The Future of the Past or the Past of the Future: Nine Months After the Coup

Dominic Wabwireh avatar

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Nine months have passed since the military coup that took place last July, a duration akin to that of a gestation period. The coup, which occurred rather unexpectedly, startled many due to the method employed. The outgoing president was abducted from the presidential residence by the very guard entrusted with protecting him from any coup attempts. The cyclical nature of coups in Niger highlights the obstacles in the exercise of the democratic pact between political parties and the “fragility” of the institutions meant to uphold it. Among these, the army, which has played a decisive role in the country’s democratic organization since the beginning of the Republic, cannot be overlooked.

These nine months seem to have been a gestation period filled with uncertainty, much like the sand that pervades the streets, dutifully cleaned by municipal employees almost daily, only to return the next day. The transition period has been marked by a sense of transience, with the tricolor flags of the country gradually disappearing, carried away by taxis and tricycles, which have become increasingly numerous and hazardous. The once lively gatherings at the stadium and demonstrations at roundabouts have gradually given way to the stubbornness of everyday life.

Despite the reopening of borders and the lifting of sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States, relief has been elusive for the poor and economic entrepreneurs. The pirogue and institutionalized extortion remain the means of connecting the two banks of the Niger River at the border with Benin. After driving out French soldiers and keeping the few remaining civilians discreet, it is now the turn of American soldiers to be asked to leave. Meanwhile, Italian soldiers remain discreet, awaiting future geopolitical balances, providing humanitarian aid and training to the Nigerien forces.

The Alliance of Sahel States (AES), comprising Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, countries most affected by terrorism, banditry, and corruption, aims to provide a politico-military response to the dramatic insecurity faced by the populations. Millions are displaced in this part of the Sahel, with thousands of farmers living on the brink of survival. The long-feared and unfortunately “institutionalized” famine affects a significant portion of the population. Political choices emphasizing the absolutization of the concepts of “national sovereignty” and “self-sufficiency” have had consequences and repercussions on populations that have not always been adequately considered.

Perhaps the crucial point of these months of transition/gestation lies in the difficulty of finding the heart of the political project that animates the present. To avoid repeating the past of the future and the future of the past, politics, and democracy, in particular, were invented. This principle of “reality” should place the Common Good, namely justice for the poor, at its core.

Fr. Mauro Armanino

Niamey, April 2024

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