Communication Between Citizens and Niger Government Key to an Environment Less Conducive to Violent Extremism

Northern Niger has long been marked by instability and tense relations between citizens and the government, including military forces. The Agadez and Tahoua regions, which harbor the country’s vast uranium resources and most important mining sites, have repeatedly experienced conflicts among traditional pastoralist societies, growing urban communities, mining companies, and central authorities over issues such as the use of land and water resources and the environmental impact of the mining industry. These challenges have been exacerbated by an increasingly volatile security situation in the Sahel -- an arid region of Sub-Saharan Africa south of the Sahara desert. At the crossroads of century-old trade routes, Agadez has become a center for the trafficking of migrants to Europe, arms and drugs. Since the eruption of Mali’s armed conflict and increased incursions of Islamist terrorists into Nigerien territory, the government of President Mahamadou Issoufou has stepped up the presence of military forces in the north. Meanwhile, many citizens feel disenfranchised and frustrated over what they perceive as the government’s failure to provide basic services. Prior to Niger’s February 2016 legislative elections, NDI organized a series of forums where citizens discussed the priorities in their communities with political parties and their local candidates.The forums and ensuing meetings revealed increasing tensions between Niger’s military and the population in the area.

Read More…

Promoting Democratic Governance of the Security Sector

Members of the Defense and Security Commission of Burkina Faso's National Assembly meet members of the armed forces during an informational visit to a military base in Kaya.

Violence and crime pose serious threats to citizen security. A lack of response to these threats from authorities erodes public trust in government institutions and weakens prospects for stable democracy. Maintaining the peace and ensuring the security of citizens is necessary for a democracy to develop and endure. Likewise, democratic institutions, such as parliaments, media and civil society, help guarantee a focus on citizen interest and public good, especially related to civilian oversight of the security sector. Threats to citizen security are particularly notable in West Africa’s Sahel region and Central America’s Northern Triangle, areas where NDI works to bridge the gap between citizens’ security needs and the state’s ability to meet them.

Read More…

Six Critical African Elections To Watch in 2016

Over the course of 2016, a total of 32 countries in Africa will hold elections from local to presidential (view interactive map). Map is based on U.N.-defined boundaries. Credit: NDI CC BY-NC

Africa is home to a wealth of political diversity and regime types. In 2015, elections brought about the first peaceful transfer of power to Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria, but also led to mass civil unrest and instability in Burundi. Over the course of 2016, 32 countries on the continent will hold elections from local to presidential. However, the context of each election varies not only in political landscape, but also in the strength of democratic institutions and norms embodied within each country’s political system. In countries like Ghana, political actors will compete in a fierce struggle of wooing enough voters amid an increasingly critical public. In Uganda, the competition will center upon establishing the rules of the electoral game, as a long-time ruler works to tilt the playing field in his favor. Understanding the political background of each election allows for a richer narrative in the journey toward democratic consolidation.

Read More…

NDI President Visit to West Africa Highlights Three Important Elections

NDI President Kenneth Wollack (center) and Dr. Chris Fomunyoh (right) meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.

The next year and a half will be a critical period for democracy across Africa. In 2015 and 2016, African countries will hold more than 35 presidential and legislative elections. The outcomes of these elections have the potential to spark a wave of democratic change for the continent. It was within this context that NDI President Ken Wollack traveled to Burkina Faso, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire, accompanied by Dr. Chris Fomunyoh, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa. All three countries will hold elections before the end of the year.

Read More…