That’s Tandja done?

In a radio speech to the nation on Friday night (the sabbath), President Tandja announced he was dissolving the government and would rule by decree.

The Audio is here.  Is it me, or is Tandja sounding more and more like Franco all the time?

Quick analysis:

Where’s General Moumouni Boureima, Army the chief of staff? Tandja better hope he’s on his side.  Boureima was among the offices Under Col. Wanke who saw to it that the last person who tried to rule by decree ended up dead.

There’s no backing out at this point. Tandja and those who hang with him have ended — at least — their political careers with this. It sure looks, from the inability of PM Seyni Oumarou to ever publicly endorse his bosses referendum plans, that he and others from MNSD-NASSARA will jump ship if/when things begin to look iffy for the new President for Life.

Mahamane Ousmane, who famously never tired when in office of describing himself as “the first democratically elected President of Niger“, must be pleased. He jumped ship in time to look like a democrat, a “decider”, and now the only President to have ever behaved somewhat reasonably.

This begins from, what I think must now be a reasonable assumption, that no Nigerien head of state will have both taken and given up power in democratic transitions. Ousmane, you’ll remember, was overthrown by coup on 27 January 1996, by Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara. Maïnassara left office dead at the hands of his own guards after three years of strikes, protests, and sanctions by the Nigerien government’s foreign funders.

This last is important.  Even this morning, Ex-president of Senegal Diouf urged Tandja to remember “there is life after the palace.”  ECOWAS leaders vowed this week that should Tandja extend his term, the landlocked nation would face sanctions.  While the rains appear to have come in well so far this season, Niger cannot survive (literally) should Benin and Nigeria deny trade.

Former President Ousmane, as I noted, was so fond of describing himself as “the first…” that people came to derisively call him “Nafarko” — Hausa for “First”. Tandja seems determined to pass up the chance to be remembered as First at something. Now he’s chosen to go out like one of his last three predecessors.

Which one will it be?


Still nothing on the Army’s reaction, but I’d be watching the Route Nationale 1 coming in from the south for signs of the Zinder, Tahoua, Agadez or Diffa posted units appearing (as they did in 74 and 99).

Two points: one speculative and factual.

First, Le Monde hints darkly that the timing of the dissolution of the National Assembly came right after the PNDS (Social Democrat opposition) announced they would introduce legislation to investigate kickbacks from mining contracts, which the French say involved Tandja’s family.  They are not involved in politics, and apart from his first wife being Tuareg, I know nothing about them

Second, AFP misquotes the Constitutional articles relevant here (Article 58 is about Pensions).  Below is Articles 53, 54 in English and then in the original French (plus a few other relevant articles).  Crucially, the constitution’s writers state the President cannot dissolve the Assembly after declaring a state of emergency, but seem not to  have considered that the President would order a State of Emergency while the Assembly was dissolved by decree, and so their check role (made explicit in the Constitution) is impossible to play.  The 90 days he can operate before a mandated new Assembly are two months from running out.

Constitution de la République du Niger / English Excerpts

Article 53

After consulting with the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Constitutional Court and the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Republic shall take exceptional measures when the institutions of the Republic, the nation’s independence, its territorial integrity or the execution of international obligations are threatened by a grave and immediate danger and when the normal functioning of Constitutional public powers has been interrupted. He shall report to the nation regarding any such exceptional measures. If the National Assembly is not in session, it shall reconvene without need of sanction. Such exceptional measures must be inspired by the desire to assure to constitutionally granted public authorities those means of accomplishing their mission within the shortest period of time. In no case shall the National Assembly be dissolved during the exercise of exceptional powers. The National Assembly shall assess by an absolute majority of its members the duration of the exercise of exceptional powers and shall terminate it in case of abuse.

Article 54

The President of the Republic shall have the authority to proclaim a state of emergency under conditions determined by law.

Article 53

Lorsque les instituons de la République, l’indépendance de la Nation, l’intégrité du territoire national ou l’exécution des engagements internationaux sont menacés d’une manière grave et immédiate et que le fonctionnement régulier des pouvoirs publics constitutionnels est interrompu, le Président de République prend des mesures exceptionnelles exigées par ces circonstances après consultation du Premier ministre, du Président de l’Assemblée nationale, du Président de la Cour Constitutionnelle et du Président de la Cour Suprême.

Il en informe la Nation par un message. L’Assemblée nationale se réunit de plein droit si elle n’est pas en session. Elle ne peut être dissoute pendant l’exercice des pouvoirs exceptionnels.

Ces mesures doivent être inspirées par la volonté d’assurer aux pouvoirs publics constitutionnels, dans les moindres délais, les moyens d’accomplir leur mission.

L’Assemblée nationale apprécie, à la majorité absolue de ses membres la durée de l’exercice des pouvoirs exceptionnels et y met fin en cas d’abus.

Article 54

Le Président de la République après délibération du Conseil des ministres proclame l’État d’urgence dans les conditions déterminées par la loi.

Article 62

Les actes du Président de la République autres que ceux prévus à l’alinéa 1er de l’article 45, aux articles 49, 50, 53, 74 sont contresignés par le Premier ministre et, le cas échéant, par les ministres responsables.

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