Niger’s opposition leader, Hama Amadou probably does not have the strangest campaign story in all of Africa, but his is still a rare one. Currently still in prison, held on charges of baby trafficking from Nigeria, he still managed to win 17% of votes in Niger’s February elections. President Mahamadou Issoufou, the country’s incumbent president got 48% in the first round of voting, but failed to take a conclusive victory as an above 50% win is required.
The country will therefore proceed to run-off elections which will be held on Sunday. Mr Amadou who conducted his campaign from prison and maintains that the charges against him are politically motivated was actually slotted to take part in the run-off elections but the government has said today that he is due to be airlifted out of the country to receive specialist medical treatment.
Before the announcement today which has it that the opposition leader requires treatment for a chronic illness which he has suffered from for three years, his doctor had been arrested on Tuesday for spreading false news after telling the media that Mr Amadou had been hospitalized with a worsening condition.
The election race which occurred in February had an impressive number of 15 candidates running and was actually marred by accusations of repression and disqualification of voters. Of the 15 candidates, there were two other former prime ministers (like Mr. Amadou himself); Seyni Oumaru and Amadu Boubacar, along with a former president Mahamane Ousmane. The fact that despite all these; impressive contenders, hanging criminal charges and voting discrepancies, Mr. Amadou got away with 17% of votes suggests that he might have proved more of a formidable opponent during the race, without them.
Prior to the announcement of his health challenges, his party; Niger Democratic Movement (Moden) party which has said before the elections that they consider him “a political prisoner and hostage” of the regime, and would continue with him as their candidate, had said that he would boycott the vote. Whatever happens, we look ahead to Sunday’s run-off elections and its aftermath and hope that Mr. Amadou gets the medical help he needs.