Reporter’s house burnt in Niger’s election protests : what does this show about Niger’s political system?

Introduction – What Happened? 

 

The house of Moussa Kaka, a correspondent on Radio France Internationale, was set on fire on Wednesday 24th February. Moussa Kaka was targeted because of his job as a journalist. We do not know who exactly burned down Moussa Kaka’s house, but it happened as a result of protests after the election result of February 23rd

 

Even though Moussa Kaka’s house was probably burnt down by protestors, rather than the government, Radio France Internationale called the incident “a very serious attack on the freedom of the press” in a statement. This makes us wonder whether the recent election was democratic.   

 

What happened in the February 23rd election? 

 

Mohamed Bazoum was declared the winner of Niger’s Presidential election on February 23rd, after he gained more than 55% of the vote. Mohamed Bazoum was the candidate of the ruling party. The election was the first transition from one democratically elected leader to another that Niger has ever seen. The previous President, Mahamadou Issoufou, stepped down after having ruled for the last ten years. 

 

Mr Bazoum was the former interior minister and a close ally of Mr Issoufou. However, the close relationship between the two have led some to question the legitimacy of the election.  

The opposition was led by Mahamane Ousmane, a former President of Niger. Even before the results of the second round of voting were made public, Mr Ousmane claimed that the vote was being rigged 

Mr Ousmane was Niger’s first democratically-elected president in 1993, but he was removed three years later. This is his fifth attempt to regain power since then.  

We cannot know for sure whether or not the election was rigged. However, we do know that the question over the election’s legitimacy is reducing Niger’s stability at the start of a new Presidential term. 

 

What has happened since the February 23rd election? 

 

Before and after the results were announced, Mr Ousmane’s supporters were protesting in Niamey. There were clashes between protestors and the police. Protestors burnt tyres, and destroyed a vehicle owned by the ruling party, which is called the PND. Two people have died in post-election violence. 

Mr Ousmane is contesting the result of the election, claiming that it is fraudulent.  

Another leading opposition figure, Hama Amadou, was prevented from running in the election. He was considered to be the main opposition contender against the current President, Mr Bazoum. However, when he was prevented from applying, he gave his support to Mr Ousmane. Mr Amadou is now in prison. The authorities claim that he was part of an organisation trying to overthrow a democratic regime. 

 

Mr Ousmane said that there have been 467 people arrested unfairly in Niamey.  

We do not know whether the election or the arrests were fair. However, this does show increasing instability in Niger and a lack of confidence in their electoral procedures.

KATE DORKINS

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