March 04, 2008

Niger: Insidious Return to a "State of Exception"

Photo: Issouf ag Maha

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The Insidious Return to a "State of Exception"

by Issouf ag Maha

March 3, 2008

[Translator's note: In Carl Schmitt's legal theory, a "State of Exception" is like a state of emergency, except that the ruler has managed to acquire the authority to act outside of Constitutional law, claiming to be for the public good.]

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it is not entirely clear why Tandja escalated the attack on Iférouane into a war. How has this soldier, who some people consider a most pathetic politician, been able to undertake, despite the reluctance of an entire population, a fratricidal conflict that threatens to engulf the country? If one assumes the colonel's game is succeeding, we should ask ourselves what are the motives that are guiding his approach.

Who Benefits From This Crime?

First Hypothesis:

In twenty months, President Tandja [of Niger] will complete his second term. The Nigerien Constitution does not permit him to run for a third. Tandja Mamadou was a member of the Supreme Military Council, the military junta that overthrew [former President] Hamani Diori and imposed thirteen years of dictatorship on Nigeriens. However, it will be recalled, Tandja was the most zealous of the group, the all-time tyrant of the team.

It will also be recalled that [former President] Kountché, the brutal and violent dictator, pushed the ticket to the extreme. Upon assuming power, he declared the word "political" forbidden. In his eyes politics was a science too risky for the people, whose role must be reduced to obeying orders, listening to the radio and respecting the meetings of tribunals that applaud official speeches.

Politics is an area reserved for the president of the supreme military council, the head of State, who had accumulated titles to such prestigious posts as Minister of National Defense and Minister of the Interior and Regional Planning. We also know the admiration our dear president [Tandja] nourished for his former master. The hard-line Prefect of Tahoua [Tandja] and all-powerful Minister of the Interior [Tandja] profits from the short memory of Nigeriens, reappearing to them now as a politician who's gentle, engaging, and thoughtful.

Tandja, elected and re-elected President of the Republic, nostalgic for the dark times of national emergency, only thinks of casting suspicion on the country's democratic achievements; for him, these are no longer an obstacle to his power-grabbing and dictatorial ambitions. Perhaps more intelligent or better organized than previously thought, he has seized an opportunity to put his political machine in order, by means of a conflict that he could have stopped at the outset.

Step One

Introduce to the collective subconscious of Nigeriens the logic of war and the feeling that the country's existence is threatened, through a strong campaign of intoxication throughout the media that martyrizes the security forces. (Step One already successful.)

Step Two
Track down people from the North [Tuaregs], forcing them into exile and joining the MNJ rebels, though arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions. (Step Two has already begun with success.)

Step Three
Give the military a taste of power and dazzle them with a potential return to military dictatorship, by declaring a national security alert (Step Three has already been implemented).

Step Four
Remain cleverly vague on the issues, by forbidding the media's access to information. (Step Four has already been achieved with great success).

Step Five
Discredit decentralization, by arresting local elected officials on the pretext of misappropriation of public funds. (Step Five is currently in progress in Niamey, Dosso, Maradi, Zinder and Agadez).

Step Six
Quench partisan militancy, by alienating political leaders on all sides, in order to calm the passions of a multiparty politics that is dear to the people. (Step Six, there has been gradual disappearance of the political opposition and critical spirit).

Step Seven
Gradually replace civilian administrative authorities with army officers. (Step Seven already in process, first the prefect of Arlit was replaced, and soon afterward, the prefets of Tchirozérine and Agadez).

Step Eight
Declare a state of emergency throughout the nation. (Step Eight, already initiated, as revealed by urban terrorism).

Step Nine
Suspend the Constitution and introduce a "State of Exception" [where the ruler transcends Constitutional law] in the best interests of the nation. (Step Nine will emerge by surprise, after an event carefully prepared in advance, and proportional to the decision.)

Stage Ten

Develop a new Constitution with a 97% vote, allowing the re-election of Tandja for an initial term of a Sixth Republic.

This is how the game is played, and our politicians will realize after a long delay that they have fallen into a trap. To trap the fish, some will be promoted to high office that will allow them the necessary access to the feeder [corruption]. (Nigeriens will finally return to the blind submission which seems to be ingrained in them.).

Second Hypothesis

Northern Niger is replete with substantial deposits of uranium. Mineral exploitation at Arlit and Akokan has already exhausted 70% of the water resources from the Talak aquifer. Exploitation at Imouraren and Teguida N'Tessoum will tap the Tchirozérine aquifer that supplies Agadez. Twenty years from now, there will be no more water in this vast desert region. Life will be more than compromised: it will be the great catastrophe for indigenous peoples.

Before reaching that point, they will be forced to move away from the mining towns that will emerge in their native territories. As a prelude to this terrifying and inexorable reality, and in complicity with the world powers interested in the precious ore, the region must be depopulated. It will take some time to contain the movements and upheavals of the people concerned. This calls for preventative measures.

The outside observer will say: What an abomination!
=> The poorest country is exhausting its wealth, in order to finance a conflict that will maintain it as the poorest, least developed country in the world.
=> To extract the precious ore, they are depleting all the region's water, in one of the most arid areas of the planet.

If Tandja's principal objective is the combination of these two hypotheses, which are intimately linked and interrelated, then perhaps he is not as mediocre as one had supposed.

Issouf Ag MAHA
On March 3, 2008

Original article published in French, with the full text on Vouature Simone, and excerpts on Targuinca.

Map showing the affected aquifer regions in Niger: