Leeds School of Social Sciences

Recount of Democratic Transition in Niger

Dr Olayinka Ajala, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, has published an article in The Conversation about the democratic transition in Niger.

In his piece titled "Niger’s democratic transition is good news, but the threat of insurgency remains high" Dr Ajala recounts that in December 2020 Niger held its first election to transfer power from one civilian regime to another. However, due to results being inconclusive a rerun is scheduled for February 2021.

The election marked the successful completion of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s two-term tenure. Issoufou assumed power in 2011 in what Ajala defines as widespread poverty and insecurity. His presidency helped give way to political stability, the growth of GDP, and the implementation of democracy. This was especially apparent in his decision to step down and call a democratic election.

Yet, despite key progress being made, there are still factors threatening the country’s political stability. A long running issue for Niger has been the trafficking of weapons, humans, and drugs, a problem for which the European Union has awarded the country $840 million to help the country combat trafficking through upgrading security infrastructure.

Another factor that is highlighted in the article as hindering development is conflict in neighboring countries. Islamist or terrorist groups operate in six of the seven countries that surround Niger, with Benin as the only the exception. These groups include Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. In addition to neighboring threats, Ajala draws on data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project to reveal that insurgent activities have also increased in Niger in the past few years.

Indeed, the threat of conflict is something that the newly elected president will need to confront. This alongside poverty has dominated the presidential campaign. Ajala states that the prospect of a peaceful democratic election is welcome. However, he seeks to emphasise the winner will be faced with tackling these fundamental issues and maintaining the stability that has been in place since 2011.

Dr Olayinka Ajala

Lecturer / Leeds School Of Social Sciences
Olayinka Ajala is a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Leeds Beckett University and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He previously worked for the Universities of York and Newcastle.

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