Coup in Niger

Democracy: Assassination does not mean change

election needed to get back in Africa's mainstream

April 18, 1999

THE COLONEL who overthrew Niger's first elected government in 1996 was recently assassinated by his bodyguards. Their commander is the new president. Neighboring Nigeria's ruling generals, preparing to give up power to an elected president themselves, have demanded democracy for Niger. Washington should do no less.

The knee-jerk promise by the new regime of Daouda Malam Wanke to hold elections after nine months, if actually fulfilled, would have a profound effect. Democracy is growing in Africa. Elections are proving a better way than coups to overthrow presidents. Nigeria is the latest as well as the biggest to join this mainstream.

President Wanke has no legitimacy and will be slow winning recognition. If he wants to last long, though, he might consider abolishing the presidential guard. No one knows better how treacherous it can be.

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