Socialist Priorities in Africa at the SI meeting in Niger
24-25 April 2006
The Socialist International Africa Committee met in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on 24-25 April 2006, hosted by the Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger, PNDS, to address the priorities for socialists and social democrats in Africa.
The meeting, which was inaugurated on Monday 24 April at the Palais des Congrès in Niamey attended by delegates of Socialist International member parties, leading personalities from Niger including the Prime Minister and other government authorities, and more than 3,000 political activists, was opened by three speeches : by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the PNDS; by Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International, and by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Chair of the Africa Committee and First Secretary of the Socialist Party of Senegal.
Mahamadou Issoufou thanked the participants for their presence, which he said was testimony to the solidarity of the International towards the continent and Niger in particular, and he emphasised that it was the Africa Committee which, within the Socialist International, acted as the voice for the peoples of the continent in the global struggle of socialists for a fairer and more humane world. Luis Ayala expressed the SI’s solidarity, encouragement and support to its African member parties and to all those in Africa fighting for freedom, peace, justice and to overcome the challenges and difficulties faced by the continent, adding that "it will be in Africa, and nowhere else, that the measure of our success or our failure will be the most evident and the most clear". Ousmane Tanor Dieng underlined that the African continent "offered a contrasting face" and even if some hope was permitted, there remained however very serious threats; but he recalled that at the heart of the socialist project were equality of opportunity, the fight against poverty but also the championing of political, economic, social and cultural rights for all.
The meeting’s debates focused on three themes: ‘Pro-active policies for the resolution of conflicts’, ‘The fight against poverty: social democratic programme and priorities’ and ‘Democratic governance in the continent’. The first theme was introduced by Hassami Massoudou, a former minister and Deputy Secretary General of the PNDS, who highlighted that after decades of conflicts, Africa was "in urgent need of peace". During the analysis of this theme, the delegates affirmed that peace, to be real and lasting, required not only putting into practice policies which eliminated the deep-rooted causes of the conflicts, but also a strategy for prevention of conflicts, through public policies, through the United Nations as an intermediary, and through a strengthened partnership of regional and sub-regional organisations in Africa. Different conflict situations at the forefront of the delegates’ concerns were examined, and the sending of a high-level mission of the Socialist International to Côte d’Ivoire was agreed in an effort to contribute to a way out of the crisis and to the successful holding of democratic elections in that country.
The second theme on the agenda was presented by Aïchatou Kané, a former minister and member of the National Executive of the PNDS, who analysed the strategy to reduce poverty in Niger. In their discussions, the delegates recognised that poverty was without doubt the major challenge confronting Africa and also noted the lack of political will at global level to halve extreme poverty by 2015, in line with the crucial Millennium Development Goals. The debate gave the Committee the opportunity to reaffirm its support and to launch an appeal for the implementation of a World Solidarity Fund, as voted for by the UN General Assembly.
On the second day of the meeting, the delegates addressed the third theme on the agenda, which was introduced by Mohamed Bazoum, a former minister and Vice-President of the PNDS, who highlighted the difficulties facing democracy in Africa. The Committee examined the obstacles facing the democratic experiences currently underway in Africa and defined social democratic responses such as, among others, the promotion of free and transparent elections, the guarantee of democratic alternance of power, freedom of the press and the development of a democratic culture. In particular, the Committee proposed the creation of a Willy Brandt Fund within the framework of supporting political parties and also invited the United Nations to work on this theme. The delegates also discussed the specific cases of Senegal, condemning the deviation of an increasingly arbitrary regime, of Guinea where the situation is particularly worrying, and the case of Chad, where the absence of democracy is behind almost forty years of conflict. Within the framework of the meeting, a delegation of the Socialist International also held, on the second day, discussions on the themes addressed by the Committee in Niger with His Excellency the President of the Republic, Mamadou Tandja.
The results of the discussions were reflected in a document adopted as the Declaration of Niamey, and following a proposal by the Secretary General of the Socialist International, it was agreed that the next meeting of the Africa Committee should be held in Ghana this coming September.