Africa Speaks: Politics 1



Animal market at Filingue, Niger, 1992

Contents: Transition to Democracy. . . Economic Problems. . . Drought . . .
The President's Visit . . . home page


Transition to Democracy

Yacouba Saibatou, 5/11/92

The National Conference began ten months ago. The Conference set up the Transitional Government, which is supposed to bring certain changes to Nigeriens. Before this, there was no democracy in Niger. People were ignorant of the reality of the country's government. No one had the right to say what was good or wrong or to give his opinion.

This kind of regime existed during the rule of the former president Seyni Kountche, who is dead now. Indeed, during Kountche's rule, people were arrested for no reason. Today, even a child knows the character of Kountche.

With the second president, Ali Chaibou, there was a clear improvement in the living conditions of Nigeriens. However, there was no democracy: the government accepted the president's decisions without question; and people in the government made themselves rich at the expense of others.

This corruption was revealed during the National Conference: even the food and milk donated by relief organizations and reserved for the poor was diverted, and taken by people in the government.

We Nigeriens should now be happy that all these facts are known. There is nothing that can be done secretly today; moreover anybody can revolt against any kind of law he judges wrong. This is democracy. So now, with the transitional government, there will be no more cheating.

However, Nigeriens have a tendency to not see all the benefits of the transitional government. The government's aim is to help the country to face and solve its difficult situations, but meeting this goal requires cooperation from the citizens. However, because there is a new government, everybody builds his own hopes on it. They even hope that old claims will be paid, and stage revolts to support these claims. Where will our country go and search for this money? Has the transitional government told people how little money was in the treasury when it took office?

Today, there are more and more demonstrations and revolts, because people believe there is money in the treasury and that their claims for damages and back wages will be paid.

Why doesn't one think of his neighbor? What about people in the countryside who need schools, what about our sisters and mothers who need medical facilities for maternity care? What about food for the sick people at the hospital. What about roads that need to be repaired with the coming of the rainy season.

People must think and put aside selfishness, in order to make the transition not fail. Nowadays, many revolts are caused by so-called intellectuals. The soldiers calling themselves the Troop caused a rebellion, then the workers and students staged their own demonstrations to complain. With all this unrest, which way to democracy?

As the prime minister said and continues to say, the transi- tion to democracy is not the task of an individual, nor the task of  the  government, but the task of all. People must think about the consequence of their acts. They must get ready to work, in order to free the country from dependence on outside help.

Copyright © 1998 Yacouba Saibatou

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Craftsman at National Museum, Niamey, Niger, 1992

Economic Problems

Salifou Adjirami: 4/15/92

Before and since independence Niger has known economic problems. Niger has often relied heavily on foreign aid help the country to resolve its daily and ongoing difficulties. Serious economic problems have been going on for the past ten years. These are the result of our former president's administration (Dori) and those who have succeeded (Kountche and Ali Saibou).

In 1974 when the Army forces took power by coup, Niger had a good economic position due to the uranium boom. But now the Transitional Government can barely find the money to pay salaries, student scholarships, and other expenses.

This economic crisis which was inherited by the Transitional Government is due to the bad management of our past leaders. In the past there was no good control. Everybody did what he wanted. Ministers, heads of local government, directors of different societies, and others in power practiced misappropriation of funds.

There were many kinds of illicit enrichment. Government ministers of the past ten years took money and used it to aid their families. They built many wonderful houses; they bought their sons wives and luxury cars. If you see how these men live it's clear that the money  they  have is not for their work.  Many  of  these former ministers who live in luxurious houses are rich because of their illicit activities.

This point was discussed extensively during the National Conference, and one commission of the CN was ordered to investigate the cause of these men's enrichment.

Part of the country's problem is due to the falling price of uranium. In the 1970s, uranium trade brought in much money. But even then, the government lost money because of corruption. Customs receipts show that duty was not paid, because of fraud.

[ Transitional Government: a pro tem administration during the National Conference, until democratic elections could be held. For three years Niger had a democatically elected government; unfortunately, a military coup d'etat occurred in February 1996. Niger is now a military dictatorship again.]

Copyright © 1998 Salifou Adjirami

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Well at garden project near Baleyara, Niger, 1992

Drought

Mahaman Issaka 12/4/91

Sahelians have long been accustomed to living through great scourges such as civil wars and famines. One of the worst tragedies occured in 1973, when a long dry season resulted in drought and finally into great a great famine.

This famine occured when I was in the first form of secondary school (CEG). It had hardly rained at all, and everything in the bush turned into desolation. No one had a harvest that year. Trees did not put out new leaves, and even the early weeds which cover the farmland did not grow. There was no food for humans beings, and no grass for animals. All was desolation.

The whole region seemed to go mad. Each day more and more people and animals died. People who could travel went to the southern countries where nature is less harsh. Even nomad camps were emptied because the nomads lost their herds by thousands.

At last the governemt began to be frightened about the situation. They had hardly begun to secure people when another great scourge began to invade the area. The military made a coup d'etat, accusing the civilian government of manifest injustice and gross failure of leadership.

In Niger, the arrival of the military regime in 1974 coincided with the uranium boom. At first, a great influx of money permitted some national efforts to support the population and reduce the exodus. At the same time, international volunteer groups came to help. Unfortunately, the help didn't continue long, beause the military government had other preoccupations, more important than the survival of the people.

So nowadays the situation of Sahelian farmers and herders is precarious. Any irregularity in rainfall is sufficient to cause an uncertain harvest, and the suffering of the whole population. As we know, in the Sahel, rains are irregular 90 per cent of the time.

To prevent a situation of perpetual famine, we hope our new democratic government will undertake initiatives which will help people to support themselves in case of drought and other scourge.

Copyright © 1998 Mahaman Issaka

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Boy with water can, garden project near Baleyara, Niger, 1992

The President's Visit

Iyo Ibrahin March 16, 1992

When I was at primary school, in the sixth form, the President of the Republic, Hamari Dori, made a visit to my district. The event was of great importance, and all the people in the region were asked--sometimes forced--to come.

Two months before his arrival, the head of the district and his subordinates went from village to village to collect money and food necessary for the ceremony. Each head of the family had to give two hundred francs CFA, and two or three kilos of millet or rice.

Two days before the President arrived people began pouring into our village from everywhere. They were lodged according to their origin. Each head of the district had to entertain his people.

This was why my father had to play a great role in the ceremony. More than fifty people were lodged in our compound, and my father had to feed them although the food that he was given by the organizers was insufficient. My mother was busy all this time busy preparing food.

Sometimes you could not find any water to drink in the compound. In the evening you could see or hear the drummers playing their drums and people dancing in every corner of the village.

The day the President was coming was like a feast day. People woke up earlier than they usually did and went to the meeting place where they welcome important personalities. You could see rows of people on their horses and camels, and there were bicycles and scooters from everywhere.

We students were standing in front of the district office waiting. The president didn't come until two o'clock but as I was a child I didn't mind because I could play with my classmates. When some of the people who wanted to go home were beaten by the policemen, I laughed. I found it amusing.

But now I notice my great error in doing so. Most people who had come for the welcome were forced to come. Some had no money to buy food, and I am sure they didn't get enough to eat where they lodged. The speech of the President didn't take more than two minutes and he didn't talk about anything interesting. Yet they forced all these innocent people to gather.

If such an event is repeated, I won't let my people suffer again. I will ask them not to give any money or food, and I will tell these organizers that my mother and father are not slaves.

Copyright © 1998 Iyo Ibrahim

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