Niger’s President-elect Mohamed Bazoum has ruled out a power-sharing deal with the opposition and blamed it for bringing children from rural areas for post-election protests.
Governing party candidate Bazoum was declared the winner of the country’s presidential election runoff on Tuesday, setting off allegations of fraud by the opposition which also organised protests in which at least two people died and more than 400 were arrested.
The electoral commission said Bazoum secured 55.75 percent of the votes cast on February 21, while opposition candidate and former President Mahamane Ousmane garnered 44.25 percent.
Ousmane disputed the announcement, saying he had narrowly won with 50.3 percent of the vote.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bazoum said no power-sharing deal was possible as he won overwhelmingly, adding that “in our electoral system, it’s impossible to cheat”.
“Their representatives were part of the whole voting process and then they agreed on that fraud,” Bazoum said, before addressing the protesters as “thieves”.
“They were children. They are not protesters and they have no political vision. They are thieves attacking Arabs and Tuaregs’ shops.”
On Thursday, Niger’s Interior Minister Alkache Alhada told reporters that one of the two deaths occurred as a result of an epileptic fit while the other person was shot dead.
There was also “destruction of infrastructure, of public and private property”, he added.
Bazoum belongs to the small Awlad Suleiman tribe, which exists in Chad and Libya. In Niger, the tribe is based on its southeastern borders with Chad.
Being the first Arab to be named president, Bazoum said that he was reluctant in the beginning to run for the presidency as he belonged to an ethnic minority, but was convinced to do so by outgoing President Mahamadou Issofou.
“I belong to this small tribe but he encouraged me to run for [the] presidency,” Bazoum said.
“I am proud because we succeeded twice to transfer a civilian governance to another civilian governance in a democratic system. I am also very proud that people voted for a candidate from a small tribe and that means people in Niger are united and transcendent. Some problems that face most of the African countries such as tribalism, racism – thank God that we avoided those things.”
Bazoum was the country’s foreign affairs minister from 1995 to 1996 and again from 2011 to 2015 before being named the interior minister in 2016.
He revealed a plan to fight extremism in his country, saying that he is not very keen on international help.
“I have a programme to take soldiers from the local tribes in the region – from Gorane tribes, Arabs and the Kanuri – to train them and to hire them in the national army and the national guard. When you have brave people from that region, they will become a force.”