that Khaddafi called attention to the dangers of
arms, drug and cigarette trafficking, banditry and other criminal
activity in the region. Omar added that Khaddafi stressed the
trafficking and criminal activity must be controlled before it gets
out of hand and is exploited by "foreign powers." He further
reported that Khaddafi told Tuareg leaders that "taking arms to make
political claims was obsolete." Moreover, Omar stated that Khaddafi
acknowledged that the "far-fetched dream of a Tuareg state should be
dropped" because the African Union Charter and the Community of
Sahel-Sahara States' (CENSAD) instruments would not allow it and
individual states would not accept it.

4. Omar emphasized that Khaddafi's remarks confirm the GON's
consistent position that those who take up arms against their own
country are wrong. He reiterated that the GON would not negotiate
unless the conditions to lay down arms were met. He added that rule
of law provides mechanisms to voice political grievances, such as
participation in political parties, associations or nongovernmental
organizations and/or through the legal/judicial process in courts of
law. He called on "wayward compatriots who made the mistake of
taking up arms" to join all Nigeriens in the building and
development of Niger.
5. Omar welcomed Alambo's announcement as good news and expressed on
behalf of GON President Tandja and the Nigerien people appreciation
to Libyan leader Khaddafi. He said he hoped for a lasting peace, a
"complete, final resolution" of the security situation in northern
Niger.
6. However, on the afternoon of August 19, BBC Hausa conducted
followup interviews on the report of the MNJ's decision to lay down
its arms with GON MOC Omar and MNJ representative Boutali Tchiwaren.
Omar confirmed the statement he made on August 18, but added the GON
would wait and see if the MNJ would be true to its word. Tchiwaren
denied the GON's announcement that the MNJ was willing to disarm,
stating that Ben Omar misrepresented Alambo's statement. He said
that Alambo mentioned in his announcement having submitted to
Kaddhafi a document listing MNJ demands and the MNJ's attempt to
"secure through Khaddafi the release of all civilians held in
connection with the conflict." Tchiwaren indicated MNJ will not lay
down arms because they do not trust the government and will not do
so until there first is agreement on holding negotiations on a peace
settlement.
7. Radio France International (RFI) reported that Alambo stated the
MNJ peace offer is not unconditional and that a full halt to
hostilities will depend on GON actions.
8. Some Nigerien citizens' reactions have been guarded, and others
have labeled the latest development "a circus that only confirms
Libya as an instigator of the conflict in the north." Some citizens
have called for the GON to reject any preconditions from the
rebels.

NIAMEY 00000800 002.2 OF 002


9. In September 2007, the MNJ announced a "cease fire" leading up to
and through Ramadan (reftel), but hopes of a lasting peace were
dashed when hostilities resumed after Ramadan. This year Ramadan is
expected to begin the first week of September, consequently the true
test may not be GON and MNJ actions over the next few weeks, more
telling will be the period after Ramadan.

Minimize considered.

ALLEN

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