Tomorrow Nigerien civil society activist Ali Idrissa faces a sentencing procedure that may leave him in prison for three years. Already unjustly detained after an arrest on politically motivated charges, Ali is representative of many activists thrown behind bars for daring to question their governments. (These include Natural Resource Governance Institute advisory council member Ilgar Mammadov, who has been incarcerated in Azerbaijan for five years.) Idrissa has been persecuted for many years, yet remains a steadfast champion of the idea that the citizens of Niger should benefit from the country’s mineral wealth:
The plight of Ali, Mammadov and many others is a result of a nefarious phenomenon known as “shrinking civic space”—it means that civil society actors are increasingly less able to hold their governments to account and is a dangerous anti-democratic development in many resource-rich countries.
In the interest of justice, the Nigerien courts should acquit Ali and drop all charges tomorrow.
Asmara Klein is the senior program officer for civic space at NRGI.