Cablegate: Niger: Potential Suspension or Termination of Usaid and Mcc

DE RUEHNM #0591/01 2261136
R 141136Z AUG 09





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Niger: Potential Suspension or Termination of USAID and MCC
Girl's Education Projects

1. (SBU) Summary: I am writing to urge continuation of two programs
in Niger that promote girls education on the grounds of our national
security interests and for humanitarian purposes. I believe that
cancelling the investment in the education of girls would send a
message that we are abandoning important means of transitioning from
widespread poverty, low health and education standards (including
illiteracy). I believe continuation of these two programs would
send a message that the U.S. Government continues to stand with the
people of Niger most in need of basic human services, despite the
decline of democracy in Niger that negatively impacts our bilateral
relationship. Terminating these two programs will have little if
any effect on the Government of Niger's leadership, as children of
the elite do not rely on the girl's scholarship program or local
public schools for educations, rather they can opt to send their
children to private institutions or abroad for study. We should
continue to take a firm stance in support of health and education,
as well as food security and other programs that directly support
the well being of Niger's most vulnerable children and communities.
End summary.

2. (SBU) It is important that the degradation of democracy in Niger
not go without a measured response that underscores the importance
of democratic practices and institutions, as well as rule of law in
anchoring long-term development, political inclusiveness, and
respect for human rights. That said, in light of the interagency
discussions taking place to determine an appropriate U.S. Government
response to the unconstitutional extension of President Tandja's
term in office, I wish to weigh in on the side of continuing two
programs in Niger in particular - the USAID-financed Ambassador's
Girl Scholarship Program (AGSP) and the MCC Threshold Girls'
Education Program (which uses the acronym "IMAGINE"). These
projects target primary school girls and boys from the poorest areas
of the country. AGSP supports 420 girls through the provision of
scholarships, learning materials, mentoring, uniforms, and HIV/AIDS
prevention education. IMAGINE supports approximately 40,000 primary
school students (half of them girls) through the construction of 68
school complexes, teacher training, books and material, school
feeding programs, and community development activities for income
generation, literacy, and good governance.

3. (SBU) I strongly contend that these two programs should be
continued for two reasons: a) their continuation would benefit U.S.
national interests, including our security interests; and b) on the
humanitarian grounds that these two programs provide a better
educated, healthier, wealthier, less fecund, and less aid-dependent
citizenry - who often must rely on external assistance for food and
other basic needs.

4. (SBU) Cancelling these two programs would send a message to
Niger's people that we are abandoning them due to the actions of
their President. The message we should be sending is a positive
one: that our displeasure is with President Tandja's regime, and
not with Niger's most vulnerable children, families, and

5. (SBU) There is a broad and deep respect and affection for the
United States and its people among the people of Niger. Despite the
messages of extremists in the sub-region, and some past negative
perceptions of U.S. Government foreign policy, the United States
continues to be held in high esteem. This is due in large part to
the long history of on-the-ground development and humanitarian
programs the U.S. Government has implemented in Niger in good times
and bad over the nation's five decades of independence. This
affection is even greater since our last Presidential election. It
is now common to see photos of President Obama and the flag on the
walls of shops and kiosks and the windows of taxicabs, minivans, and
trucks throughout Niger. This good will translates into resistance
to those radical imams and others who seek to promote violent
extremism. This reservoir of good will should not be jeopardized.

6. (SBU) The belief that the continuation of the IMAGINE component
of the MCC Threshold Program would be perceived as an indication
that Niger may still become eligible for a Compact Program is false.
Over the past year Embassy team members (including me on a number
of occasions), visiting USAID and MCC officials have made it clear
to Niger's leaders that attempts to undermine the constitution would
end any hope of a Compact for Niger. This position can be restated
with the suspension or termination of the other aspects of Niger's
MCC Threshold Program (such as the Anti-corruption, Business
Climate, and Land Reform components) as well as other programs that
aid Niger's Government directly.

7. (U) The AGSP and IMAGINE programs address key immediate, mid, and
long-range issues that keep Niger poor and in constant need of

NIAMEY 00000591 002 OF 002

humanitarian aid:

-- Niger has the highest rate of birth in Africa, if not the world.
The girls in this program statistically will have significantly
smaller families than those who do not benefit from a primary

-- Niger has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world,
especially for women. The vast majority of those who voted in the
August constitutional referendum were from rural areas and were
illiterate. Most could not understand the proposed new constitution
or even the ballot. If they were literate, their ability to judge
for themselves the merits of the real issues involved and
consequences of their vote would have increased dramatically, rather
than simply tending to obey village chiefs. Those children learning
to read and write will not only be able to better judge issues for
themselves but, as research shows, their families are more likely to
be literate. By dropping these programs we will extend the period
of illiteracy for the children we wish to support; and

-- Moreover, the programs involve school feeding for most of the
children, as well as family rations for many of the girls.
Thousands more families will be healthier and less vulnerable to the
health risks associated with malnutrition.

8. (U) The correlation between a primary education for girls and
improvements in family health, household income, and food security
is well documented. The two girls' education programs in Niger,
together will provide primary education for approximately 40,000
children (half of them girls), improved quality of learning through
the provision of learning materials and vastly improved facilities)
localized teacher training, HIV/AIDS prevention training, student
mentoring, school feeding programs, improved local engagement in
self-generated development activities, improved understanding of
rights and democracy, and income generation activities for
approximately 3,000 mothers.
68 school complexes will be constructed comprising 200 school rooms,
200 modest houses for new female teachers, wells or cisterns,
latrines, and covered areas for day-care, canteens, or other
community needs.

9. (SBU) The U.S. Government can make a clear signal that President
Tandja's grab for continued power violates our values and those of
his people and their established political processes and
constitution of 1999. Due to his actions, however, the U.S.
Government can no longer in good faith support programs of the
Government of Niger, such as the various regional programs we have
that promote trade, energy, and research, as well as the aspects of
the MCC Threshold Program that deal with the national government -
anti-corruption, business start ups, and land reform.

10. (SBU) We should also make it clear that Niger will not be
considered for an MCC Compact Program under the current political
conditions. We should not, however, "throw the baby out with the
bath water," and forfeit the substantial good will the Nigerien
people have for the United States and its government. Our message
will only be stronger if we show our continued concern for Niger's
people while showing our deep displeasure with its head of state.
In sum, I am urging continuation of the two programs that promote
girls education.


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