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Niger: violent student protests

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The Head of State Plays the Appeasement Card

It took a dead man and the demand for an investigation into the events of April 10, 2017 issued by associations, institutions of the Republic, political parties of the opposition and even the majority in power in Niamey, for the President of the Republic of the Niger to come out of his reserve.

President Issoufou Mahamadou thus received three members of the Steering Committee of the Union of Nigerian Schools (USN) on Saturday 15 April 2017 in the presence of the Prime Minister, but in the absence of Minister Mohamed Ben Omar (in charge of Higher Education whom students demand his resignation or dismissal).

In the wake of this meeting, President Issoufou Mahamadou ordered the reopening of the university campuses of Maradi and Niamey; three national police officers, alleged to have been the perpetrators or accomplices of the death of the student Mala Bagalé and or other offenses were arrested; promised the release of arrested students and decided to initiate an investigation into the whole case. Last but not least, a committee under the leadership of Prime Minister Brigi Raffini, was established. It is composed of the USN, the National Union of Superior Teachers and Researchers (SNECS), parents of pupils, ministers in charge of education, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, etc. This, with a view to proposing solutions for the crisis of schools to the head of the State.

The exit of the inter-ministerial Negotiating Committee with the social partners, chaired by the Minister of State Mohamed Bazoum in charge of the Interior and former President of the Presidential Party (PNDS-Tarraya), who was hitherto in charge of the folder. Exit also Minister Ben Mohamed.

But, all these pledges of goodwill of power do not convince the USN. If it has asked its members to return to the campuses reopened by the government, this Union demands that the head of state must apologize publicly to the family of the deceased Mala Bagalé, that his murderers be tried and convicted. The investigation that it requires to resume the academic activities properly so called is completed, especially since, outside of death, seriously injured, there would have been theft of computers, cell phones, rapes or attempts to rape, etc. Moreover, the Union demands that the “prerequisites” to the government be met without delay. The USN announced Monday the filing on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 of a “national peace march” to which it invites the other forces vivreof the country.

This is all the more so since the Government does not formally recognize that the death of Mala Bagalé is linked to the repression of 10 April 2017. In fact, even the communiqué issued by the Directorate General of the National Police rejecting responsibility for three of its agents of the acts committed leaves the students in shock.

So is there going to be an exit from the crisis or a runaway situation? In any case, barely these concessions made by the government being obtained by the USN that another front, apparently in dormancy, is inflamed: that of the teachers who also intend to protest this week in the streets of the capital and even of the whole country.

For the moment, all have only one certainty and one question: the young student Mala Bagalé has been resting since Monday 17 April 2017 in the Muslim cemetery of Niamey where he was buried in the presence of several thousand Nigerians. But where will the government – which is in financial trouble – find the money to buy social peace? Because in fact, the school crisis is first of all an economic crisis of treasury of the State!

By Soulé Manzo / Niamey