|The Work of Mario Giro|
The Work of Mario Giro
On July 28, 2010 Mario Giro led a delegation of the Community of Sant’Egidio to meet Salou Djibo. This meeting was followed by several work sessions with the leaders of the transitional institutions. The President of the National Advisory Council, Marou Amadou subsequently requested a seminar to reinforce the capacity of Nigerian social and political actors to act for peace and national reconciliation within the Community of Sant’Egidio.
The seminar took place in Rome, at the Community of Sant’Egidio’s headquarters, between October 11 and 16, 2010 with the representative of the transition authorities and supporters of the former President Mamadou Tandja. It led to the Call of Rome, an “agreement for a republican pact” signed by the representatives.
Since independence in 1960, Niger has experienced no real political stability. With political paralysis and corruption used as either pretext or justification, coups d’état regularly disrupt the government and the State must deal with frequent armed Tuareg uprisings, despite declared cease-fires after each new conflict.
The political unrest often reflects crises in the two main economic sectors, agriculture and uranium, of one of the poorest countries in the world; it ranks 182nd on the Human Development Index. The 1974 coup was the result of government corruption, the inability to manage the economic misery caused by drought, and diversion of food aid by certain ministers. Since November 2004, food crises and drought, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, have plagued the country almost continuously; a situation that is even more disastrous as the desert extends across two-thirds of the country. The Tuaregs’ grievances are centered on the low impact and unequal distribution of profit from uranium extraction, even though the country is the third largest producer worldwide.
In such a context, the country has had two opportunities to regain democracy. The first in 1991 when President Ali Saibou, head of the civilian one-party government, gave in to demands for democracy. The second was in 1999 when Daouda Wanke led a coup to restore multi-party democracy. The process lasted nine months, which led to Mamadou Tandja’s presidential election in 1999.
These political and economic issues are not confined to Niger. With its central position in the Sahel and the grouping of several transboundary ethnic groups (Mali, Algeria, Nigeria and Chad), Niger is a fertile crossroads in terms of contacts and exchanges. It is also a potential source of conflict.
Following the Daouda Wanke’s coup d’état, a constitution was adopted that established a semi-presidential system and limited presidential terms to two. Re-elected in 2004, Mamadou Tandja created in August 2009, against the counsel of the Constitutional Court, a referendum to amend the Constitution. He wanted to “presidentialize” the regime and allow himself three more years as head of state “to complete the projects undertaken”.
In protest of these unconstitutional maneuvers, of the dissolution of the Constitutional Court and the National Assembly, and of the arrest of several opponents, a coup was led against Mamadou Tandja on February 18, 2010 by Squadron Leader Djibo and several Army officers. The Supreme Council for the restoration of democracy, the de facto head of the country, promised “to set an example of democracy and good governance” after a period of democratic transition.
In March 2010, Salou Djibo set up an Advisory Council consisting of 131 members from the nation’s strongest, most dynamic citizens. They were charged with “assessing the social and political situation and suggesting possible improvements or solutions to the Government in strict compliance with current Nigerian laws, as well as its international commitments”.
October 15, 2010 at the initiative of the National Advisory Council of Niger and at the invitation of the Sant’Egidio Community, representatives of each transition institution signed a statement ensuring a smooth transition to democracy.
1960 – 1991: Succession of first civil, then one-party military governments.
1974: Military coup led by Seyni Koutche during the famine.
1991: Ali Saibou, who came to power at the death of Seyni Koutche, was forced to yield to demands for democracy and legalized opposing parties. In 1993, Mahamane Ousmane was elected president.
1996: Coup d’état after three years of crippling political cohabitation.
1999: Coup d’état followed the restoration of a multiparty democratic system; Tandja was elected President in the second round with 60% of the vote.
2004: Mamadou Tandja was reelected in the second round of presidential elections with 65.5% of votes. The elections were contested because of suspected fraud in the province of Agadez.
2009: President Mamadou Tandja extended his second term in August 4, 2009 by obtaining a referendum ‘yes’ to his plan to review the Constitution, after the dissolution of the Constitutional Court and Parliament.
February 18, 2010: Coup d’état led by Salou Djibo, the squadron leader of the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD); arrest of President Mamadou Tandja, suspension of the Constitution and the dissolution of institutions.
October 15, 2010: “Call of Rome” by the representatives of Niger’s transitional institutions for a smooth democratic transition that respects individual rights and Niger’s resources.
October 31, 2010: Referendum for Niger’s new constitution.