Message to the Nation President Issoufou Mahamadou on the occasion of the celebration of the 53rd anniversary of the proclamation of independence

My dear Fellow Citizens,

August 3, 1960 and December 18, 1958 are the two important dates in the History of Niger that each year we commemorate together with fervor and memory to underline the unquenchable thirst of our people for independence and freedom, our powerful faith in our destiny and our firm determination to build a unified and prosperous nation.

These two dates are intimately linked because the Proclamation of the Republic announced the inevitable accession of our country to full and complete sovereignty. 

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This year, the commemoration of the 53rd anniversary of our independence coincides with the month of Ramadan according to the Muslim calendar. It is a month full of blessings which Allah made the most sacred among months. Before continuing with my remarks, I would like to express the devout thoughts which fill me at this time and all of my admiration for our people who, in their large majority, at the same time as they are observing the Ramadan fast and thereby following the prescriptions of our common religion, are also pursuing with courage and self-sacrifice their work in the fields during this growing season. I raise my fervent prayers to Allah the All Powerful and All Merciful that He grant us full rewards for the fast that we are observing and the just remuneration of our efforts. May Allah reward us with a peaceful and fertile growing season and abundant harvests. And to all of you, my dear Fellow Citizens, I wish you a good end of Ramadan. May Allah bring down upon each of you His mercifulness and may peace reign in all of your homes.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


In officially assuming my high responsibilities as the head of our country on April 7, 2011, I made the firm commitment to work towards strengthening the democratic and republican State, to preserve security and peace in our country at all costs, and to do everything possible to shelter our people from hunger through the “3N” initiative. These actions must go hand in hand with efforts towards the realization of energy and communication infrastructure, the development of education, health, an increase in access to water, and job creation, especially for young people. On April 7, 2013, on the occasion of the second anniversary of my inauguration, I outlined a broad assessment, project by project, of actions initiated and conducted since then by the first Government of the seventh Republic to translate the commitments that I solemnly made before the Nigerien nation into actions. The Government has just issued an up-to-date assessment of its action on June 30, 2013 from which we note that the promises made have largely been kept.

Thus, with respect to the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law, and in accordance with the requirements of the November 25, 2010 Constitution, all of the institutions of the Republic are actually in place: notably, the Republic Council, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, the High Court of Justice, the Mediator of the Republic, the Constitutional Court, the National Commission on Human Rights and the High Council on Communication. In order to finalize this work, the Council of State and the Appeals Court will be established shortly; the organic texts creating these two high jurisdictions have, moreover, already been adopted and promulgated. This institutional architecture, requested by the constituents for our country, contributes, with the other institutions of the Republic, the Executive and Legislative branches, to the exercise of Government power and its regulation. They are essential to the democratic functioning of the State and good governance. During this period, some 172 legislative texts have been prepared simultaneously and submitted for the examination of our National Assembly which is working relentlessly and very carefully to discuss, finalize and adopt them. These various texts are intended to organize socio-economic life, to strengthen and modernize the national administration to make it more effective. Particular attention has also been given to territorial administration with the installation of deliberative and executive mechanisms in regions and districts; the creation of 27 new departments, the restoration of offices and residences of numerous departments and governor’s offices of the regions of Maradi, Tahoua and Niamey; as well as the replacement of their fleet of vehicles. At the same time, the implementation of institutional measures to strengthen the process of decentralization and decongestion in our country has continued. Furthermore, unprecedented efforts have been made to improve the working conditions of Government agents whose purchasing power has been substantially strengthened. During this period, the Government has led our country to make strong progress with respect to freedom, especially freedom of the press. It has also been able to improve the rank of our country on the index of the perception of corruption.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


