Niger: Who’s in and out in the Regions?

Junta head Salou Djibo, beside the flag of the presidency in the Presidential Palace.

Junta head Salou Djibo, beside the flag of the presidency in the Presidential Palace.

As I noted on the 10th of March, the CSRD junta in Niger has replaced all the civilian Region Governors with military men to administer local affairs during the transition. We now have the full list, and while I for one hate to see any military governing, a look at the men (all men) coming and going in Niger’s Regions gives us an opportunity to examine what’s going on behind the scenes, and what it augurs for the future.

There have been several misreports — domestically and western — about these appointments. I noted that the eight military Zone Commanders had already taken on public duties of the eight indirectly elected Regional Governors. Their chiefs of administration seemed to have already taken up the practical duties, at least they behave as such in press reports.

I have hammered on about the ecumenical nature and continuity represented in the Niger Junta so far, evidence that they may well live up to their word and leave politics after a quick transition. They clearly wish to project an image as a “national” institution “above” politics. What they believe in their hearts, I can’t pretend to know, but a close look at the replacement of rater venial Regional Governors with a broad group of officers shows that the junta is at least consistently “on message”.

First, one point the press maybe getting wrong. “Contrôleur Général” Issoufou Yacouba is made Governor of Dosso Region. He’s been reported as a civilian, but given that “Contrôleur Général” is the honorific held by chief of the National Police Issoufou Yacouba, and the only other two high-ranking officials I could find with that rather common name were mid level magistrates in Niamey and Birni N’Konni, I’ll put my money of the head of the Police. Regardless, he replaces a man very associated with former President Tandja personally, Governor Issoufou Oumarou. Oumarou was an early supporter on Tandja’s dumping of the constitution and replacement of the 5th Republic with new more malleable institutions. You may remember the violence that accompanied Governor Oumarou’s decision to hold a gala gathering of the ruling party’s Dosso members in front of the Governors Palace in the middle of Dosso town. The guests had to move inside as opposition youths took to the streets, burning tyres and overturning official vehicles amid tear gas and gendarmes trying to restore order.

Regions of Niger

The eight regions of Niger, which roughly correspond to the Military's "Zones de Defense"

I earlier reported Colonel Yayé Garba was made Governor of the Niamey Capitol Region (CUN), per the press. He was actually named to head Agadez Region. He replaces Abba Malam Boukar, elected as an opposition CDS-Rahama member who was wooed into Tandja’s camp and expelled from his party in 2009. I can’t imagine he has a great political future now. The Zone Commander in Agadez, Colonel Salifou Modi was an influential military leader, member of the 99 junta (the CRN), and now is a high ranking member of the CSRD. Modi is personally close to Col. Hima Pele Hamidou one of the two of three top Junta leaders, and veteran of the 99 coup. Col. Yayé Garba was a member of the 96 coup junta whose head (President Bare Mainassara) was killed by the 99 junta, splitting some elements of the army since.

This too describes the trajectory of Col. Mahamadou Barazé, made Governor of Zinder Region, who was in the 96 junta and a Gendarmerie officer then, now he’s Army. Barazé replaces in Zinder the informal duties of Zone Commander Colonel Sidikou Issa, who was last week kicked up to head the powerful Interior Ministry paramilitary force, the FNIS. That two presumed Bare partisans are representative of a camp alienated in the military since 1999 by the man we can now safely call Tandja’s main sponsor, former Chief of Staff General Moumouni Boureïma (now still under house arrest). To have place three such men powerful posts – along with Bare Maïnassara’s former Chief of Staff who has been made Junta president Salou Djibo’s aide de camp, must be intended to heal these wounds.

Col. Mahamadou Barazé replaces in Zinder one of the most influential political barons of the MNSD-Nassara, (former) Governor Yahaya Yandaka. Yahaya Yandaka was involved in a high profile battle for influence in early 2009 with a certain villain of the Tandja drama Dan Dubai, the financial backer of Tandja’s campaign, and opposition hate figure. Yahaya Yandaka won, but he loses now. His powerful business connections in Zinder will likely see him reappear.

