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Cablegate: President Tandja Appoints New Prime Minister

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DE RUEHNM #0809 2790723
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060723Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5367
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1668
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000809

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

SIPDIS
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI NG
SUBJECT: President Tandja Appoints New Prime Minister

Ref: Niamey 00684

1. (U) Summary: On October 2, President Tandja appointed former
finance minister and deputy governor of the Central Bank of West
African States, Ali Badjo Gamatie, to serve as Prime Minister. This
comes on the heels of the resignation of former Prime Minister Seini
Oumarou (reftel), who resigned September 23 to become eligible to
run in the legislative elections slated for October 20. End
Summary.

2. (U) The appointment of Gamatie, a long-time member of ruling
party MNSD, places a capable technocrat in an office considered
ceremonial. Gamatie, who is a "statistics engineer" and economist
by trade, has studied in Cote d'Ivoire, Paris, and Washington, DC.
He was a former Nigerien Minister of Finance, head of statistical
cooperation for the European Union Mission in Ouagadougou, deputy
governor of the Central Bank of West African States, and long-time
economist at the World Bank.

Gamatie Seen as Defender of National Interests
--------------------------------------------- -
3. (U) Tele-Sahel, Niger's government media outlet, reported that
President Tandja selected Gamatie because he is a "sincere and
committed compatriot, who is able to defend Niger's interests at the
national and international levels." It went on to state that
President Tandja had noted Gamatie's experience as an expert in
international finance who had valuable experience in negotiations
with development partners.

Gamatie Has Sketchy Past
------------------------
4. (U) According to local media accounts, critics argue that
President Tandja had chosen the wrong person, noting that Gamatie
has been the focus of several investigations pertaining to financial
scandals dating back to 2003. In August 2003, in the midst of the
run-up to the 2004 general elections, the Nigerien Party for
Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the main opposition party, alerted
media sources to a scandal involving a "Luxemburg bank account"
purportedly opened by the then-Minister of Finance (Gamatie). When
news reports surfaced of the malfeasance, Gamatie resigned from his
post as finance minister and was appointed to the Central Bank of
West African States by President Tandja. President Tandja and
Gamatie have been linked ever since.

Comment
-------
5. (SBU) Gamatie is a loyal supporter of President Tandja and has a
reputable background in finance. He has a strong relationship with
donors, which could prove beneficial given that Niger faces a fiscal
shortfall from a drop off in bilateral aid. End Comment.

WHITAKER

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