The Government has devoted priority attention to security issues. In the Niger renaissance program, we stated: “the internal and external security of the country is an essential condition for economic and social development. The difference between these two aspects of security is more and more blurred, given the globalization of threats, which are three in number: threats of centrifugal forces: recurrent armed political movements; threats of criminal organizations: drug, arm, cigarette trafficking, etc.; threats from Al Qaeda (armed Islamists)”. The program continues by stating that: “all of these threats are intertwined. All of these threats are international in dimension. These threats mobilize significant resources. The geographical space of these threats is considerable and is subdivided into two regions: the western which includes Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger; the eastern Sahara, including Libya, Niger, Sudan and Chad. For the moment, the most active of these two regions is the first, i.e. the western Sahara.
It therefore constitutes the main threat. Niger is at the intersection of these two regions, which makes it an area particularly exposed and vulnerable, calling for sustainable solutions (...). It should, however, be noted that lasting solutions require the return of the State in the Saharan area, especially in its administrative, social, security scope, and an economic program for pastoral areas.” This was written towards the end of 2010, i.e. before the Libyan crisis and one of its consequences, the Malian crisis. We can see to what extent our analysis had anticipated events, which enabled us to take preventive measures on a practical level as soon as we came to power to strengthen our defense and security capabilities which sheltered our country from the dramatic situation that Mali has undergone. Unfortunately, as the asymmetry of the fighting methods of the enemy enables it to foil even the best designed security plans, our soldiers were shamefully assassinated on May 23, 2013 in Agadez, at a time when some of them were at the mosque, worshiping the same God in the name of whom the terrorists claimed to conduct their Jihad. The same day, at almost the same time, these fanatics attacked our industrial installations in Arlit. On June 1st, in the house of corrections in Niamey, other sons of our country fell under the bullets of the enemy. This is the time and place to again pay well deserved homage to our valiant defense and security forces for their unfailing commitment and exemplary patriotic devotion in the defense and preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country as well as for the protection of persons and their property. We cannot bestow enough praise on them for their high degree of professionalism and the competence with which they have carried out their mission. I express on behalf of the entire nation our pride in them. The nation is deeply grateful to them for the sacrifices they have made in carrying out their mission. Our thoughts are very much with of all of those among our valiant soldiers who are, in this Holy month of Ramadan, far from their families because of the requirements of this patriotic duty. Our most fervent prayers go out to them. We will continue to be attentive to their concerns and assure them of all of our concern with respect to additional efforts to be made to improve their living and working conditions.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


Despite the pressing and urgent concerns linked to the preservation of peace and security in our country, the Government has exerted very great efforts during these past two years towards creating conditions to kickstart the country’s economy. It was in order to achieve this major objective that the Government designed and adopted a program on August 1, 2012 to hasten the economic recovery of our country and establish the bases for sustainable development: the Economic and Social Development Plan (PDES).

The donors’ round table, which I presided over personally in Paris on November 13-14, 2012, met with unprecedented success thanks to the strong political commitment and the participation of a great number of our high-quality development partners. This roundtable enabled us to record financing announcements of a total of more than US$4.8 billion, or approximately 2,401.8 billion CFA francs. Nevertheless, it is one thing to obtain promises of financing and another to obtain the actual disbursement. In this respect, I note, with bitterness, the weakness in the consumption rate of credits assigned to investments. It is inadmissible that financial resources be available and that we not have the capability to absorb them.

 

My dear Fellow Citizens,


The implementation of the emergency program in 2011-2012 and that of the “3N” initiative beginning in October 2012 enabled our country to complete the MDG 1 which aims to reduce by half the number of individuals suffering from hunger. This strong performance by Niger has been vouched for recently by the PAO. Furthermore, Niger is one of four (4) countries admitted to the initiative for renewed partnership between the African Union, the PAO and the Lula Institute against Hunger in Africa. Our country is also one of 19 African stakeholder countries in the “Pact for Nutrition and Growth” which is a commitment of the international community to improve the nutrition of 500 million pregnant women and children under the age of two, and to reduce by 20 million the number of children under the age of five suffering from rickets by 2020.

 

We owe all of this to the “3N” initiative, the financing for which, we should recall, has been completely secured. This initiative has also very largely inspired the formulation of the Alliance between Sahelian countries and West Africa with the international community, known as the “AGIR Initiative” [Global Alliance for the Resiliency Initiative], to structurally and sustainably reduce food and nutritional vulnerability in the sub-region in the next 20 years. Our country will be one of the first beneficiaries of this initiative. With the “3N” initiative, Niger has become a model to the point that it gave birth to the concept of “Africans Nourishing Africans”, countering the Afro-pessimism which reigns in the area of food and nutritional security. This would be a good time and place to highlight that to ensure good prospects for the current growing season, the Government has taken necessary measures to provide farmers with seed, fertilizer and phytosanitary products. Low-cost sales and free distribution of grains have been organized as well as unconditional money transfers. With respect to infrastructure, we have launched the project for the 100-MW coal-fired power station in Gorou Banda, which, when completed, will protect Niamey from recurrent power outages. Numerous construction projects of paved and dirt roads have also been launched. Discussions with Turkish officials on financing the so-called “Istanbuwas” road are at an advanced stage. Construction of the Farié Bridge over the Niger River, the financing of which has been secured, will begin shortly. The project for the rail link Cotonou-Niamey-Ouagadougou-Abidjan is progressing. On the other hand, the Kandadji dam project has, unfortunately run into unfortunate setbacks due to serious negligence by the company in charge of the project. Thus, after having long postponed the project, we have made the decision to terminate the contract. A consultation is underway with our partners in view of identifying the ways and means to enable us to complete this emblematic project in the shortest time possible.  


