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Answer to the interview of Mister Mohamed BAZOUM on DW : when Tournons La Page bursts the eyes and disturbs the sleep of princes

In an interview given to the German public radio DW in French for more than 13 minutes, Mr. Bazoum directly criticised the militants of Tournons La Page Niger and mainly its coordinator, whom he had the audacity to call a militant of an opposition party. This posture does not surprise us, since in the past, the regime of which he was and still is a part, has illustrated itself by the refusal and negation of pluralism of opinion. We were subjected to the law of force and not the force of law! As for the strength of our conviction, it is deep and unshakeable.

In this interview, Mr. Bazoum attacks the fundamentals of civic freedom and freedom of association. He should know this here: we derive our legitimacy from the Constitution of 25 November 2010 but also from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and all the international legal instruments ratified by Niger. Neither he nor anyone else can claim to be a regulator of social movements in Niger. We would like to say to Mr. Bazoum that civil society is certainly at the heart of politics, but it remains partisan, neutral, without participating in the conquest of power or its management. The role we play is that of participation in opening up the civic space, monitoring respect for the democratic process and good governance in our country. We make sure that the voice of all Nigeriens, including the marginalised, can be heard.

Mohamed Bazoum said in his interview that "Tournons La Page in Niger is led by a patented militant of Lumana, which is the most radical party in Niger, what he says is no longer valid". Now, someone who aspires to lead Niger already considers that what a citizen says, even if he is a militant of an opposition party, has no value. How, with such intolerant behaviour, can one claim to lead a country in peace and harmony?

But we are in no way surprised by this attitude, which remains the cliché of a man whose doubt and falsehood surrounds history. He clearly states his intention to put order in the associative movements, including through the use of diplomatic channels. What does he mean concretely? Already in 2018 the government of which he was Minister of State, Minister of the Interior, succeeded in suspending the partnership between Alternative Espaces Citoyens and international partners. At the time, he already claimed to have settled scores with civil society activists thrown in prison. In truth, we have understood that the man wanders around, wanders without any precise objective, developing a phenomenal communicational incoherence. How else can we understand that Mr Bazoum maintains that some people hide behind civil society in order to play politics and wants to take action to put an end to it; and at the same time recognises that there is another civil society, favourable to his own camp and beyond reproach. He argues that there is no neutral civil society, they have their own, the state civil society whose independence is in question, and the other that disturbs him. He accuses the latter, which does not support him, of wanting to engage in insurrection because, according to him, fighting against corruption and embezzlement of public funds, repressive laws, the shrinking of civic space, the monopolisation of resources and, more generally, committing to the development of Niger and its people is insurrection.

How can a candidate supported by individuals suspected of banditry, trafficking of all kinds, some of whom have been pinned in the case of embezzlement at the Ministry of National Defence, have the legitimacy to lecture Nigeriens? Faced with his lack of legitimacy and probity, Mr. Bazoum uses sad rhetoric, ad personam attack and demonization to try to influence national and international opinion.

He who asks for proof of the fraud committed during the first round of the presidential elections, proof that we have provided in our report in the form of photos, videos and testimonies, what proof does he have of the allegations that he advances of our membership of opposition political parties? We challenge Mr. Bazoum to prove his claims in order to build national and international opinion. We affirm that we are an independent movement at the service of all Nigeriens, our positions are civic and patriotic positions. If it is necessary to recall it again, we only work for our network of 14 associations in Niger and 230 throughout Africa. No one dictates our conduct, whether in power or in opposition. Our international charter excludes any activist or political leader from our governing bodies.

When the government does not do its job well, when public policy can lead catastrophically to the situation we are experiencing today in the fields of education, health, the economy or even security in our country, it is quite natural that voices are raised against it. We make civil opposition that consists of denouncing ineffective public policies that destroy the interests of citizens and undermine the human rights we defend.

Mr. Bazoum also forgets that the repressive face of his party and the government of which he was a member as Minister of the Interior has come to light in recent years. More than 30 members of our movement have been arrested for several months without any case resulting in convictions. This repression has been the subject of debates from Paris to Washington via Berlin. It led to our movement, despite its criticism of certain French policies in Africa, being awarded the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic in 2018, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We are standing up and more determined than ever, no matter who will be elected at the head of our Nation, to play our role as an independent civil society actor and our role of critical thinking and citizen control of public action. We do not recognise ourselves as civil society on one side or the other, but as civil society in Niger with our convictions, our line of conduct, our objectives, our statutes and our vision.

Niamey, 17 February 2021

The coordinator

Maikoul ZODI