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Cablegate: Niger: Pm Gamatie Convenes Food Security Commission

VZCZCXRO3197
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0084 0321604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011604Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5600
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1729

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000084

DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA
PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W
ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID/WA
DAKAR FOR OFDA DRL, FFP, AND AF/W
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID EAGR PREL SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Niger: PM Gamatie Convenes Food Security Commission
Overview Meeting

Ref: Niamey 0032

1. (U) On January 29, Prime Minister Ali Badjo Gamatie convened the
State-Donor Mixed Coordination Commission to discuss Niger's food
security situation and the Government of Niger's (GON's) intentions
for addressing it. The two-hour meeting offered the GON an
opportunity to lay out its views on the issue and make a case for
its expectations of others. The meeting was well attended, with
participation by representatives of roughly 20 embassies, aid
missions, and UN member organizations, as well as of eight key GON
ministries. PM Gamatie, who stated President Tandja personally had
charged him with this responsibility, made the following points:

-- The Government of Niger regards itself as the pilot of the
aircraft on this important matter; no other country can be
responsible for what is taking place in Niger;

-- Democracy involves two legs: the liberty of the people and the
responsibility of the government to look after their well being.
The GON is obligated to respond to the needs of the people, who are
its first priority;

-- While there are disagreements about the precise amounts of food
available when this past year's harvest, donations, commercial
purchases, and existing stocks are taken into consideration, the GON
will be transparent regarding the food security situation. The GON
was transparent in releasing the results of the December 2009
household food security vulnerability assessment and in laying out
its January 2010 Plan to Assist Vulnerable Populations. The latter
seeks to reinforce food stocks, enact a "cash for work" program,
strengthen grain banks, support pastoral areas, sell cereals at
reduced price, bolster agricultural production, provide quality
seeds, and assist in nutritional programs. Correspondingly, donors
must be transparent regarding their means and extent of assistance,
and stick to the program to which they have already agreed;

-- Donors should avoid providing assistance to NGOs, as they
necessarily resulted in a loss of 30-40 percent of the funds
committed. Furthermore, NGOs tend to exaggerate conditions, and
portray the nation's food insecurity in a pejorative context,
unnecessarily casting a poor image on Niger and its people. The use
of NGOs results in their taking on a "political management role;"

-- While this is a broad, organization meeting, future ones will
focus on two levels: strategic and operational aspects of ensuring
food security.

2. (SBU) Comment: Gamatie clearly established himself as the tip of
the GON's spear on food security issues. His remarks, made for 18
minutes without reference to notes, his gravitas, and his commanding
presence in holding forth on this sensitive and urgent subject,
point to an aggressive campaign on the part of the GON to seize
leadership on food security. It is clear that he seeks a GON-led
effort to address food shortages, with donors/development partners
understanding their proper role, and the GON's disdain for NGOs.
Future meetings will flesh out details both strategic and
operational, and Gamatie may come to realize that most aircraft have
a co-pilot as well. End comment.

WHITAKER

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