APA-Niamey (Niger) The former ruling party has been split over military intervention to restore ousted president Mohamed Bazoum.
By Aboubacar Yacouba Barma
Disagreements that have shaken the former presidential party, the PNDS Tarrayya of former heads of state Issoufou Mahamadou and Bazoum Mohamed, since the July 26 coup, finally came to the fore this weekend with the divergence between two opposing wings on the military intervention planned by ECOWAS and the position to be taken on the transition.
Until then, it was just the product of a rumour mill and a latent war on social media between “pro-Bazoum” and “pro-Issoufou” about who was in charge and, above all, what position to take after the coup led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, which put an end to the party’s hold on to power which stretched to April 2011.
The Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS Tarrayya), which was the main casualty of the military’s new entry into the political scene, was united behind its president, “Comrade Bazoum Mohamed,” the ousted president who is still in the hands of the junta that seized power at the end of July, after only two years in power, from the successor of the party’s other former president and former head of state, Mahamadou Issoufou, under the pretext of “poor security and economic governance.” A unity that ultimately turned out to be a facade, as the events that are currently shaking the party, less than two months after losing the power it had held for almost thirteen years, testify.
This weekend, these disagreements came to the open with two successive and contradictory statements published by the party’s secretary general, Kalla Ankourao, and then vice-president, Hassoumi Massaoudou.
In a letter sent on Friday, September 15, to the heads of the party’s various structures and on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the PNDS Tarrayya, former minister and Secretary General Kalla Ankouraou announced the party’s decision, following several meetings of the Presidium, to announce its opposition to military intervention in Niger and urged its militants to remain united in order to find a way out of the crisis.
“Since July 26, 2023, our country, Niger, has been experiencing an extremely difficult and complex situation. In response, our party, the PNDS-Tarayya, has organised a series of actions,” it reads, recalling in particular the party’s declaration, approved by the presidential majority (MRN), on the afternoon of July 26, denouncing the hostage-taking of the President of the Republic, Mohamed Bazoum, and demanding his release and reinstatement, as well as “a spontaneous demonstration” on the afternoon of the same 26th, towards the presidency, during which several gunshot wounds were recorded.
In the letter, the former minister and former national assembly speaker also pointed out that “the Presidency has taken steps towards the political parties of the majority to coordinate their actions, but the results have been very mixed, with the suspension of the activities of the political parties and the multifaceted repression that has been put in place.”
On the external front, Kalla Ankourao added, “the international community, led by ECOWAS and UEMOA, has taken vigorous measures, including the threat of military intervention, to reverse the coup and restore President Bazoum to office.
According to the secretary general of the party of the former president, “this last measure was used as a pretext and argument to organise a great national movement, particularly in Niamey, but also a great mobilisation in the ECOWAS countries, and particularly in Nigeria, which was presented as a war that the West African giant was going to wage against Niger.
“After more than a month of waiting, voices are also being raised within the party to distance itself from the support for armed intervention, because not only does the movement against armed intervention seem to have been co-opted by certain opposition parties who want to eliminate our party once and for all, but also the consequences of such an intervention could be immeasurable for the hostages, the population and our country, and could spread over time,” said General Secretary Kalla Ankourao, for whom, in view of this situation, “it seemed necessary to the Presidium to hold discussions on this issue.”
According to his explanations, after the meetings of September 2 and 14, “a clear majority expressed its opposition to armed intervention,” although he recalled that the “objectives initially defined” remained unchanged, in particular “the strengthening of the party and its demarcation from any military intervention in the search for solutions to end the crisis.”
According to the party, “the release of President Bazoum and his family, who have been detained since July 26, and of all the comrades arrested throughout the country, including the President of the National Executive Committee, Foumakoye Gado,” remains one of the party’s main concerns. The party also reiterated its demand for “the reinstatement of the President of the Republic and the restoration of constitutional order by all non-military means and the strengthening of the unity and discipline of the party.”
Internal divisions and latent wars
Immediately after the publication of this correspondence, another communiqué was published, this time signed by the party’s vice-president, Hassoumi Massaoudou, “denying” the conclusions of the meetings held by the leadership of the former presidential party, as reported by the secretary general who had been acting as interim president until then, former oil minister Foumakoye Gado, currently detained by the putschists along with several PNDS Tarrayya leaders.
In this second communiqué, the head of diplomacy of President Bazoum Mohamed, currently in exile in Europe and representing Niger at the 78th UN General Assembly, strongly disagreed with the position of certain members of the party’s leadership, including founding members and former ministers under Issoufou Mahamadou.
According to the “denial” statement issued to this effect, the “biased summary” of the first communiqué issued by the party’s General Secretariat “in no way reflects the quintessence of the meetings” held by the party’s leadership on this issue. While confirming the holding of these meetings, the Vice President’s communiqué continues, “there was never any question of calling into question the decisions taken by ECOWAS during extraordinary summits on the situation in Niger.” The document calls on activists to “remain mobilized behind President Bazoum Mohamed to ensure the triumph of republican legality and democracy,” while continuing to “support the national and international community in restoring the President of the Republic to his duties.”
In the communiqué, which blames “the hostage-takers for the deterioration of the party’s situation,” the wing of the party that supports former President Bazoum, led by Hassoumi Massaoudou, calls on all the party’s structures, as well as its internal and external sections, “to take multiple and multifaceted actions until the hostages are released and President Bazoum Mohamed is restored to his constitutional functions.”
PNDS at a crossroads
War has now been declared between the two camps within the Socialist Party. On social media, the two wings are now making accusations and revelations that are undermining the unity of PNDS. On the one hand, the “pro-Bazoum” who continue to hope for the return of the deposed president to power, in particular thanks to a military intervention under the aegis of ECOWAS, which they defend tooth and nail, and on the other hand, the “pro-Issoufou” for whom the party must draw the consequences of the events of July 26th and therefore show more realism in order to envisage the future, taking into account the new situation of the country.
Rightly or wrongly, they accuse the camp of former President Issoufou Mahamadou of having participated in the coup led by his henchman, General Tiani, president of the CNSP, the junta that overthrew the Bazoum regime.
Although he has defended himself with a few terse statements, the former president of Niger and party leader for almost three decades has so far failed to clearly condemn the military takeover.
The PNDS Tarrayya, created in the 1990s following the advent of multiparty politics in Niger, came to power in 2011 with the election of Issoufou Mahamadou as president of the republic after 20 years in opposition. After two constitutional terms, Issoufou Mahamadou handed over to Mohamed Bazoum in 2021, allowing Niger to achieve its first democratic transfer of power.
Since then, rifts have emerged within the Socialist International member party between supporters of the two founders and patrons over the management of power and, in particular, the shadow cast by the former over the latter as head of state. These internal disagreements came to the fore after the July 26 coup that put an end to almost 13 years of undivided rule by the Pink Party, which is now at a crossroads as the country takes its first steps toward a transition that will lead to new elections.