It’s the tragedy of today’s bad news-obsessed media, not to mention a dearth of foreign reporting bureaus, that last week’s news from Niger was largely overlooked.
Niger’s newly elected President Mahamadou Issoufou was sworn into office last week for a five-year term. That followed a democratic election and the other candidate’s concession of defeat. Power was also handed over to Issoufou from a military junta that had been in place since February 2010, when soldiers overthrew a president who’d held onto office for 10 years and was trying to grab a third term.
What’s all of this mean for the people of Niger, who are among the poorest and hungriest on earth? It means that the rule of law and democracy could be come realities, critical services like education and medical care could blossom, and there could finally be an effective crackdown on the nation’s rampant drug and human trafficking. It means that the international community is more likely to provide aid dollars, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may have a responsible government partner to help spend them.
Even before elections, the international community had seen a change. Last spring, the military junta government sounded the alarm of drought and food shortages to the UN, donors and NGOs, allowing food aid to flow in and avert a famine. The previous government had refused to admit to hunger woes, which cost countless lives during a famine in 2005.
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