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Cablegate: Niger: Ecowas Mediator Provides Update

VZCZCXRO1094
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0109/01 0420917
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110917Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5618
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1733
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000109

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

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Niger: ECOWAS Mediator Provides Update

Ref: a) Niamey 0096, b) Niamey 0048, c) Niamey 0029, d) Niamey 0025,
d) 09 Niamey 001005

1. (SBU) Summary: On February 9, ECOWAS Mediator for Niger General
(retired) and former head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar received
Charge to discuss the status of mediation talks between Niger's main
opposition group, the Coordination of Forces for Democracy and the
Republic (CFDR) and the Government of Niger (GON). General Abubakar
was frank, stating that "one man" stood between the current state of
affairs and progress on restoring democracy. He added that
President Tandja insists that the August 4 referendum, the 6th
Republic Constitution, the new Cabinet, and the new National
Assembly be respected and not rolled back. General Abubakar noted
that the Opposition had offered several ideas about the disposition
of the three-year interim period, which it saw as an opportunity for
a political transition, but admitted that the GON's point of view
appeared fixed in a "6th Republic focus." General Abubakar will
soon prepare a report to be submitted to the ECOWAS Heads of State
and Government Summit on February 16. End summary.

INDP Resumes, Plenary Sessions Held
-----------------------------------
2. (SBU)On February 3, ECOWAS Mediator for Niger General (retired)
and former head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar returned to Niamey
from the AU Summit and meetings on Sudan to reconvene the
Inter-Nigerien Political Dialogue (INDP). After separate meetings
with both the GON and the Opposition during the period from February
4 - 8, he presided on February 8 in the afternoon and then on
February 9 twice over plenary sessions at the Palais des Congres.
Between the two plenary sessions on February 9, General Abubakar
received the Charge, Pol Officer, and Pol Specialist at the adjacent
Hotel Gaweye.

Mediator Aboubakar Outlines Opposition Objectives
--------------------------------------------- ----
3. (SBU) General Abubakar stated that the Opposition rejects the
constitution of the 6th Republic and deriving institutions. He said
the Opposition proposes a nine-month transition under an inclusive
"national reconciliation government," with President Tandja serving
as a largely ceremonial president, a consensus prime minister and
cabinet, a transitional parliament, and a counsel to draft a new
constitution. Abubakar noted, however, that the GON's notion of a
transition would be to include the Opposition in the GON during the
three-year extension period from 2009-2012, during which President
Tandja remains in power under the 6th Republic Constitution.

Mediator Abubakar on African Union Non-Role
-------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) General Abubakar expressed concern that Niger was not on
the agenda of the January 31 - February 2 African Union (AU) Summit.
He stated that the AU had not taken up Niger's political crisis in
late 2009 as it benefited from the protection of then-Chair Libyan
President Muammar Qadhafi. He added that when Qadhafi came to visit
Niger in March 2009, he did nothing to dissuade President Tandja
from staying in office beyond the term permitted by the 1999
Constitution; on the contrary, he encouraged President Tandja to
finish his "special projects," deriding the constitution as "nothing
but a piece of paper."

The Elusive Notion of African Statesmanship
-------------------------------------------
5. (SBU) In reaction to the demands of some that President Tandja be
allowed to remain in office to conclude his "special projects" (the
Kandadji Dam, the abattoir, the Zinder refinery, Niamey's second
bridge over the Niger River, the Imouraren uranium mines, and the
dry port at Dosso), General Abubakar stated that he sees no reason
why any future president would not continue these projects. To him,
President Tandja did not risk anything by graciously stepping down
from power at the end of his second term, which was the
understanding of the political class. He also recalled that
Opposition leaders said that if President Tandja had left office
when his second term ended on December 22, he would have been hailed
as a "Father of the Nation" and "Shepherd of Nigerien Democracy"
during the December 18 Republic Day celebrations in Diffa, capital
of President Tandja's home region. Instead, he had not chosen the
path toward statesmanship.

Mediator Abubakar: Pres. Tandja Holds Cards
--------------------------------------------
6. (SBU) General Abubakar admitted that prospects for an agreement
are doubtful at best and that President Tandja "holds the cards" in
this crisis. He said, "one man" stood between the current state of

NIAMEY 00000109 002 OF 002


affairs and progress. Abubakar doubted that the GON would provide
an opportunity for the mediation process to assist Niger. President
Tandja, he said, "...is the main problem, and could be the
solution." He added that members of President Tandja's camp have no
voice and are just mouthpieces for him. He observed, "They (the GON
delegation) cannot make a decision without referring to Tandja for
instructions...I don't think he has delegated (decision making)
powers to them. Several parties have contracted a marriage of
convenience (with President Tandja), and they are trying to save
their skin." He went on to say that he hoped that the U.S.
Government and the European Union would put more pressure on
President Tandja to reach a political agreement. Abubakar stated
that as the food security situation becomes increasingly worrisome
in coming months, things could take a turn for the worse. "A hungry
man is an angry man," he observed.
ECOWAS Summit: Mediator to Report on Progress
--------------------------------------------- -
7. (SBU) General Abubakar advised that he would return to Abuja on
February 10 and would prepare a report to be submitted to the ECOWAS
Heads of State and Government Summit on February 16. He is
uncertain as to the date of an anticipated next round of the INDP,
but stated that he would be available for further discussion on the
process.

Comment
-------
8. (SBU) Regrettably, the discussion with Mediator Aboubakar
provided no suggestion that a means had been found to surpass the
ongoing political stalemate. The GON's position appears to be
observing the status quo, while the Opposition wishes to use the
three-year extension of President Tandja's term of office as a
transitional period during which key GON institutions would be
rolled back and reformed. As democracy would be restored, the
Opposition would work to draft a new, consultative constitution.
The Opposition's main objective appears to be to skip from the 6th
Republic to a 7th Republic as quickly as possible, with governmental
institutions restored that are inclusive. On the eve of his
departure, Mediator Aboubakar provided both sides with his proposal
for a political transition, which will be discussed in septel. End
comment.

Whitaker

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