As an aside, Niamey papers reported last week the return to the capitol of former Commander Kindo Zada. He had reputedly been involved in the June 2000 kidnap of the Capt. Hima Hamidou, and in 2007, ran off to the Air mountains to join the mostly Tuareg insurgents of the MNJ, becoming leader of one of their two very effective TIR units. He’s likely one of the reasons the MNJ sported a picture of Bare Maïnassara on their website: Kindo Zada was a loyalist, like the troops engaged in periodic unrest in 1999 – 2002, especially the large mutiny in Diffa. His return to Niamey marks a symbolic success of the CSRD’s reconciliation strategy.

Colonel Soumana Djibo, was made Governor of Niamey (the CUN), obviously a plum job. This is especially interesting as the head of Military Intelligence Col. Soumana Djibo was without explanation arrested on the orders of the top brass in March 2009. He was released within a few weeks, but no adequate reasons for eater action were given. One rumor had it that he had attempted to uncover — or blackmail — General Boureïma over army complicity in smuggling or other crimes. The Issikta article at the time suggests this might be involved with transit of goods via AQIM. Chew on that, given the last year of events.

Colonel Sani Issa Kaché, is made Governor of Tahoua. He was military Governor of Dosso Region under the 1999 CRN junta. He replaces a pillar of both the elected Tandja governments and his 2009 “Tazartché”, Mahamadou Zéty Maïga, who had been MNSD-Nassara Governor of Tahoua Region for ten years.


Col. Sidikou Issa presides over the "Lutte" winner's award in Zinder. Just days after the coup, officers replaced regional governors.

Lt. Col. Ibrahim Bagadoma is made Governor of Tillabéri Region, replacing a member of the Baré Maïnassara party (the RDP-Jama’a) Idder Adamou. The RDP, after prevarications I have mentioned before, rallied to Tandja in 2009. Lt. Col. Bagadoma was a high ranking Gendarmerie Nationale commander under Tandja, but was an early supporter of the CSRD, traveling with their delegation to meet Algeria’s leaders in the days after the 18 February coup. Interestingly, he was named by Tandja to one of four security forces seats of the “Independent” Electoral Commission (CENI) in March 2009, after the President ejected all opposition members and packed the body with his supporters. One of the three others so named is also being named Governor today, Colonel Mohamadou Barazé. Another of the four, Colonel Soumaïla Garba, was named head of the post-coup Presidential Guard. The last, Chef d’Escadron Garba Issoufou of the Gendarmerie Nationale? I’m sure we’ll hear from soon. This demonstrates either the weakness of Tandja’s support in the Military, or the readiness they have to join the winning side.

Colonel Fodé Camara, of whom I know nothing, is made Governor of Diffa. He replaces another man who made what is now obviously a poor choice to leave an opposition party so he might retain his seat as governor under the Tandja regime, Oumarou Yacouba of the ANDP-Zaman Lahiya.

And finally we come to Colonel Garba Maïkido, made governor of the Hausa Maradi Region, at the epicenter of the 2005 famine and threatened again this year. Garba is a bit of an Army folk hero. Already a popular officer, it was said amongst the troops that in August 2008 he refused to be ‘bought in’ to Tandja’s close military supporters. When offered bribes it was reported he just walked away, a rare thing. He replaces another CDS opposition Governor who switched sides to retain his office under Tandja, Chaïbou Ali Maâzou.

I said on the evening of the coup, after seeing Pele and other high powered military men in the Junta:

I would not now be surprised to see military “insiders” like Colonel Garba Maikido, Maj [sic] Soumaila Garba, and Colonel Salifou Mody among the new junta.

As detailed earlier, Salifou Mody is head of the FNIS now, and Col. Soumaila Garba is head of the President’s Guard.

These men are truly institutional insiders. They cut across ideological, and to the degree possible on the western ethnic leaning military, all cultural differences within that institution. The naming of several men I am presuming to have been Bare Maïnassara loyalists goes some way to heal the largest split in that institution. If, as we all expect, the junta keeps to its word of recusing itself from future elections, these men will continue to be part of a more unified, likely more influential, but likely less politically partisan Nigerien institution following the return of democracy.

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