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Niger hopes to make historical past on Sunday when elections set it on track for its first-ever peaceable transition of energy regardless of a raging Islamist insurgency and financial woes.
The world’s poorest nation by a key UN benchmark, the Sahel nation has by no means had two elected leaders hand over energy since independence from France 60 years in the past — the final coup was solely a decade in the past.
The person who has been in cost since then, President Mahamadou Issoufou, has gained excessive marks for saying that he’ll hand the baton to his elected successor.
Two different nations in West Africa, Guinea and Ivory Coast, have been rocked by violence this 12 months after their heads of state pushed by way of modifications to the structure.
They declared their counter on presidential limits had been reset to zero, enabling them to bid for a 3rd spell in workplace — a transfer that triggered bloody protests.
“My most burning need is handy over energy in 2021 to a democratically-elected successor,” Issoufou has mentioned.
“This can be my best achievement — it is going to be a primary within the historical past of our nation.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has heaped reward on Issoufou, describing him as an “instance for democracy” whereas his international minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, declared “the standard of the (December 27) elections can be a benchmark for all of Africa.”
Others have sounded a extra sceptical tone, pointing to the dominant position performed by the military, which in 2010 pressured out a extremely widespread president, Mamadou Tandja, who had his eyes on a 3rd time period.
Issoufou “is not bidding for a 3rd time period as a result of he does not need it, however as a result of he does not have the selection,” mentioned Bounty Diallo, a former soldier and professor on the College of Niamey.
One other flaw within the rosy image is the absence of a outstanding opposition candidate.
Former prime minister Hama Amadou, 70, was final month barred from contesting the vote on the grounds that in 2017 he was handed a 12-month time period for alleged child trafficking — a cost he says was bogus. In March, he was given a presidential pardon as he was seeing out his sentence.
Mohamed Bazoum, 60, a former inside and international minister who’s Issoufou’s designated successor, is the front-runner on Sunday, after a marketing campaign dominated by the problem of safety.
Niger is being hammered by jihadists from neighbouring Mali and from Nigeria, the cradle of the decade-old insurgency launched by Boko Haram, and by armed gangs.
Final 12 months greater than 250 individuals died and there have been greater than 250 kidnappings, in keeping with UN figures.
Jihadist assaults have displaced a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals and have come nearer and nearer to the capital Niamey.
In August, six French vacationers and their two Nigerien guides have been slaughtered within the Koure Nationwide Park, simply 60 kilometres (37 miles) from town.
On December 12, 34 individuals have been massacred in a Boko Haram assault within the southeastern area of Diffa on the eve of repeatedly delayed municipal and regional elections.
“Our nation is large and surrounded by areas of insecurity,” Bazoum instructed the French radio station RFI final month.
“This requires extra means, particularly extra troops… however with out inflicting us to sacrifice what is important, which is the schooling and wellbeing of our individuals.”
Niger ranked 189th, the bottom place of countries assessed within the 2020 UN Human Improvement Index.
Round 42 % of the inhabitants lived final 12 months on beneath $1.90 (1.56 euros) per day, in keeping with the World Financial institution, whereas almost a fifth of its surging inhabitants of 23 million relied on meals assist.
The military needs to double troop numbers, however army spending already accounts for a fifth of the state funds. The nation additionally hosts US and French air bases which are key services within the battle towards jihadism within the Sahel.