Friday, February 19, 2010

Niger Coup Leads To New Government and Opportunity for Elections?

This is a fluid and developing situation, but reports yesterday indicated that the Niger military engaged in a coup to depose the sitting President. That sounds pretty bad for the President,  Mamadou Tandja, except that the Tandja may have seriously overstepped his authority and essentially became a dictator-in-chief by changing term limits and other laws limiting his authority.
Tandja, who drew criticism and sanctions for his constitutional reform that allowed him to stay in power beyond the end of his second term which expired in December, was in detention and in "very good condition", the junta said.

Most of the members of Tandja's cabinet were released by Friday afternoon, according to military sources, though their work was being done by their secretary generals.

Junta leader Djibo is an officer trained in Ivory Coast, Morocco and China who has served in U.N. peacekeeping missions. Other leaders include Colonel Djibril Hamidou, a key player in Niger's last coup in 1999 that paved the way for the vote that brought Tandja to power.

Despite the international condemnation, diplomats and analysts said the overthrow of Tandja could create an opportunity to hold the elections that were postponed by his unpopular constitutional reform.

"The junta will likely defer to international and domestic pressure for a return to democracy, and organise elections in the medium term," said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, Africa analyst for Eurasia Group.
platoon leader, Salou Djibo, was named head of the junta, which calls itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy. Djibo has had experience on peacekeeping missions with the United Nations and African Union missions.

The French and African Union were quick to condemn the coup and wanted to know the whereabouts of the former leader Mamadou Tandja. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also condemned the coup.

The situation in Niger has serious repercussions for the rest of the world since it is a major source of uranium and securing the supply of uranium is a priority. It's the third biggest supplier, and it was hoping to double its production by 2012. It's not clear how the coup will affect the uranium production and who the country does business with.

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