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Cablegate: Niger: Tensions High As Ecowas Imposes Sanctions

VZCZCXRO3722
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0826/01 2921612
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191612Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5390
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1677
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 000826

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PREL AORC PHUM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Tensions High as ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions

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1. Summary: On October 17, heads of state from the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) attended a special summit
in Abuja to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Niger. This
came on the same day when thousands of protesters held a rally in
Niamey and demanded that the legislative elections scheduled for
October 20 be canceled. Despite ECOWAS' imposing of sanctions,
Niger's electoral commission has stated that elections will go on as
planned. End Summary.

ECOWAS Calls for Suspension of Oct. 20 NA Elections
--------------------------------------------- ------
2. On October 17, during a special summit organized in Abuja, ECOWAS
formally announced that National Assembly elections slated for
October 20 in Niger should be suspended indefinitely. They also
announced ECOWAS' refusal to support any candidates presented by the
Government of Niger (GON) for elective posts in international
organizations and prohibited the GON from hosting ECOWAS meetings.
In addition to these sanctions, ECOWAS sent a high-level delegation
to Niamey on October 18 headed by Liberian President Ellen
Johnson-Sirleaf to express regional concerns directly to president
Tandja. Furthermore, ECOWAS named former Nigerian head of state
General Abdulsalami A. Abubakar as mediator on Niger. Despite these
actions, the GON announced that elections would go on as planned.

ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Niger
---------------------------------
3. The following is the final communique issued by ECOWAS heads of
state and government:

(Begin text)

The Authority of Heads of State and Government considered the
holding of the Referendum of 4 August 2009 and the circumstances of
its organization as against the letter and spirit of the
Constitution of Niger and a violation of the ECOWAS Supplementary
Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and called on the
authorities in Niger to desist from further acts that may deepen
divisions within the country and exacerbate the political
atmosphere. In light of the foregoing, the Authority took the
following decisions:

a) Impose sanctions stipulated under Article 45 paragraph 2 (first
and second bullet points) of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy
and Good Governance, by "the refusal to support candidates presented
by the Member State concerned for elective posts in the
international organisations; and Refusal to organise ECOWAS meetings
in the Member State concerned."

b) Urgently request President Mamadou Tandja and the Niger
authorities to suspend indefinitely the holding of the legislative
elections scheduled for 20 October 2009 in favour of dialogue with
the other leading political parties on resolving the political
crisis in the country.

c) Dispatch a high level mission comprising Her Excellency Ellen
Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Republic of Liberia, and H.E. General
(Rtd) Abdulsalami A. Abubakar, Former Head of State of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, and the President of ECOWAS Commission to
Niamey to meet President Tandja on Sunday, 18 October 2009, to
present the message of the Summit and facilitate the restoration of
dialogue between the stakeholders.

d) The Summit decided that failure by President Tandja to comply
with the decisions of the Authority would lead to the automatic and
immediate imposition of full sanctions as stipulated under Article
45 of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance
and a referral of the Niger file to the AU for similar action.

e) The Heads of State and Government appointed General (Rtd)
Abdulsalami A. Abubakar, Former Head of State of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria as ECOWAS Mediator for Niger and urged him to
convene immediately a meeting of Nigeriens stakeholders in Abuja to
re-establish political dialogue aimed at creating national consensus
on the way forward.

(End text)

Opposition Members Take to the Streets
--------------------------------------
4. On October 17, the Coordination of Democracy Forces for the
Republic (CDFR), made up of political parties, civil society

NIAMEY 00000826 002.2 OF 002


organizations, and labor unions, organized a rally to protest
legislative elections slated for October 20. Although the national
police estimate 5,500 protesters attended the rally, Embassy expects
the opposition to claim as many as 10,000 participated.

5. During the rally, the opposition called on ECOWAS to intervene in
the political situation in Niger. It further demanded the release
of all opposition members still in prison; an end to political and
judicial harassment against former parliamentarians, political
leaders, and civil society activists; guarantees of freedom of
assembly and equal access to public media; a repeal of "illegal
decisions and acts"; and suspension of the current electoral process
and restoration of "normal constitutional order." The event
proceeded peacefully, without violence, property damage, or
arrests.

Niger Security Agents to Vote Early
-----------------------------------
6. On October 19, members of Niger's security forces will vote one
day ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for October 20.
The early vote will allow the police, gendarmes, and military to
provide security for the general public as they vote the following
day. The GON declared October 20 a national holiday, and ordered
the land border crossings to be closed for the 24-hour period, a
common practice in Niger.

WHITAKER

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