Niger opposition groups protest President Tandja’s attempts to stay in power, 2009

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Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Some action occurred after August 4 (the date of the referendum that granted Tandja further authority) but the action certainly diminished. The referendum basically ended the nonviolent campaign.
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Niarney; Zinder
Location Description: 
city streets of Niger
The opposition's main goal was to prevent President Mamadou Tandja from changing the Constitution in a way that would allow him a third term in office.

For three months in 2009, opposition groups in Niger protested President Mamadou Tandja’s attempts to change the constitution so as to allow him a third five-year term in office (extending past December when his mandate was supposed to expire). President Tandja ordered a referendum on the matter to take place in early August. The Front for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) led most of the protests and strikes.

Small-scale protests began in May once President Tandja dissolved parliament. On June 14, 2009, tens of thousands of protesters organized in Niger’s capital Niarney. The FDD organized the protest, although many opposition parties, unions, and rights groups were involved. The demonstrators rallied as well. They marched and shouted slogans, under the leadership of Mahamadou Issoufou and a few others.

On June 24, the seven major labor unions called for a 24-hour general strike, and the next day thousands of workers went on a general strike. The strike was meant to protest President Tandja’s efforts to change the constitution. Hassoumi Dijibo was one of the union leaders who organized this strike. While workers in the banks, the health service, and the state financial services greatly supported the strike, those in the transport and business sectors barely participated in the strike.

On June 25, 7 of the 8 ministers (employed under Tandja) resigned in protest of Tandja’s attempts to extend his rule. The ministers were from the Democratic and Social Convention (CDS) and had supported Tandja for the past decade. Tandja also had lost support from the Economic Community of West African States. On June 27, the opposition called for mass resistance, even appealing to the army not to obey orders. In the following days, President Tandja dissolved the constitutional court.

On July 1, the opposition held a second strike in both Niarney and Zinder. While the strike was pretty slow, government workers participated in the strike. Additionally, the opposition to Tandja gained allies in the Organization of French-Speaking Countries and Abdou Diouf (head of the International Francophone Organization).

On July 5, tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Niarney, walking or riding motorbikes. The FDD led the protest and rally. The rally occurred in front of the former parliament building. At this point, the EU, France, and the U.S. had all condemned Tandja’s decisions.

On August 4, Niger held the referendum. The vote favored amending the constitution, allowing Tandja to assume power beyond his mandate. On August 9, the United Front for the Protection of Democracy (FUSAD) rejected the referendum result in a statement and called for a “general mobilization” to overthrow Tandja. As a result, Marou Amadou (leader of FUSAD and spokesman for the FDD) was arrested for “breaching state security”. On August 11, Niger police utilized teargas against a crowd of political figures and human rights activists who had come to Amadou’s trial. The police freed Amadou later that day.

On August 22, police used teargas again against opponents. Several were injured, while many others were arrested. Many clashes with police between groups persisted.

While Tandja was able to stay in power because of the referendum, the U.S. still called for Tandja to step down in late December. The U.S. announced that it was suspending millions of dollars in aid and also banning his supporters from visiting the United States.

On February 18, 2010, Nigerian troops seized Tandja in a violent coup d’etat, and Tandja finally gave up power.

Research Notes
"Thousands strike in Niger against president: union." Agence France-Presse. 25 Jun 2009.

Hama, Boureima. "Niger opposition politician's death overshadows protests." Agence France-Presse. 14 Jun 2009.

"Thousands in Niger protest president's referendum plan." Agence France-Presse. 5 Jul 2009

"Niger leader replaces ministers from his key backers." Agence France-Press. 29 June 2009

Hama, Boureima. "Anti-referendum strike partially followed in Niger." Agence France-Presse. 1 Jul 2009.

"Niger police arrest opposition leader." Agence France-Presse. 10 Aug 2009.

"Niger opposition leader 'kidnapped': party member" Agence France-Presse. 11 Aug 2009

"Police fire teargas at Niger protesters." Agence France-Presse. 22 Aug 2009.

Carmichael, Lachlan. "US calls on Niger president to step down." Agence France-Presse. 23 Dec 2009.

Uwugiaren, Iyobosa. "Niger: Military seize power."

Additional Notes: 
While nonviolence weakened the opponent, a violent coup d'etat overthrew President Tandja.

Edited by Max Rennebohm (15/07/2011)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Samantha Bennett, 08/03/2011