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Cablegate: Pan-African Parliamentary Delegation Calls On Ambassador

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FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5334
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1663
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RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000690

DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA; PLS PASS TO USAID AFR/W
ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID/WA
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU - J MAYBURY
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM SOCI AU NG
SUBJECT: Pan-African Parliamentary Delegation Calls on Ambassador

Ref: Niamey 684

1. (SBU) Summary: On September 18, four members of an African Union
(AU) Pan-African Parliamentary delegation called on Ambassador
Allen, and stated that Niger's political opposition should accept
the status quo and negotiate with President Tandja for a way forward
that reflects their objectives. Not doing so, they believed, would
likely result in further deterioration of the political situation.
While the AU's decision to send a delegation to Niger was a positive
step, it is clear that the visit will not be helpful in moving
beyond the current impasse. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission
(DCM), Political Officer (PolOff) and locally engaged staff (LES)
Political Specialist also participated in the meeting. End
summary.

Delegation Meets with Several Political Figures/Groups
--------------------------------------------- ---------
2. (SBU) On September 18, a delegation from the AU Pan-African
Parliament met with Ambassador Allen, DCM, PolOff and LES Pol
Specialist. The delegation opened the meeting by informing the
Ambassador of their vast agenda from the past week that included
meetings with President Tandja, the Prime Minister, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, the Chadian Ambassador (as dean of the diplomatic
corps), the European Commission Head of Delegation, the National
Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, the High
Council of Communications, several opposition political parties, the
media, and civil society organizations. They indicated that their
time, however, did not permit meetings with other foreign missions,
including the French and Nigerian Embassies. The AU delegation
members were:

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-- Sawadogo Lassane, Chief of Delegation (Burkina Faso);
-- Roger Nkodo Dang (Cameroon);
-- Hassane Ahmed (Ethiopia); and
-- Datrinade Marina, Recorder (South Africa).

Delegation Said GON and Opposition Open to Dialogue
--------------------------------------------- ------
3. (SBU) Delegation members pointed out that throughout their
meetings it came to their attention that there is a widening
divergence among the political class, with growing differences
between those who supported President Tandja and the new
constitution, and those who did not. The delegation considered
opposition support for the 5th Republic and the 1999 constitution
unrealistic, and suggested that divisive elections could be avoided
if the political opposition seized President Tandja's opening for
dialogue. According to the delegation, the West needed to "convince
the opposition of reality."

4. (SBU) The members added that one objective not met was to meet
with the current Constitutional Court members, in hopes of gaining
insight into whether the slated October legislative elections had to
take place on October 20 versus a later date. Delegation members
believe that the differences that exist between supporters of the
new constitution and opponents will continue to widen, both before
and after the legislative elections. They added that they are
worried that upcoming legislative elections will deepen the divide
in Niger. When asked whether the delegation had met with any of the
former (dissolved) Constitutional Court members, the delegation
responded it had not done so.

National Forum Could Determine New Constitution
--------------------------------------------- --
5. (SBU) The delegation reported that President Tandja and the Prime
Minister were very open, with discussion taking place on all topics
except rolling back the 6th Republic. The delegation stated it
similarly had the same level of open dialogue with opposition
politicians. The delegation asserted that the majority of Nigeriens
did not like the former (1999) constitution because it was not
adapted to the "realities of today's Niger," although no elaboration
was offered. The delegation stated that a national forum could be
held, where both sides could state their position and eventually
reach consensus on the terms and conditions of accepting a new
constitution. In the meantime, President Tandja would remain in
power during a three-year transitional period.

Both Sides Will Need To Make Concessions
----------------------------------------
6. (SBU) Delegation members emphasized that both sides (the GON and
opposition) must accept the impossibility of obtaining one hundred
percent (100%) of what they seek, that "There will have to be give
and take in this process." The delegation believed that the
opposition should accept the current situation, and be willing to

NIAMEY 00000690 002 OF 002


negotiate and compromise on remaining issues, particularly regarding
the October 20 National Assembly elections. They also stated that
the opposition admitted willingness to back down from their current
political stance and engage in dialogue with the GON without
pre-conditions.

Ethiopian Parliamentarian Cites Two Possible Scenarios
--------------------------------------------- ---------
7. (SBU) Citing past conflict in Ethiopia, Hassane Ahmed expressed
hope that the ongoing political tension in Niger could eventually be
resolved in a similar fashion. He stated that the most favorable
outcome would be for efforts to propel both sides together to
promote a "give and take" resolution of political differences. A
part of this could involve President Tandja agreeing to postpone
legislative elections for the opposition's accepting the reality of
the 6th Republic. He added that the opposition had made a mistake
when it boycotted the referendum, and that now it would not be fair
to citizens to claim subsequent elections unfair.

8. (SBU) In what he coined as an "unfavorable" situation, Ahmed said
that the Nigerien opposition could calculate to resist the
government by confronting it on the streets in hopes of disrupting
and eventually isolating it. Opposition members could push for
civil disobedience and stoke unrest, and gamble that the GON's
support would dwindle over time. Both sides "over-estimate the
other," he observed, which is a "recipe for battle."

9. (SBU) Ahmed believes the opposition should agree to allow
President Tandja to stay in office for the next three years, with
the hope of delaying legislative elections as well as the
implementation date for the new constitution. When pressed by
Ambassador Allen on how this would be different from the
opposition's current situation, Ahmed admitted that the opposition
would not stand to gain by doing so. The Ambassador questioned why
President Tandja, if he is certain of "overwhelming support from the
people", insists on a three-year extension to his mandate, as
opposed to competing in Presidential elections against any
challengers. The delegation seemed to have no response to that
question.

Comment:
--------
10. (SBU) Although the AU's decision to send a delegation to Niger
was a good demonstration of continental leadership and engagement,
the delegation members did not seem to have a firm grasp on the
current political situation in Niger. The delegation stated that
their first meeting was with President Tandja and that the absence
of an out-brief with him would not permit them to probe him on
issues brought up in subsequent meetings with other stakeholders
(e.g., human rights groups, private media) throughout the week.
Regrettably, they appeared all too ready to accept recent political
developments as givens, and to insist that the political opposition
do likewise, while seeking meetings with President Tandja to pursue
their remaining objectives. They seemed to see dialogue as an end,
rather than a means. The delegation will eventually submit a report
to the AU; however, we do not expect realistic recommendations to
result.

Allen

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