Posted by: Home Strange Home | July 23, 2009

Democracy Threatened in Niger

Democracy is taking a downward slide in Niger, a landlocked Saharan country with a population of 13 million.  Niger’s president, Mamadou Tandja, is 71 years old and has been president since 1999, when he was first elected; he was peacefully re-elected five years later in 2004.  The Nigerien Constitution has a legal limit of two terms for the president. 

However, Tandja is seeking to change this, to the chagrin of the Nigerien people.  Tandja has proposed a referendum on August 4th for the people to vote on his proposed third term in office.  The referendum was opposed by the Constitutional Court, who ruled against it, leading Tandja to dissolve the Court.  His actions have been dubbed a “slow moving coup d’état” by the opposition. 

Tandja has shut down opponents in the free press, arrested opposition leaders, and put a stop to an “illegal” strike called by the opposition.  There have been widespread protests in Niamey, the capital, and his opponents are proposing a boycott of the August 4th referendum. 

The US and EU have condemned Tandja’s moves, the EU has suspended some of its aid to Niger, and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) has threatened Niger with sanctions.  These current events illustrate the fact that democracy equals not only free and fair elections governing the attainment of power, but also effective checks and balances regulating the exercise of power.  Many African nations are weak on the second point.   

Source: BBC and New York Times

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