RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0111 0581411
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271411Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4875
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3482
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC UNCLAS NIAMEY 000111
DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA
PARIS FOR AF WATCHER
PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY PROTESTS NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPENSATION
Ref: 08 Niamey 00509
1. Arm-wrestling between the National Assembly and civil society
continues. On February 19, three umbrella groups of civil society
organizations - the Citizen's Convergence (CC), the United Front for
the Protection of Democratic Gains (FUSAD), and the Citizens'
Movement for Peace, Democracy, and the Republic (MCPDR) - issued a
bulletin denouncing the National Assembly's February 14 passage of a
law intending to comply with a June 13, 2008, Constitutional Court
ruling that declared anti-constitutional a National Assembly bill
allocating a benefits package for its members through internal
deliberations rather than via legislation (reftel).
2. On February 26, the three civil society groups organized a
protest march and rally to denounce the National Assembly's
"predation" of public resources via the new law. The protest
involved several thousand participants, according to media accounts.
Demonstrators contended that the new law was nothing but a
legalization of the same benefits that sparked criticism in May 2008
(reftel). They believed that lawmakers had received undue
compensation, and should each pay back roughly 40 million CFA
($77,000) each. During the rally, an unnamed civil society leader
claimed that the parliamentarians had awarded themselves a total of
4.2 billion CFA ($8.4 million) in bonuses and travel expenses in
2008, despite Niger's economic hardship, scarce resources, and
rising cost of living. The police used tear gas to prevent students
from crossing the JF Kennedy bridge from the main university campus
to take part in the protest, although they made no arrests.
3. Comment: In January, President Tandja refused to sign the GON's
2009 budget law - in which more than eight billion CFA ($16 million)
were allocated to National Assembly affairs - because it was not in
keeping with the Constitutional Court's June 2008 ruling. Many
believe the Constitutional Court is also reviewing the February 14
National Assembly bill for compliance with the constitution.
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