Barcelona- Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou has come out as the most hawkish of the ECOWAS leaders on the Azawad issue as of late. To frame things in somewhat simplistic terms, Issoufou perhaps better than any other head of state in West Africa understands the challenges Mali currently faces.
For Niger was in a coup and constitutional crisis loosely from 2009-2011 triggered by the previous president Mahamdou Tandja’s trying to alter the constitution to potentially remain in power for life. To make a very long story short, Issoufou and the democratic opposition eventually prevailed (though it took a coup d’êtat replete with gunfire to do so). The junta that took power in Niger eventually allowed for elections in early 2011 which has so far has not happened in Mali (though the junta there is ‘officially’ no longer in power).
The reason I’m really posting the AJE interview though is the very end of the segment where the interviewer tacks on the subject of Bush’s ludicrous 16 words in which “Africa” was actually Niger and the greatest fraud of the early 21st century was perpetrated on the world stage. Issoufou has rather specific knowledge of the subject due to his having been National Director of [Niger’s] Mines in the early 1980s. Of all of Mali’s neighbors, Niger has the most to lose the longer the Azawad secession festers in northern Mali unabated. Issoufou is using the Azawad/Islamist-AQIM issue as a platform to boost Niger’s profile on the world stage. His recent speech at UK think-tank Chatham House is the first visit of a Nigerien leader to London. Issoufou came to power challenging dictatorial tendencies and militarism in his own country. Circumstances have him now strongly advocating for some form of military intervention to break apart the gestating salafi-jihadi haven on Niger’s northwestern border. Very interesting stuff in my view.