Wednesday, September 2, 2009
On this blog we have read recently about repressive regimes in China and Zimbabwe singling out the nonprofit/ngo sector for harassment and prosecution. Similar repression is taking place in Niger, where I regularly travel to perform legal research.
Since the mid-1990s, Niger has been on a tortuous path toward democratic governance. During that time the country has drafted and adopted a secular, essentially liberal constitution and has held several free and fair elections. Recently, however, there have been some complications. The constitution included a provision limiting presidential candidates to two five-year terms. The current president, Mamadou Tanja, is approaching the end of his second term and he very clearly does not want to cede power. He called for a referendum to ask the people whether the constitution should be amended to grant him an additional term and, while they were at it, grant more political power to the office of the president. When the country's Constitutional Court ruled that the referendum was illegal, he dismissed it. When the National Assembly raised objections, he dissolved it. Not surprisingly, the referendum went in his favor. According to Transparency International, when the ngo/civil society sector began to protest the electoral coup, he began putting sector leaders in jail. It is is a distressingly common story.