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Cablegate: Niger: Emboffs Meet with Cheiffou Amadou

VZCZCXRO8144
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0831/01 2960946
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230946Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5399
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1680
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000831

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
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PHUM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: EmbOffs Meet with Cheiffou Amadou

Ref: Niamey 00511

NIAMEY 00000831 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On October 21, Pol Officer and Pol Specialist met
with Cheiffou Amadou, President of the Social Democratic Rally
(RSD). Cheiffou admitted that turnout for legislative elections
held on October 20 was low in some areas, but blamed it on the
harvest season. He added that ECOWAS had waited too long to request
the Government of Niger (GON) to postpone the October 20 legislative
elections, which had already been funded and organized. He asserted
that the GON will continue to dialogue with ECOWAS in hopes of
finding a compromise on the current situation. Cheiffou further
stated that all options to address the current political situation
are on the table and that the GON is willing to share power with the
opposition. He also cited the ineffectiveness of economic sanctions
on governments, claiming that the masses instead would suffer. End
Summary.

RSD Party Now Aligned with Ruling Party
---------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Social Democratic Rally (RSD), a former opposition party,
recently aligned itself with the National Movement for a Developing
Society (MNSD), the ruling party. On June 17, Embassy officials met
with members of RSD at the Ambassador's residence (reftel). During
the event, RSD members asserted that they were strong supporters of
democratic principles, and were in favor of the August 4 referendum
to change the constitution. They did not support President Tandja's
extension in office by three years, however, as they found no
justification for him to do so.

3. (SBU) When probed about their party's reasoning for a change in
political stance, Cheiffou stated that when the "people" voted for a
new constitution, they also voted to allow President Tandja to stay
in office for an additional three years. He went on to state that
he supports the people and their decision, and added that he is only
supporting what his people want. Nonetheless, he believes that the
current constitution is flawed. Cheiffou stated that having
unlimited presidential terms and not having a limited age
requirement to run for president leaves open the possibility of
having a president stay in office for life.

Cheiffou Remarks on Low Voter Turnout in Urban Areas
--------------------------------------------- -------
4. (SBU) Cheiffou pointed out that turnout for the elections was
low, especially in the morning, and cited the harvest season as the
dominant factor. He said that turnout was higher in the afternoon
until the closing of polls at 6:30 p.m. He also stated that the low
turnout in cities like Niamey was not unusual, recalling a similar
turnout for the 2004 presidential elections. When pressed for
numbers, Cheiffou estimated that turnout in the rural areas was
40-50 percent, and only 10-20 percent in urban areas.

Demands by ECOWAS Late; Election Bound by Constitution
--------------------------------------------- ---------
5. (SBU) Cheiffou stated that the last-minute request by ECOWAS to
postpone legislative election was "untimely." He stated that the
GON had already spent public funds in anticipation of the elections.
He added that volunteers and government officials had already been
mobilized. Cheiffou added that candidates spent large sums of money
campaigning, and postponing the elections would have been unfair to
them. Cheiffou also said that "It would be unconstitutional for
President Tandja to change the date of the legislative elections."
According to the new constitution, "legislative elections shall take
place in October 2009 at the latest."

6. (SBU) Cheiffou stated that ECOWAS and the international community
should have placed more pressure on the opposition to participate in
legislative elections. He went on to say that the international
community seemed to miss the point on the role of the opposition.
Cheiffou maintains contact with many of the opposition parties and
had urged them to participate in the legislative elections. He
believes that participating is their only way in having a say in the
government. He added that several opposition parties did in fact
participate.

GON Willing to Share Power - "Anything is Negotiable"
--------------------------------------------- --------
7. (SBU) Cheiffou stated that the GON is willing to negotiate with
the opposition. He said that "anything is negotiable" except for
returning to the old constitution. He stated that the opposition
had its chance to state its grievances during the referendum, but

NIAMEY 00000831 002.2 OF 002


that time has now passed. He stated that the GON is willing to
share power. When pressed for specifics, he said that the opposition
could hold seats in the future Senate, municipal bodies, and the
cabinet. Cheiffou maintained these positions are what constitute
the government. When asked about the possibility of holding
presidential elections, he responded that "all options were on the
table." (Note: the new constitution states "the incumbent president
shall remain in office until the presidential election that will
take place in December 2012" (Article 154) and "...the provisions of
Article 154...are not subject to any change." (Article 152). End
note.)

Sanctions Not Effective, Harm the Masses
----------------------------------------
8. (SBU) Chieffou stated that sanctions imposed by the international
community would only prove to worsen the lives of ordinary
Nigeriens. He stated that the harvest season was already bad, and
that sanctions would only prove to worsen the situation. He added,
"sanctions in no country have ever worked to change the political
situation. Dialogue is what Niger needs."

Comment
-------
9. (SBU) Cheiffou's demands appear unattainable. The opposition
does not recognize the new constitution; therefore, their
participation in legislative elections would have given legitimacy
to the current government. Furthermore, his notion that ECOWAS
should have informed the GON of its disapproval of the legislative
elections at an earlier time rings hollow, as for several months
ECOWAS and the African Union voiced their condemnation of Niger's
announced legislative elections, having suggested to GON officials a
postponement of the elections to a later date in order to facilitate
dialogue with the opposition. The GON may have begun to realize
that economic sanctions imposed by the international community could
have an adverse effect on the Nigerien people during an expected
poor harvest. End comment.

ALLEN

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