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Niger’s democracy is on a good path

Right of reply

In an article entitled “Niger’s leaders have betrayed its founding principles” (3 August 2018), Ibrahim Yacouba, the former minister of foreign affairs of my country has tried to spoil the image of Niger and the leadership of His Excellency President Issoufou Mahamadou. Of course, Yacouba has the right to his opinion, but intellectual honesty and wisdom should guide him when he is informing people, especially those who lack information about my country.

As far as the 1990s struggle he referred to is concerned, Issoufou Mahamadou had played a role in it. It was from there that he and his comrades decided to create a political party called Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-TARAYYA) to continue the struggle for democracy and civil liberties. The struggle led to the historical Niger Sovereign National Conference where Issoufou Mahamadou as the leader of the PNDS-TARAYYA, had played a crucial role. In fact, he has always been at the forefront of all the democratic struggles in our country. As the result of his constant qualities and virtues as a democrat and a leader, his party is currently in power in Niger and he has been re-elected for a second term as the President of the Republic.

As the current President of Niger, he has made sure that all the constitutional institutions of our Republic are established and are working freely according to the separation of powers and the respect of the constitution of our country. He is constantly attached to the respect of all the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. Therefore, Niger is a free and democratic country.

Moreover, it is relevant and important to point out that in 2011, Issoufou Mahamadou was the first African head of state to have signed the Declaration of Table Mountain, which is a statement on press freedom in Africa. The statement was issued at the 60th meeting of the World Newspaper Conference and 14th World Editors Forum Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. It is important to know that in Niger we have a whole range of national and international independent private media. On the latest Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Niger ranks 63 out of 180 countries, ahead of several western democracies.

Issoufou Mahamadou strongly believes in a democratic alternation and he has on numerous occasions, pledged that by the end of his second and final term in office, he would ensure that the conditions are met for smooth, free and fair elections. He made it clear to public opinion that he would not seek a third term and that he will automatically hand over the power to the person that people will democratically elect in 2021. He most recently reiterated this commitment on the 58th anniversary of the independence of Niger during his address to the nation.

We should also note that since President Issoufou’s election in 2011, Niger’s economic performance has been improving. For example, at the end of his visit in Niger in November 2017, the leader of the International Monetary Fund mission, Christoph A. Klingen, in his statement said that Niger’s overall macroeconomic performance remains satisfactory, despite security challenges and unfavorable commodity prices, especially for Niger’s main natural resource uranium. To create favorable conditions for economic and social development of the country, President Issoufou has since 2011 established the High Authority for Fight against Corruption and Assimilated Offences (HALCIA). This institution has made progress in the fight against corruption. It has recently been legally empowered with a bigger autonomy and more human, material and financial resources.

In order to finance and implement its Economic and Social Development Plan 2017-2021 to support growth and poverty reduction, a two day “Niger Renaissance Conference” was held in Paris on 13-14 December 2017 with the country’s technical and financial partners and potential investors. At the end of the conference, we had firm commitments of over US$23 billion for the $17-billion worth of needs expressed by the Government of Niger. It was an undeniable economic and diplomatic success. Of course, this was possible because of the good governance being promoted by President Issoufou Mahamadou. Furthermore, the 2018 financial law and its fiscal measures have proven to be encouraging and efficient in terms of internal financial resources mobilization.

According to 2018 Doing Business Report issued by the World Bank, Niger has been making real advancements in terms of improving business climate. It moved from 150 place last year to being 144 this year among 190 economies. The report was presented on the 31 of October 2017 at the World Bank office in Niamey. Niger was chosen for the third consecutive year as one of the countries to launch the report from. As a matter of fact, a country is chosen according to its performances in improving the business climate. Niger has considerably been improving over the last 4 years. It moved from 176th place in 2014 to 144th place in 2018.

Just few weeks ago, on the 5th of August, President Issoufou Mahamadou launched in the presence of the US Ambassador in Niger and the Vice-President of the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Niger Compact Program of the MCC which is a donation of the American government of more than $423 million. To qualify for this program, a country has to show a good performance in terms of good governance in the political, economic and social sectors. Niger is one of the few countries that has been selected for this program of the MCC.

In terms of food and nutrition security, the pertinence and the coherence of the 3N Initiative (the Nigeriens Nourish the Nigeriens initiative) of President Issoufou Mahamadou have convinced the General Director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Executive Director of World Food Program (WFP) to jointly visit Niger from 15-18 August 2018. During the press conference, the Executive Director of WFP, Mr David Beasley has clearly said that the three Rome-based agencies do not have a lot of resources. However, they came to Niger and they have accepted to fully support the country because of the good leadership of President Issoufou Mahamadou.

When it comes to security issues in the sub-region, it is well known that given all the limitations and other global challenges, Niger is doing far better than many other countries. President Issoufou has put energy and resources to make the country a safe place to live in and to visit. According to 2018 Global Firepower ranking, Niger ranks 21st in the African powers ranked by military strength.

As for the electoral law referred to by Ibrahim Yacouba, he has not told the truth and he has deliberately refused to mention that it has been passed in the parliament with an overwhelming majority of the vote. Furthermore, it is important to say that his political party when he was in the ruling coalition has voted for it. In fact, it is necessary to clarify that he did not resign but he was fired from the government because of his misconduct.

I would like to thank Mail & Guardian for allowing me to exercise a right of reply.

Abdourahaman Zakaria is the ministerial spokesperson for the government of Niger.

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