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Cablegate: Niger: Pol/Econ Update for February 2010

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NG JA CH IT EAGR EAID KCRM EAIR SOCI
SUBJECT: NIGER: POL/ECON UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2010

1. The following is an Embassy Niger compilation of political and
economic highlights for February 2010 not otherwise covered in
mission reporting. This report covers the following issues:

-- Opposition Members Take to the Streets;

-- Japanese Donates Food Aid to Niger;

-- Chinese Pre-fabricated Classroom Flap;

-- Tourism Resumes in the North;

-- Italian Interior Minister Visits Niger;

-- Air Arik Ends Operations in Niger; and

-- ANDDH Releases Report - "The Confiscated Democracy."

Opposition Members Take to the Streets

--------------------------------------------- ----

1. (SBU) On February 14, the Coordination of Forces for Democracy
and the Republic (CFDR) organized a rally in Niamey demanding that
President Tandja step down from office. Opposition members
lambasted President Tandja, stating "We hold Tandja responsible for
the stalemate in negotiations initiated by ECOWAS and we believe
his attitude is dangerous for our country." Although police
estimate that over 5,000 people protested, the rally proceeded
peacefully, without violence or arrests.

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Japan Donates Food Aid to Niger

-------------------------------

2. (SBU) On February 5, Abidjan-based Japanese Ambassador Okamura
Yoshifumi met with Niger's Minister of Commerce and Industry,
Halidou Badje, to welcome officially the delivery of food
assistance from the Government of Japan. The representatives
visited two warehouses supervised by the National Foodstuffs Office
(OPVN) to announce that the Government of Japan donated 11,607 tons
of rice to Niger under the food security support program KR 2008.
This provision, coming in a year of low agricultural productivity,
will be most welcome by urban consumers.

Chinese Pre-fabricated Classroom Flap

-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) On February 8, Opposition members from the Front for the
Defense of Democracy (FDD) a coalition of opposition parties, NGOs,
and labor unions, accused the Government of Niger of fraudulent
transactions regarding an 11 million Euro deal with a Chinese
company to provide pre-fabricated classrooms for schools.
Opposition members stated that President Tandja, whose family has
strong business ties in China, is profiting from the deal. FDD
members argue that Chinese-made classrooms cost twice as much as
the average price to build a school in Niger, and that Nigerien
vendors and workers were denied the opportunity to sell goods and
work to construct the classrooms. Minister of Communications and
Government Spokesman Moctar Kassoum dismissed all allegations of
wrongdoing, although public interest in the matter continues.

Tourism Resumes in the North

----------------------------

4. (SBU) In northern Niger, tourism has begun to slowly pick up
after three years of stagnation due to Tuareg rebellion. French
charter airline Point Afrique has four flights scheduled to Agadez

in the month of February; the first group of passengers arrived in
Agadez early in the month. The Air Cultural Festival, which on
previous occasions was canceled due to lack of security, resumed to
the delight of local vendors. According to a French Embassy
contact, all French travelers participating on the excursion must
sign a travel release stating that are traveling despite the
warning of the French government.

Italian Interior Minister Visits Niger

--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On February 9, Italian Interior Minister Raberto Maroni
met with President Tandja at the Presidential Palace. According to
local media, discussions centered on Niger-Italy cooperation in the
fight against drug and human trafficking. The Italian Minister
stated that the GON and GOI will soon sign two cooperation
agreements. (Note: Substantial numbers of residents of West and
Central African countries seek passage to Europe through Niger's
desert oasis of Agadez, and then Libya or Algeria, and finally
Italy, each year. End note.)

Air Arik Takes Nose Dive in Niger

---------------------------------

6. (SBU) Arik Niger, the subsidiary of Air Arik based in Niamey,
folded operations less than a year after launching its first flight
in July of 2009. Arik Niger is no longer operating, and the
carrier has left no trace behind of its past operations, when it
operated domestic flights to Agadez, Maradi, Zinder, and Tahoua, as
well as international flights to Lome, Abuja, Kano, and Lagos.

ANDDH Releases Annual Report: "The Confiscated Democracy"

--------------------------------------------- -------------

7. (SBU) On February 11, the Nigerien Association for the Defense
of Human Rights (ANDDH) and the International Federation of Human
Rights (FIDH) released a joint report criticizing Niger's August 4,
2009 referendum and October 20, 2009 legislative elections. The
report, entitled "The Confiscated Democracy," lambasted President
Tandja's various maneuvers that led to the referendum that allowed
him to remain in power. ANDDH and FIDH maintain that the August
referendum was illegal.
WHITAKER

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