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Friday, 19 February 2010

Niger in political upheavel as military junta deposes old government

A military coup has taken place in the African country of Niger this week, leaving the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States in confusion as to what the usurper administration has in store for the country's governance.

The successful coup was carried out on Thursday by Major Adamou Harouna, during which gunfights in the capital Niamey occurred between the rival factions of military loyalists and the former Nigerien government under President Mamadou Tandja, who is currently detained by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy.

It has been revealed by a SCRD spokesman what the intentions of the junta are: it cites the restoration of democracy and aims to defend the population against poverty, deception and corruption. The SCRD is headed by Col Salou Djibo, who is now de facto leader of Niger.

For Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, listed 182nd (last place) in the UNDP Human Development Index, this is the most recent political setback since last August when President Tandja overruled democratic obligations and extended his tenure.

Former colonial power France, which ceased to govern Niger in the 1960s, is critical of this latest political dilemma by Niger's designated military. French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said that "France condemns the taking of power by non-constitutional means".

Ecowas has also voiced its outrage at yet another demonstration of unconstitutional changes to power in Niger, which has seen military takeovers occur since its approved independence. Niger is uranium-rich, which means its in the economic interests of others as to how this pans out.

For France especially this shift in power from the controversial Tandja government to the unconstitutional SCRD is an affront to specific spheres of business in Niger. French firm Areva has apparently invested around £970m into constructing the world's 2nd biggest uranium mine in Niger.

The outcome of current negotiations between the new junta and the old party under Tandja will probably reveal an expected handover of all state responsibility to the SCRD, despite claims from one opposition activist that "they are not interested in political leadership".

This transitional political period could indicate the arrival of another new military dictatorship in Africa, although the scale to which it would operate is unlikely to be as notorious as that of previous examples like Idi Amin's dictatorship of Uganda in the 70s.

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