“Niger is on the verge of extinction”

Paris: A press conference for the Democracy Caravan as a result of the Tornadoes La Page movement. Here, Michael Jodi, leader of the TLP Niger movement. October 2017

Michael Jodi, national coordinator of Tournons la Page, told Mondafric about the eight-year systematic puzzle of civil society and he was concerned about its possible destruction in the short term.

In a recent report, the Coalition (which brings together 17 organizations and activists) compiled a vicious list of harassment against civil society leaders, dissidents, journalists and bloggers, and detailed growing barriers to freedom of expression. Associations, rallies, expressions and opinions in Niger. Tournons la Page condemns “a growing repressive legal arsenal that calls into question fundamental rights, the country’s international commitments and the independence of the judiciary.”

Mondafrick: What is the impact of this policy in your country?

MZ: Since 2014, 53 protests have been banned, with 1,091 people detained for up to 19 months. The Internet was shut down three times to limit media coverage of the crackdown. If left unmanaged, they can be left astray and lose the right path. To rule, they need to have no voice other than their own. We must impose a single thought and must face any different voice. When they arrived, they had already found a very difficult legal weapon and they were trying to improve restrictions on personnel.

Mondafrick: What are the issues that led to the protests and the ban on arrests?

MZ: Corruption from high cost of living, embezzlement of public funds, insecurity, presence of foreign troops in Niger. At the Pau Conference in January 2020, President Mahamadou Isufo told the international media that he would not tolerate any protests condemning the presence of French troops on the ground in his territory and that there had been no protests since. In general, all protests are deliberately prohibited, even within the country, although this right is guaranteed by the constitution and international treaties.

Mondafrick: Who is the target of this persecution?

MZ: Human rights defenders who promote democracy, journalists and bloggers, opposition leaders and religious leaders, and trade unionists. Opinions which have as leaders and politicians. Whenever anyone tries to oppose the country’s leaders, he is considered an evil thinker and his place is in prison. They stigmatize them, intimidate them and then imprison them. Justice is used to punish evil thoughts. In prison, they continue to punish us again, harassing us, arbitrarily restricting visits from family and lawyers.

Mondafrick: When he took office a year ago, President Bajum Mohammed contacted the civil society. What did he tell you?

MZ: He has succeeded in creating a framework for dialogue with civil society and he has received us three times at the Presidential Palace. He gave us three messages. First, he promised to reopen the civic space and ensure that no one would be harassed because of their views. He asked for our help in fighting corruption and embezzlement of government funds. Ultimately, he took the initiative to provide our defense and security forces with ample means to carry out their sovereign mission.

Mondafrick: Have you taken this outstretched hand?

MZ: Yes. But nothing came. On the contrary, things get worse. A decree of February 2022 will further worsen the priorities and regulation of associations, subjecting them to a very strict approval system, even censorship, which may prohibit those whose actions the regime considers to be contrary to its interests. The change in cybercrime law, which made it possible for several journalists to be imprisoned, is not satisfactory. It even pays a fine of 2 million to 10 million CFA francs, in a country where most citizens earn less than a dollar a day! Another bill to protect human rights defenders has been introduced in the legislature, but in reality, this text contains humorous articles.

“None of us will be worried anymore,” the president said. And yet, two of our comrades were arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned and then released by the court, one in Niamey and the other in Tesua. He promised to allow us to demonstrate and so far, none of our protests have been approved by the mayor. No member of the ruling party is concerned about the fight against corruption, although a recent report by an audit court has identified several individuals in the ruling party. President Bajum is proud to have arrested a minister, but the minister comes from a coalition political structure, not the PNDS (Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism, in power). No PNDS militant, no PNDS clique member was concerned about being involved in these cases. Justice Electoral Justice.

Nothing has changed except words and promises. It’s continuity.

Mondafrick: What about the process that began before the 2021 presidential election?

MZ: A lot of people are still in the process. I have my own case in the appellate court. Ali Idrisa has just been summoned by the judge. Many of us are on bail. In civil society, there is always Ali Sambo who is kept in a high security prison of humor. Among the cases we have mentioned in the report, some of those arrested in the wake of the April 2021 election crisis are still being held. We don’t know exactly how many of them there are, but there are a number of prominent political opponents, including Hama Amadou[1]General Maumuni Boreima and President of the Lumana Party in the Tillabery Region.

Journalist father Alpha is still banned from entering Niger. He is still unable to return to his family, which is in Niamey to continue his life normally. It is spread like this from country to country without any paperwork, because our ruling princes have decided that it will. Moreover, Mohammad Bajum was the architect of this situation when he was the Home Minister.

Mondafrick: In your opinion, was Mohammad Bajum sincere when he promised relaxation? And if so, what?

MZ: He’s sincere and he’s not sincere. Because he is powerless and he refuses to acknowledge his powerlessness. When he met us, he told us that it was very difficult for him, some political parties are stronger than him, corrupt and corrupt people are very strong. He’s sincere but he can’t.

He promised to relax us but we are still waiting for it. He promised to revive the National Council for Political Dialogue, but we are still waiting.

Bajum hostage former President. Bazoum is terrified by the former president, who is running for a third term in disguise.

People don’t need to talk anymore. He has crossed that stage. He needs concrete. Especially in the fight against terrorism. If the president is in good faith, he should try to clean up the mess to end the rampant corruption in the defense ministry. To ensure that the war effort reaches our troops. The first problem in the fight against terrorism is good governance.

[1] Bail in France for health reasons but faces heavy criminal charges

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