Saturday, February 20, 2010

Niger's coup: Do two wrongs make a right?

Although this blog has a title related to Niger, it is not concerned primarily with that country, nor is the area of politics and governance its focus (except when policies relating to localization, language, or education may be concerned).

Nevertheless, the diverse reactions to the recent coup in Niger raised in my mind the same question as that of the IRIN News article linked in the title. The African Union and ECOWAS have been consistent in condemning the measures taken last year by President Mamadou Tandja to modify the constitution to prolong his rule. Yet they have also condemned the coup on principle - they could hardly do otherwise. The evident expressions of support for the coup in Niamey therefore exposes an odd juxtaposition.

There are two other perspectives: One that the coup was not a surprise, and the other that Pres. Tandja seemed to have sacrificed his potential longer-term stature as an elder statesman in his country and the region in the quest for a longer period in power - and now he has apparently lost that too.

Beyond whatever lessons one might draw, or what one may think about the coup, the main issues now are how the new junta will handle the transition back to democracy and rule of law, and how ECOWAS, the African Union, and other international partners can support and facilitate that transition.

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