Niger. In January, French mining company AREVA signed a contract worth over SEK 10 billion to build what will become the world’s second largest uranium mine in northern Niger. According to countryaah, work started in May, and when the mine is ready to be put into operation in 2012, it is estimated to produce up to 5,000 tonnes per year and more than double the country’s uranium exports.
At the same time, peace strikes existed between the government and the Tuareg rebels operating in the north, in the same area as the uranium. President Mamadou Tandja met in May to take the time personally to represent the rebels and offered them amnesty if they dropped the weapons. In June, the Tuareg states agreed on a ceasefire and a peace agreement was signed later. In October, general amnesty was announced. Niger has great hope that the mineral wealth will give the country a good economic development. Growth has also been high in recent years.
President Tandja, who according to the constitution would be forced to resign in the fall, announced in May that he planned to call a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow him to extend his mandate. He motivated that he deserved to be left behind because he made such great efforts for the development of the country and partly had to take personal responsibility for the completion of projects started. However, his message was met by extensive protests. Demonstrations and strikes were followed by opposition parties, community organizations and trade unions forming a common front against the president. One of Tandja’s partners left the coalition government. When the Constitutional Court rejected the plans for a referendum, the president dissolved the government and took all power himself. After the court declared twice more the referendum contrary to the constitution, he dismissed all judges and appointed new ones. The referendum was then carried out in August, with the result that just over 92 percent agreed to allow Tandja to remain president for three more years, with the opportunity thereafter to be re-elected an unlimited number of times. The new Constitutional Court quickly approved the result. Despite appeals from the West African cooperation organization ECOWAS to abstain, Tandja in October arranged parliamentary elections, which gave parties loyal to him a clear majority. Most of the opposition boycotted the election. The EU had already canceled some aid projects and ECOWAS now excluded Niger from the organization.
Despite impressive economic growth, Niger was very recently on the UN agency’s UNDP list of living conditions in the world. The list measures conditions such as life expectancy, level of education and general standard of living.