The upcoming conclusion of discussions with officials from the Eximbank China in view of obtaining concessional loans will allow us to finance the Salkadama project, among others. The funds necessary for reinforcing the equipment for water distribution for the city of Zinder are already in place. In this framework, as part of cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, studies on the construction of the referral hospital in Niamey with 500 beds have been completed and the project will start very shortly. Furthermore, the Niamey Niyala project is coming along with near completion of work on the first interchange, the imminent start of paving work on the road to Goudel as well as the construction of the Waqf two twin towers, 16 levels each, with financing by the Islamic Development Bank. With respect to basic social sectors, I have mentioned the sectors of education, health and hydraulics, and the Government has honored the promises of the Renaissance program. I already spoke at length on the progress made in these areas on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of my taking office as President. The implementation of the Renaissance program has naturally generated tens of thousands of jobs in the public and private sectors.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


In the space of a little more than two years, the Government has undertaken a colossal task, but a lack of communication has not always allowed us to demonstrate the scope thereof. Nevertheless, I know that the beneficiaries, i.e. the great majority of citizens of the heartland of Niger who are living in security despite a harsh regional environment, who have been supported at a time that they were in need of everything, who have benefited from seed and fertilizer, who note the opening of several paved or dirt road construction projects, who see permanent classrooms and health centers going up in villages, who are quenching their thirst because they now have access to potable water in abundance, yes, the beneficiaries, I say, salute and praise the actions taken in the past 28 months. I therefore congratulate the Government for the sense of responsibility with which it has accomplished the mission with which I have entrusted it. I would particularly like to pay tribute to its head, Prime Minister Brigi Raffini, to whom I renew my total confidence.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


On the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the Republic last December, I had renewed my appeal to the assembly of all Nigeriens and invited the entire political establishment to put in place a Government of National Union. I know that some of our compatriots had legitimate questions about the motivations which have led me since 1999, i.e. for 14 years, to constantly invoke the need for such a Government for our country. I see two basic reasons: on the one hand, our country is still in a democratic transition, and on the other, security problems have worsened.


With respect to the first reason, the political instability which our country experienced during the first decade of its democratic experience led me to the conclusion that we should agree to a period during which the democratic institutions should be strengthened and stabilized. Following along on this thought, I am of the firm conviction that it will require the rallying together of all Nigeriens. Furthermore, the problem of coming together has always been a concern of the leaders of our country. Thus, to cite an example, on December 18, 1958, after the vote by the National Assembly on the deliberation on the proclamation of the Republic of Niger, President Diori Hamani said, and I quote: “The Republic of Niger was born under the sign of the union of its inhabitants....The immense stretch of our territory indicates its regional diversities, its ethnic differences, the immense effort to be made to bring together and melt together in the same national melting pot our various populations. This arduous task will require tact and especially patience to help all in the difficult labor which will prepare the happiness of our people.” Close quote. President Diori Hamani thus already understood the vast extent and complexity of tasks to be accomplished to build a nation and to construct a viable State over an immense desert, landlocked and totally destitute territory. One could hardly show more relevance, vision and wisdom in outlining and defining the multiple and pressing actions that should be devised and implemented, and the serious mission which is incumbent on the leaders to this end in the political context and natural environment of our country. It is these righteous and perspicacious remarks of the first President of the Republic of Niger which inspire me as I address you at this time. During the 53 years that have passed since independence, our country has seen a turbulent political life, characterized by great instability. It has lived through seven republics since the first in 1958, each with its constitution, whereas countries like the United States and France have had only one and five republics, respectively, in more than two centuries of history! In our country, at no time has the succession of leaders occurred peacefully or at least constitutionally, including since the beginning of the  multiparty system, now almost 23 years ago. Regime changes have almost always occurred by means of force.


