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Cablegate: Niger: Government Delegation Walks Out of Political Talks

VZCZCXRO4400
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1009 3571826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231826Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5536
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS NIAMEY 001009

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

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM SOCI PHUM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Government Delegation Walks out of Political Talks
to Protest ECOWAS Statement

Ref: a) Niamey 1008, b) Niamey 1005, c) Niamey 1004

ECOWAS Statement Cites End of President Tandja's Mandate
---------------------------------------
1. On December 22, the Economic Commission of West African States
(ECOWAS) issued a statement at its headquarters in Abuja regarding
the end of President Tandja's term in office under the 1999
Constitution, subsequently superseded by the disputed August 4
referendum's new constitution. In the statement, ECOWAS said it
"takes note of the fact that December 22, 2009, marks the legal end
of the mandate of President Mamadou Tandja."

GON Delegation Walks Out of Talks in Response
---------------------------------------------
2. On December 23, as the Inter-Nigerien Political Dialogue (INPD)
proceeded, Radio France International (RFI) reported that the
Government of Niger's (GON) delegation walked out of the INPD in
protest of the ECOWAS statement. Mohamed Ben Omar, a member of the
new National Assembly and former Minister of Communication and
Government Spokesperson, told RFI that, "We do not understand that
ECOWAS appoints a mediator...then, while talks are ongoing, issues
this statement...ECOWAS has clearly taken sides with the opposition.
Now, the true opposition is not the CFDR, but ECOWAS...We will not
return to the negotiation table until ECOWAS retracts its statement
and recognizes the Sixth Republic." The current Minister of
Communication and Government Spokesperson Kassoum Moctar stated, "We
believe this is not a decision of the ECOWAS leaders...this is a
sabotage from some isolated staff members...these are irresponsible
acts." Nouhou Arzika, a civil society leader and President Tandja
supporter, said that the ECOWAS statement was "the act of a few
staff members within the ECOWAS offices...we told the ECOWAS
Mediator to ask them to refrain from such actions...We will say
goodbye to Abdusalami (the Mediator)."

INPD Talks at Loggerheads over Agenda
-------------------------------------
3. On December 22, the INPD talks deadlocked as the two delegations
could not agree on the agenda. The Opposition proposed the
following steps: annulment of the August 4 referendum; annulment of
all Executive decisions taken in the context of the implementation
of Article 53 of the 1999 Constitution (cited by President Tandja in
assuming emergency powers); creation of new government bodies to
conduct a transition; and determining a schedule for new
presidential and legislative elections. The GON side first
announced that it did not have a proposal; then, after conferring,
noted its position: the new constitution is a national achievement
that is irreversible and the extension of the President's mandate by
three years is also irreversible.

Comment
-------
4. Some observers interpret the ECOWAS statement as implying that
the regional organization no longer recognizes President Tandja as
head of state constitutionally. Others thought the statement came
as a response to the President's commentary about ECOWAS on December
20 (ref A). End comment.

ALLEN

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