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Cablegate: Niger: Ecowas Envoys Visit to Niger; Police Disperse

VZCZCXRO5346
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0630/01 2431553
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311553Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5284
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1651
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000630

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PHUM ASEC CASC NG
SUBJECT: Niger: ECOWAS Envoys Visit to Niger; Police Disperse
Opposition Protest

Ref: a) Niamey 618 b) Niamey 596 c) Niamey 584
d) Niamey 531 e) Niamey 375

NIAMEY 00000630 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: On August 29-30, a delegation from the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met with various actors of
Niger's political spectrum in an effort to find a solution to
Niger's political quagmire. All meetings took place behind closed
doors, and envoys informed local media they will report findings to
the ECOWAS Heads of States Special Summit scheduled to convene on
September 5. On August 30, police dispersed a rally by the
Coordination of Forces for Democracy and the Republic (CFDR) aimed
to re-instate former Deputies of the dissolved National Assembly.
End summary.

----------------------------
Envoys meet President Tandja
----------------------------

2. The delegation representatives from Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone,
and the Nigerian Deputy Foreign Minister, met with President Mamadou
Tandja, in the presence of Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou and
the President's Director of Cabinet Bachir Yahaya. (Note: According
to post information, Benin did not sent a delegate. End note.) The
visit to Niger follows the August 24 recommendation of the ECOWAS
Mediation and Security Council "to constitute a four-member ad-hoc
ministerial committee led by Nigeria and composed of Benin, Burkina
Faso, and Sierra Leone." Burkina Faso's representative indicated to
local media that the delegation was tasked "to collect information
and to report findings to the Head of States Summit for decision."

--------------------------------------------- ------
Meetings with political parties, civil society, and unions
--------------------------------------------- ------

3. Envoys met with CFDR opposition parties, labor unions, and civil
society organizations. They also met with civil society
organizations supporting President Tandja - namely the Patriotic
Movement for the Defense of the Nation and the People (MPDNP).

4. After meeting with the ECOWAS delegation, Mahamadou Issoufou,
president of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS),
the main opposition party, told journalists that opposition parties
had briefed the delegation on the difficult situation in which
Tandja has put Niger by perpetrating a "constitutional coup." He
further stated, "the CFDR has clearly explained its position, that
is, Tandja must repeal all the illegal decisions he has taken,
including the enactment of a new constitution."

5. Trade Union leaders and civil society organizations informed the
press that they explained to the delegation that their position had
not changed since a prior meeting (Ref D). Unions wondered why
ECOWAS negotiators insisted on meeting with them if they had nothing
new to propose. Moustapha Kadi, President of the Collective of
Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights and Democracy (CODDHD)
said, "Niger, as a State Member, has signed the ECOWAS Supplementary
Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance... We would like to see
action taken in that respect... It is as simple as that."

6. Nouhou Arzika, leader of the MPDNP indicated that the
opposition's preconditions do not fall in line with their
"position-sharing policy. He claimed, "to reactivate the 1999
constitution and to reinstate some institutions is like trying to
awaken a dead body."

7. Moctar Khalidou of Niger's Islamic Association (AIN) in a radio
interview in Hausa indicated that the AIN disagrees with "those who
suggest an 'embargo' against Niger" because this may adversely
affect an already destitute population.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Police Forcibly Disperse Peaceful Opposition Protest
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. On August 30, CFDR supporters (estimated by police as 1000, but
by others as several thousands) gathered at the PNDS headquarters
for a rally to reinstate the dissolved National Assembly under the
1999 Constitution. Sixty-seven (67) former Deputies present at the
rally read a statement in which they vowed to call an extraordinary
meeting of the Parliament. After the declaration, the crowd decided
to march toward the National Assembly building, but was stopped by
police who used teargas and batons to disperse the protesters. Some

NIAMEY 00000630 002.2 OF 002


demonstrators used stones to retaliate. Police tracked down, beat
and injured several people in the neighborhood, including reportedly
innocent onlookers. There were reports of minor damage caused by gas
canisters on private property in the area. The police made no
arrests. Some protesters in press interviews said that the police
violence only boosts their determination "to continue fighting
against dictatorship and for the restoration of democracy."

-------
Comment
-------

9. This is the fourth time since the beginning of Niger's political
crisis that an ECOWAS delegation has meet with the main
protagonists. In May, the ECOWAS Council of Wise Persons urged
President Tandja not to seek term extension (Ref E). In June, a
delegation led by former Nigerian Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar
delivered a special message from the Chairman of the Authority of
ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, President Musa Yar'Adua of
Nigeria. July 20-21, two weeks before the August 4 controversial
referendum, a joint UN-AU-ECOWAS delegation met with various actors
of Niger's political spectrum, in an attempt to defuse the ongoing
political crisis (Ref D).

10. The ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council meeting, held on
August 24, called for an extraordinary summit of Heads of States and
Government for September 5 in Abuja in an effort to resolve the
crisis in Niger.

ALLEN

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