The second round of the presidential election in Niger, plagued by jihadist violence, was mourned Sunday by the death of seven electoral agents whose vehicle jumped on a mine.
Despite the insecurity caused by the jihadists in their country, voters in Niger voted between the favorite Mohamed Bazoum, loyal to the outgoing Mahamadou Issoufou, and the opponent Mahamane Ousmane, former president.
The ballots began to be counted in the evening, but the results will not be known for several days.
In the morning, seven local members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni) were killed in the explosion of their vehicle which ran over a mine that had just been laid in the region of Tillabéri (west) near Mali, the governor of this region, Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella, told AFP, adding that the explosion also left “three injured”.
The tragedy occurred in Waraou, a locality located in the town of Dargol in the Tillabéri region, about a hundred km from Niamey, an area known as “the three borders” between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
“It is a painful moment, it is a great shock for us, for us all, at a historic moment of our country”, declared the Nigerien Minister of the Interior, Alkache Alhada, speaking “of despicable act “and” barbarian “.
“A suspect was arrested, a Nigerien,” he said and polling stations were closed in the area after the explosion.
– “Horror situations” –
He accused those who laid the mine “of creating situations of horror and we will not allow this country to turn into a medieval dictatorship, because that is their goal”.
He also referred to “some minor incidents (…) without much impact on the conduct of the elections”.
At the beginning of January, after the first round of the presidential election, one hundred people were killed in the attack on two villages in the same region of Tillabéri, one of the worst massacres of civilians in this Sahel country regularly targeted by jihadist groups.
Insecurity is rife in the “three border zone” in the west with attacks by jihadist groups affiliated with the Islamic State organization, but also in the east hit by attacks by Nigerian jihadists from Boko Haram.
Some 7.4 million Nigeriens, out of a population of 22 million mostly too young to vote, were called to vote in the second round after the first of December 27.
Idrissa Gado, a 29-year-old student, said while voting in Niamey that “the next president must act against the rebels, it is the great concern of Niger that we must take care of, we want calm and security” .
Power candidate Mohamed Bazoum voted at Niamey City Hall, where armored vehicles and machine gun pickups provided security.
“I wish the winner had the chance with him, I wish she was on my side,” he said.
– The outgoing Issoufou “proud” –
Accompanied by his two wives, the outgoing Mahamadou Issoufou voted in the same place, noting that “Niger is facing immense challenges”, in particular security, demographic, climatic, economic, social and health with the Covid-19.
He said he was “proud to be the first democratically elected president in our history to be able to hand over the baton to another democratically elected president”.
It will be the first time that two elected presidents have succeeded each other in this country with a history of coups d’état since its independence in 1960.
Issoufou, 68, did not stand for re-election after his two constitutional terms, unlike many African heads of state who cling to power.
Mahamane Ousmane voted in a popular district of Zinder (south-east), his stronghold and hometown.
“If ever the citizens notice that these elections have again (…) been rigged elections, well I fear that the situation is difficult to manage”, he warned.
Between the two rounds, the opposition said they would not recognize the results if they felt they were tainted with fraud.
The real success of the ballot will lie in the acceptance of the results by all parties once the results have been announced. Bazoum had won 39.3% of the vote in the first round, Ousmane almost 17% and the first part with a clear advantage.
But if the vote in the capital has historically been won by the opposition, that of the country’s second city, Zinder, is more uncertain: this region, an important electoral basin, is the stronghold of the two candidates who spent the last days of the election there. the campaign to try to convince their constituents.
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