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Cablegate: Update On Niger's Political Situation

VZCZCXRO9208
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0684/01 2611358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181358Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5327
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1661
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000684

DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA; PLS PASS TO USAID/AFR/W
ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID/WA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI AU NG
SUBJECT: Update on Niger's Political Situation

Ref: a) Niamey 653 b) Niamey 646 c) Niamey 640
d) Niamey 597 e) Niamey 593 f) Niamey 584

NIAMEY 00000684 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: On September 13, fifty former National Assembly members
who were arrested for allegedly embezzling funds from State coffers
denounced President Tandja for making false accusations against
them. In a separate, yet similar case, opposition leader Mahamadou
Issoufou appeared before a tribunal judge in connection with his
alleged involvement in embezzling funds from the National Assembly.
On September 15, the Court of Appeals released civil society leader
Marou Amadou; since then, Amadou has gone missing, and there are no
confirmed sights of his whereabouts. Meanwhile, an AU Pan-African
Parliamentary delegation is in Niger to meet with the main
protagonists of the political crisis. End summary.

Ex-Parliamentarians Reject Accusations of Fraud
--------------------------------------------- --
2. On September 13, over 50 former National Assembly members issued
a statement denouncing their recent arrests, court cases, and travel
bans imposed by the GON (refs a, b, and c). The former Assembly
members accused the President of seeking revenge for their refusal
to agree to a three-year extension to his original mandate, forcing
a constitutional referendum. They added that because they failed to
carry out the President's wishes, National Assembly members suddenly
found themselves alleged to be guilty of embezzling funds from state
coffers.

3. The former lawmakers concluded their statement by saying that
they "will never accept the insult incurred through this fallacious
accusation of embezzlement of public funds from people whose
families are involved in corruption scandals estimated at several
million dollars and shares in various companies."

4. The following is a translation of the list of demands made by the
former lawmakers.

(Begin text)

Following the recent accusations by the GON, we wish to state that
we:

--Reject the accusation against them as being fallacious, without
any legal grounds, and for the sole purpose of settling political
scores;

--Denounce their placement under house arrest within the city of
Niamey as an infringement of their basic freedom of movement;

--Call to the nation's attention the deliberate option taken by the
President and his new friends to cultivate discord and endanger the
country's peace and stability;

--Welcome the decisions made by the ECOWAS parliament through its
resolution of 09/09/2009 and call on ECOWAS, the African Union, and
the UN for a timely treatment of Niger's case; and

--Request political parties, labor unions, civil society
associations, and all Nigerien democrats to mobilize.
(End text.)

Opposition Leader Appears Before the Court
------------------------------------------
5. On September 14, Mahamadou Issoufou, president of the Nigerien
Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), and Niger's opposition
leader, appeared before the investigating judge at the Niamey
Tribunal in connection with the ongoing National Assembly case (refs
a, b, and c). The judge charged Issoufou with receiving undue
payments and misuse of public funds, and subsequently granted him
provisional release. When he stepped out of the court, Issoufou was
hailed by supporters and swarmed by reporters. He stated that the
whole case was a political maneuver to intimidate and denigrate
those who oppose President Tandja's plan to remain in office beyond
December 22. He accused President Tandja of fomenting a coup and
preparing to establish a monarchy. He indicated that President
Tandja's regime would have to face international sanctions likely to
affect the next budget, and that the opposition would continue to
fight President Tandja's dictatorship.

6. The judge also presided over the case involving Hamid Algabid,
president of the political party Rally for Democracy and Progress
(RDP), and incumbent High Commissioner for Territorial
Collectivities president. The judge pressed the same embezzlement
charges and released Algabid, one of the political figures who
supports President Tandja's project to remain power.

Civil Society Activist Released on Bail

NIAMEY 00000684 002.2 OF 002


---------------------------------------
7. On September 15, the Niamey Court of Appeals examined the case of
Marou Amadou, president of the United Front for the Preservation of
Democratic Gains (FUSAD), who was arrested and jailed on charges of
"management of an unauthorized organization" (refs d, e, and f).
Marou's lawyers' filed an appeal against the state prosecutor's
decision to challenge the lower court judge's ruling that granted
him provisional release on August 28. The Court of Appeals, after
reviewing the request, granted Amadou provisional release. Amadou
left the Koutoukale maximum security prison on September 15 in a
motorcade of fellow civil society supporters and political party
representatives blowing their horns, making victory signs, and
chanting "the fight continues." Amadou and other civil society
leaders thanked all who expressed their moral support for him and
pressed for his release, namely citing the United States, France,
Denmark, the European Union, and ECOWAS.

8. On September 16, Radio France International (RFI) and private
radio stations interviewed Amadou, wherein he criticized President
Tandja. Subsequently, on September 17, Amadou moved from his house
to a secure, undisclosed location with the assistance of friends and
supporters. According to Embassy contacts, Amadou was frightened by
a large contingency of police and security officials outside his
home, which prompted his sudden move. Many believe that because of
the strong criticism that Amadou leveled against President Tandja,
the police were there to arrest him on new charges.

Pan-African Parliamentary Delegation Visits Niamey
--------------------------------------------- -----
9. In the midst of the ongoing political developments, a delegation
from the African Union (AU) Pan-African Parliament is on a September
14-19 visit to Niamey to find ways to resolve the Nigerien political
crisis. The delegation met with President Tandja, the Prime
Minister, the Chadian Ambassador (as dean of the diplomatic corps),
the EC Head of Delegation, the U.S. Ambassador and team (on 9/19 -
septel), several opposition political parties, the media, and civil
society organizations. This is the fifth high-level delegation to
Niger since May 2009; although the public welcomes the visits, many
wonder if such missions will lead to a solution in the near term.

ALLEN

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