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Cablegate: Niger: Opposition Members Provide Update

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI KDEM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Opposition Members Provide Update

Ref: a) Niamey 0048, b) Niamey 0029, c) Niamey 0025, d) 09 Niamey
1005

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1. (SBU) Summary: During an office call on Charge, representatives
of the Coordination of Forces for Democracy and the Republic (CFDR),
Niger's main opposition group, provided an advanced copy of a
memorandum outlining the opposition's response to the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator's suggestions for
a way out of Niger's political crisis. The CFDR said that it would
be willing to allow President Tandja to stay as a figure-head for a
nine-month transitional period. CFDR members added that it hoped an
international observers' body, comprised by the European Union,
African Union, ECOWAS, United States, and the United Nations could
be established to ensure a peaceful transition. End summary.

2. (SBU) On February 3, a delegation made up of Bazoum Mohamed, the
Vice President of the opposition Nigerien Party for Democracy and
Socialism (PNDS); Abdou Labo, Vice President of the Social
Democratic Convention (CDS); Soumaila Bagna, representative of the
General Confederation Free Trade Unions (CGSL); and Mahamane
Hamissou, leader of the Coalition of Niger's Civil Society (CSCN)
met with Charge at the Chancery. The Charge, accompanied by PolOff
and Pol Specialist, received the delegation led by Bazoum Mohamed,
who had met several times in recent months with Embassy personnel
(reftels). The Charge and Mohamed discussed the MPPR-CFDA talks
scheduled to re-commence on February 4; the views of the ECOWAS
Mediator, Gen. (retired) Abdousamali Abubakar; the anticipated
post-mediation agenda; and ways out of the current political
impasse.

Current Mediator Proposal is Vague
----------------------------------
3. (SBU) Bazoum expressed dissatisfaction with the content of the
Mediator's road map. On January 14, ECOWAS Mediator Abubakar
presented his suggestions for a way out of the political crisis for
Niger (ref A). According to Bazoum, the propositions by the
Mediator lack clarity and are vague, leaving substantial room for
differences in interpretation. For example, the mediator's proposal
did not indicate the proposed duration for the transition, nor did
it determine the bodies that would lead the transition.
Furthermore, it did not clarify on which basis and how the current
National Assembly would remain and be extended to provide for the
opposition's representation and it did not mention the drafting and
adoption by consensus of a new constitution.

President Tandja Can Remain for Nine Months
-------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) The opposition stated that it could agree to President
Tandja's remaining in power as a figure-head for a none-month
transitional period. In this capacity, he would no longer have
exceptional executive powers to rule by decree. (Note: The latter
point differs from the opposition's proposal of December when it
stated that it would be willing to concede that President Tandja be
permitted remain in power for up to six months during a transitional
period. End note.) When pressed for his rationale behind this time
frame, Bazoum argued that this nine-month window would provide
sufficient time to organize elections; this period is similar to a
past transitional period, he said, citing the political situation
that occurred in 1997. Abdou Labo added that a new constitution
could easily be drafted based on the 1999 constitution, which was
the result of a consultative process, and even some aspects of the
2009 constitution. He noted that Niger has extensive experience in
updating voter lists as well as revising the Electoral Code,
organizing the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), and
managing the electoral process as a whole, and therefore this would
not take too much time.

Conditions for Transitional Period
----------------------------------
5. (SBU) Bazoum stated that the GON must annul the results of the
August 4 referendum, as well as the October 20 legislative elections
and December 27 municipal elections. He added that any actions taken
by President Tandja since his assumption of emergency powers and
under the 6th Republic must be annulled. Following that, transition
bodies should be installed with President Tandja remaining in office
as a figure-head leader; a Prime Minister (who also would serve as
head of government and head of the armed forces); a Cabinet made up
of equal numbers between the president's supporters and the CFDR; a
National Transition Council made up of 50 members (25 from the
presidential camp and 25 from the CFDR) acting as legislative body;

NIAMEY 00000096 002.2 OF 002


a State Council acting as a Constitutional Court; and a National
Communication Observatory acting as the High Council of
Communication (CSC). The specific prerogatives of the transition
bodies will be defined by consensus.

New Constitution
----------------
6. (SBU) Aside from the transition bodies, a "Commission of
Fundamental Texts" would be set up by consensus to draft a new
constitution, electoral code, and other pertinent statutes. He
added that at the end of the transition period, there would be
elections, but that no members of any transition bodies would be
allowed to run as candidates in the presidential elections.

President Tandja meets with President Wade of Senegal
--------------------------------------------- --------
7. (SBU) Bazoum stated that leaders of Niger's main opposition
group, the Coordination of Forces for Democracy and the Republic
(CFDR) had travelled to Senegal to meet with President Wade and
asked if he could help solve the political situation in Niger. On
his way back from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, President
Wade made a brief stop-over in Niamey, perhaps to gauge President
Tandja's receptiveness to this concept. In remarks offered for
media at the airport, however, President Tandja, speaking in Hausa,
promptly rejected the notion that any outsider other than the ECOWAS
mediator would be permitted to involve himself in Niger's domestic
issues. Opposition members argued that President Tandja's statements
were meant for public consumption and that he wanted to demonstrate
his authority and resolute position to Nigeriens.

High Hopes for Mediation Talks
------------------------------
8. (SBU) Comment: Although the meeting provided hope that the
opposition actively is trying to make generate a range of political
accommodations to allow Niger to move beyond the current crisis,
there is no indication that the GON will do the same. The
opposition members acknowledged so much, stating that their true
hope is that the Mediator writes a thorough and accurate report for
the upcoming ECOWAS Heads of States summit scheduled for February
16, which will follow the mediation, and that his report will
recognize that the opposition had made substantial efforts to
compromise and deliver Niger from its political impasse. End
comment.

WHITAKER

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