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Interview with M. Issoufou, President of Niger: “Poverty remains the main ally of Jidahists” 0

Bruxelles – “No ransom was ever paid”. President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou denies the persistent rumors regarding the alleged payment of a  €20 million  ransom to the kidnappers of French hostages released in October after two years of captivity. President Issoufou, in this interview with Afronline and Sahel media during his Brussels visit to participate in the European Development Days, reiterated “the need to join forces on security measures and to act at regional level to face common threats”.

However, Jihadists and criminal organizations can’t be defeated without a greater commitment in development, as “poverty is the main ally of Jihadists and criminal organizations”.

Niger is indeed one of the poorest country in the world. It ranks last among 186 states in the 2012 Human Development Index of the United Nations. To help the country out of poverty, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, recently announced in Niamey the decision to provide €542 million to Niger under the 11th EDF (2014-2020), compared to €508 million provided under the 10th EDF. “The European Union (EU) will intervene in four priority areas,” said Mahamadou Issoufou: food security, social sectors, infrastructures as well as security and internal stability.

You were the person behind the liberation of the hostages abducted in Niger but a controversy arose over  the conditions of their liberation. Paris and Niamey denied  any ransom payment, without convincing the public, especially in Niger and France. Do you confirm stand by this statement?

I do: no ransom was ever paid. We have used  – as I have already declared – other arguments that allowed us to reach these results. And I would like to highlight that these hostages have been detained for more than 3 years, during which Niger was committed to create all the conditions to set them free, as they were kidnapped in our territory. We obtained their liberation without paying any ransom. I strongly insist on this.

Which are nowadays the best means to effectively  fight terrorism in the Sahel region?

There’s a short-term answer and a long-term one. The former is to strengthen security measures: each country has to make regulations to defend both its borders and the security of the people and goods within its territory. Countries should also join forces on security measures to face common threats. This is an immediate solution.

The long-term solution is development: both social and economic. We see a connection between security and development. These, along with the fight against poverty, can create the conditions for social and economic development. Poverty is the main ally of jihadists and criminal organizations: if we end poverty, we will take a significant step towards securing  the Sahel.

Do you think that countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal  do enough to eradicate terrorism?

All countries  know they need to act against common threats such as terrorism and criminal organizations, we are joining our forces to face these situations.

You are here to participate in the European Development Days (EDD), what are your aims regarding this event?

My purpose is linked to the theme of the European Development days: the post-2015 development agenda.

We defined the Millennium Development Goals some years ago: now we are here to assess the result of what we have done so far and what we should aim for beyond 2015.

The EDD allowed us to reflect deeply on the post-2015 agenda. I am also particularly satisfied with the wide agreement on security as the main condition for development: this shared belief  has been reached only recently.

The EU gives significant aid funds to Niger, but insufficient use of these funds has negatively affected  development in Niger. What will you do to reverse this trend and avoid discouraging your partners?

The trend has already been reversed: the EU already allocated resources to Niger through the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). We just signed the last conventions  and we will use one hundred per cent of the resources allocated to Niger. This will happen despite the delay caused by the block of European cooperation funds due to the political crisis of 2009-2010, we will make up for this delay. I am also pleased  that the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will support Niger in key sectors by further increasing resources compared to the 10th EDF.

Click here to read the French version

By Joshua Massarenti (Afronline.org), in collaboration with Sud FM (Senegal), Les Echos and Réseau Jamana (Mali), Radio Anfani (Niger), Le Calame (Mauritania), Radio Horizon FM (Burkina Faso) and L’Autre Quotodien (Benin).

Translated from French into English by Evelina C. Urgolo

© Afronline.org, Sud FM, Le Calame, Les Echos, Réseau Jamana, Radio Anfani, Radio Horizon FM, L’Autre Quotidien.

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