Niger: Military seek short transition

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United Nations delegations and representatives from the West African regional body Ecowas have been assured by the new government in Niger under a senior army officer, Col Salou Djibo, that democracy and a rule of law will be restored in the country.

“They [the military leaders] have assured us [UN, Ecowas] there will be an opening for everyone here in Niger, for an inter-Nigerien dialogue,” Ecowas Commission President Mohamed Ibn Chambas has said.

“It is this process that will lead to a new constitution and credible elections. 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,” Ibn Chambas added.

After Sunday deliberations, a spokesperson for the military authorities, Col Djibrilla Hima Hamidou, said a new constitution would be created to replace the one amended in August that stamp out limits on presidential terms of office.

“This is not an army with a putschist tradition, that is not the case. In 1999 we had a similar situation. We gave power back and we had 10 years of stability. We are going to do the same thing,” the military spokesperson told reporters.

On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets to show their support of the coup, many were reported to be shaking the hands of soldiers on the streets.

Where abouts of President Mamadou Tandja

According to Col Hamidou, President Tandja is in a service quarters of the presidency and would be attended to by the Red Cross:

“He [President Tandja] is being kept in very good conditions. For now, we are taking care of his security and his health,” Col Hamidou was quoted as saying.

On Sunday most of the governmental ministers taken with the president were released. However reports claim that 3 of the ministers are still under house arrest.

The military group known as the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, promised to turn Niger into an example of democracy and good governance and save its people from poverty, deception and corruption.

61% of the 14 million Nigeriens live on less than $1 a day despite the country’s massive reserves of uranium, according to the World Bank development report.

Mr Tandja was regarded by some analysts as a threat to West African democracy. Last August he abolished term limits, allowing him to prolong his stay in office.

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