This state of affairs is clearly not a sign of progress; it must then call for the concern of the entire Nigerien political establishment and public stakeholders as well as each one of the citizens of our country to seriously question the how and why of this situation. This political instability is the source of permanent questioning and constant new beginnings. It has, moreover, seriously handicapped the success of development actions which have been initiated in our country by successive governments during these past 53 years. One of the indicators which confirms this is the consumption rate of investment credits which has remained dramatically weak, especially in the last 20 years. A study on this indicator, conducted in July 2013, shows the recurrence of this theme in the past two decades with more than 69% of the recommendations made not implemented to date because of political instability, among other reasons. In other words, this instability prevents our people from benefiting from the resources that the international community has made available to us. Even worse, there exists a correlation between political crises and the decrease in public development aid for our country. I for one refuse to believe that this is the unavoidable destiny which is irreparably striking our country. I believe that the Nigerien political establishment and Nigeriens on the whole are capable, as other peoples in other countries, of working together to avert this sad fate which is oppressing our country and preventing its full development. We cannot continue to turn the country over to the partisan passions which have marked the beginnings of the multiparty system.
We must all throw hatred and bitterness into the river. We must cease to submit our country to the harsh trials of a permanent political campaign; there is a time for political campaigns and a time, once the elections have been held, to devote to the management of the country, i.e. to the service of our people who are greatly in need thereof.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


The second fundamental reason, relatively recent, which leads to a call for the establishment of a Government of National Union, is the security situation which prevails in the Sahel-Sahara region. I have already mentioned that our country, situated at the center of this region, is particularly exposed and vulnerable. The threat of narco-terrorism is more dangerous for our country and its institutions than threats of past rebellions that we have experienced. This threat has not disappeared after the defeat inflicted on narco-terrorism by the French and African forces in Mali. On the contrary, everything would lead us to believe that it will only get worse. The evolution of the situation, particularly in the so-called “Arab spring” countries, is not reassuring. Indeed, as I have said recently to certain interlocutors, the “Arab spring” is in the process of mutating into a frigid winter, even though, no matter how appealing it may be, this seasonal comparison does not correspond to reality: the “Arab spring” is more like an “Arab caldron” and, unless we take care, the heat emitted there from will inevitably burn the countries of the Sahel. Narco-terrorism will fully exploit this situation: it will regroup and restart its offensive. For this reason, our country, along with other countries of the region and friendly countries, must continue to prepare to confront it. This is why I would like us to be more united and determined in the face of this terrible threat. By pulling together, we will be able to establish the breakwater capable of restraining the waves of violence which narco-terrorism will inevitably generate. By pulling together, we will be able to build the iron wall against which all enemies of our people will be broken. Our duty –one and all – is to be ready. We must all together show imagination in order to be able to confront anything, including unforeseen events.


My dear Fellow Citizens,


I have outlined the two basic reasons which justify to my mind the establishment of a Government of National Union. Such a Government is neither unconstitutional, as the Constitutional Court indicated, nor undemocratic, as the experience of many European countries has proved. As I have already said in my message to the nation on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic, this Government is not a political plot devised “against the sovereign people in view of sharing the spoils of the Republic” or of creating “a sanctuary of impunity” or “a geometric space of political maneuvers and plots”. The Government of National Union will have a roadmap focused on the exclusive service of the Nigerien people. In the prospect of its establishment, I recently had several discussions with the head of the opposition and I met with officials of the political establishment, notably former Presidents of the Republic, former Presidents of the National Assembly, former Prime Ministers. I would note, with pride, the spirit of responsibility and patriotism that I sensed in each one of my interlocutors.


Indeed, all will remember that the search for the ways and means to “reconcile Nigeriens, all Nigeriens” has always been my major concern. It was thus that in my inaugural address, after having paid homage to him for his spirit of fair-play, the sense of responsibility and political maturity that he showed following the presidential elections, I invited President Seyni Oumarou, with all his comrades, to join with me “to strengthen the victory of Nigerien people, to serve our people who have such great need thereof (...) so that together we may organize governmental action.” I added to this address, “Let us not disperse our energies. Let us work together to build the nation“.
It is this appeal, going beyond parties, that guarantees national independence, national unity, the integrity of the territory, the stability of institutions, the peace and the security of the country and which once again today I make to all Nigeriens, to all political parties, especially the opposition.


Finally, may God grant that my appeal be heard in this blessed month of Ramadan.

May God bless Niger.


I thank you very much.

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