Home » The Malian junta reactivates the controversy over the nationality of the Nigerien president

The Malian junta reactivates the controversy over the nationality of the Nigerien president

by archyde

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During his speech before the UN, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, acting Prime Minister of Mali, sharply attacked Niger’s President Mohammed Bazoum, claiming that he was not Nigerien. A far from trivial outing that aroused outraged reactions in Niamey.

An incendiary diatribe. During his speech before the United Nations assembly in New York on Saturday 24 September, the interim Prime Minister of Mali renewed his acerbic attacks against the France, described as a “junta” obscurantist.

The colonel Abdoulaye Maigaalso wanted to strike back at African leaders who have expressed criticism of the military junta in power in Bamako, including the president of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and that of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum.

The attacks against the latter, described as a “foreigner who claims to be from Niger”, particularly caused a reaction in Niamey and aroused a real outcry within the power, a deputy going so far as to ask for a public apology as well as the repatriation of the Nigerien Ambassador to Mali.

An old controversy

Returning Sunday from the United States, after his intervention in New York, Mohamed Bazoum has so far refrained from commenting. But in his camp, condemnations fuse. “The drunkenness of the Malian junta has made him forget the sense of protocol and diplomacy. He (Abdoulaye Maïga) has shamed Africa and the civilized worldcastigated Youssouf Mohamed ElmouctarMinister delegate within the government.

Like him, several observers have denounced on the networks a low blow to the Nigerien president because this attack refers to an old controversy well known in the country.

At the end of March 2019, Mohamed Bazoum, former Minister of the Interior and loyal ally of President Mahamadou Issoufou, was nominated by the ruling party as a presidential candidate. Several members of the opposition then tried to invalidate his candidacy, accusing the candidate of having provided a false certificate of nationality. This query is finally rejected by the Constitutional Court in December 2020, which considers it “unfounded”, but the accusations persist.

“Opponents think that the Constitutional Court is subservient to power, so its decisions seem questionable to it,” underlines Nigerien political science researcher Rahmane Idrissa.

“By attacking Mohamed Bazoum on the question of ‘questionable legitimacy’, Abdoulaye Maïga knows very well what he is doing. As he considers the Nigerien president to be an enemy of the junta, he is trying to hurt him by pressing a angle of attack of the Nigerien opposition. This posture finds an echo in the western region of the country, where public opinion is very close to the positions of Bamako”.

Racist attack?

On social networks, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga’s statements have sparked heated debate, with some accusing Mali of stirring up community tensions and even of making anti-Arab remarks. Because President Bazoum belongs to an ultra-minority ethnic group in the country, the Oulad Souleymane, originally from Libya, part of whom migrated to Niger several hundred years ago.

“Because of his Arabism, questions about his identity can be perceived as discrimination. But in reality it is a fairly frequent political maneuver in Niger to exclude rivals and ensure access to power” analyzes another political expert in Niger, on condition of anonymity. “It happened to former President Mamadou Tanja, whose opponents had tried, in vain, to exploit the Mauritanian origins to invalidate the candidacy. Accusing the Malian authorities of stirring up community hatred therefore seems to me to be a false On the other hand, by attacking Mohamed Bazoum on his nationality, they contradict their pan-African discourse, of an Africa which must unite against the Western enemy”.

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth

Faced with the mounting controversy, the supporters of the Malian junta, very active on social networks, defend the position of Abdoulaye Maïga, considering that he only did, during his speech, respond to the numerous attacks made by his enemies.

The sympathizers of the military power in Bamako reproach the Prime Minister of Niger for his recent criticisms of the affair of the 46 Ivorian soldiers detained in Bamako but also older outings and in particular his attack on the junta at the time of the death in detention of the Malian opponent Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, in March 2022.

Finally and above all, his many statements on the deteriorating security situation on the border with Mali go down badly in Bamako, which claims for its part to gain ground against terrorists.

“It is true that the very offensive posture in public of Mohamed Bazoum vis-à-vis Mali raises questions. His predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou, who pursued the same policy and also maintained good relations with France, was probably more diplomatic to manage conflicts with its neighbours”, analyzes Rahmane Idrissa.

“On the security level, on the other hand, it is the Nigerien president who is right. The junta can say that it has reinforced the Malian army, which really needed it, but it is far from enough and it would do better to recognize it, if only out of respect for the civilians who are being massacred around the regions of Gao and Ménaka“.

On the Nigerian side, the authorities are not taking off. On Sunday, Mahmoud Saghdoun, a deputy close to power, violently insulted the interim Prime Minister of Mali, calling him a “belligerent little colonel”, during an interview. “We demand the recall of our ambassador to Mali as well as the breaking of diplomatic relations until these soldiers return to the right path and officially apologize,” he concluded. A request that has so far not been commented on by the presidency of Niger.

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