Army to run Niger until election
Junta says polls ‘as soon as possible’:
[ Niger coup]
* Military to run country until new
* Third coup in West Africa in the last 18
* Thousands took to the streets of the capital
Niamey on Saturday to show support for the army
NIGER: Niger’s military plans to run the uranium-exporting country
until politicians agree on a new constitution and are ready for fresh
elections, West Africa’s regional mediator said after meeting the junta
on Sunday. No timeframe has been set for the transition back to civilian
rule but a spokesman for the junta said on Sunday that elections would
be held “as soon as possible” and the situation was similar to a coup in
1999 that led to transparent elections.
Niger’s military ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a swift coup last
week, putting an end to months of political wrangling between him and
The seizure was formally condemned but it is also widely seen at home
and abroad as a chance to end a political impasse.
“They have assured us there will be an opening for everyone here in
Niger, for an inter-Nigerien dialogue,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, president
of the ECOWAS Commission, told reporters after meeting the military
junta. “It is this process that will lead to a new constitution and
credible elections,” Chambas added. “They said they want a short
transition that ends as soon as possible, but it is also the political
dialogue that will define the timetable.”
Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Niamey on
Saturday to show support for the army, but also to call for elections to
Tandja and his rivals were locked in a dispute over the president’s
extension and deepening of his powers last year, a move that drew
criticism and sanctions from abroad.
Although he held a successful referendum that officially gave him
three more years in power after his mandate ran out in December, the row
divided the nation.
The military ended it by blasting their way into Tandja’s palace to
The junta says it had to act to end tensions.
“We were encouraged by the fact that the authorities themselves are
mindful that this is not their normal function and they are eager to
finish this task and go back to their normal military and security
duties,” Chambas said.
It was the third coup in West Africa in the last 18 months, in what
some observers say is an alarming shift away from democracy in a region
seeking stability and investment.
But a spokesman for the military junta, known as the Supreme Council
for the Restoration of Democracy, said the 1999 coup, when the army
ousted the president but held elections soon afterwards, should allay
concerns about the military’s plans.
“If you want proof, in 1999 we had a similar situation and we handed
back power and we had 10 years of stability. We are going to do the same
thing,” Colonel Djibril Hamidou Hima said.
Hamidou Hima also rejected accusations that the army, which has
ousted four of Niger’s presidents, was too eager to step in. “This is
not the case. We left the political actors to try and find a solution.
This did not happen. Social tensions got worse. We didn’t launch a
coup - we just re-imposed legitimacy, because this had already
disappeared,” he said. Hamidou Hima said Tandja was being held in a
villa in Niamey. The prime minister, interior minister and finance
minister are also under house arrest.
Despite a flurry of international criticism and Niger’s suspension
from the African Union, many in Niger and diplomatic circles say the
ousting of Tandja has unblocked a political stalemate that months of
ECOWAS-run talks failed to resolve.
Niamey, Monday, Reuters