RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1173/01 3581045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231045Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4770
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3471
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0766
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001173
STATE FOR AF/W (DENNISON) and AF/RSA
Paris for AF Watcher
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: NIGER: DECEMBER 18 REPUBLIC OF NIGER (RON) JUBILEE
NIAMEY 00001173 001.2 OF 002
1. Summary. The RON celebrated its 50th anniversary with week-long
(December 14-20) festivities in the regions of Tillabery and Niamey.
There were cultural/sports events, a parade (including a display of
security/military hardware), a banquet hosted by Government of Niger
(GON) President Tandja at the Presidential Palace, and sensational
firework exhibitions. With the exception of brief remarks at the
National Day parade to decorate several persons with medals of merit
(including a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) from the 1960s
era), President Tandja was a spectator and made no remarks at any of
the other National Day public events. President Tandja's televised
speech on the eve (December 17) of Republic Day paid homage to
members of security forces felled in hostilities in northern Niger.
He cited several infrastructure projects as examples of progress
made over the course of calendar year 2008. Though widely
anticipated, there was no mention of elections in 2009. Governor of
Tillabery Idder Adamou delivered the only official remarks on the
night of the December 16 cultural event, mostly laudatory of the
President Tandja's efforts. End summary.
2. The Nigerien Minister of Youth and Sports Aldourahamane
Seydou was named the National Coordinator for the 50th Anniversary
festivities, though planning for the Tillabery venues were largely
in collaboration with Governor Amadou. GON President Tandja
attended all the public events. Most activities were cultural or
sportive in nature, with venues in the regions of Tillabery and
Niamey. There were four signature events. The first event was the
December 16 cultural night in Tillabery, with a mobilization of the
Government of Niger (Cabinet Ministers, National Assembly Members,
other governmental institutions), the diplomatic corps, members of
civil society and the general public to Tillabery (about 115
kilometers/70 miles from Niamey). The event featured youth
performances around the theme of agricultural life in Tillabery,
dances characteristic of the various ethnic groups from the eight
regions of Niger, and a spectacular, 15-minute closing fireworks
3. The second event was the December 18 civil and military parade
that featured youth, union members, civil society groups, security
and military personnel marching, dancing or performing stunts. At
the parade, GON President Tandja decorated several persons for
distinguished service to the nation, including a gold medal to
former PCV, Dr. William Kirker, for work in the health sector. Dr.
Kirker opened a health facility in the region of Diffa, in his
former PCV service village, Maine Soroa, that also is President
Tandja's home town. National Junior Soccer Team Coach/Trainer,
Frederic Acosta, also was decorated for leading the junior team to
its first ever qualification (in 41 years of federation membership)
for the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled to take place in Algiers in
2009. The Presidential Guard security forces conducted stunts on
motorcycles and the security, public safety and military services
displayed hardware (e.g., riot gear, tanks, fire trucks, vehicles,
helicopters, light aircraft, etc.).
4. The third event was President Tandja's dinner at the
Presidential Palace, catered by the Grand Hotel for one thousand
guests (mostly government institutions, diplomatic corps and
international organization representatives and members of civil
society). Several well-known Nigerien singing groups and one group
from Burkina Faso performed for guests and the night concluded with
another spectacular, 15-minute fireworks show. The final event was
the December 19 Hippodrome event, with a couple hundred riders
mounted on elaborately dressed camels from Tahoua region and horses
from Diffa (President Tandja's home region) ornate in armor of
bright colors and silver. The riders had the camels and horses
perform various maneuvers and equestrian stunts, respectively.
5. The President's December 17 televised remarks on the eve of
RON Day were brief. First, he paid homage to the fallen members of
security and military forces, casualties of the hostilities in
northern Niger. Second he cited as accomplishments for the year,
the launch of several infrastructure projects: the Kandadji Dam, a
second bridge (being built by the Chinese) in Niamey, an oil
refinery (being built by the Chinese), a dairy, a cement factory,
roads, rural electrification, and a plan to launch in 2009 the
construction of a dry port in the Dosso region. Despite speculation
that President Tandja, as he enters the last year of his mandate,
might use the National Day celebration to mention elections
anticipated for 2009, he didn't speak a word about 2009 elections.
6. A December 21 event that was scheduled to occur at the
Supreme Court to celebrate the fourth anniversary of President
NIAMEY 00001173 002.2 OF 002
Tandja's investiture in his second five-year term was cancelled late
night December 20. Curiously, the void for that event was filled
with a rally of thousands of supporters calling for an extension of
Tandja's term of office (to be reported septel). Subsequent to the
rally, numerous opposition party leaders and civil society groups
voiced opposition to a prolongation of Tandja's mandate, labeling
such calls a lack of respect for the Nigerien Constitution.
7. Overall, Nigeriens proudly celebrated the Republic's jubilee
with week-long festivities, but the jubilation was slightly clouded
by the lingering uncertainty about the 2009 elections.
8. Tripoli minimize considered.
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