Junta sacks Niger government after military coup

Niger's new military junta announced it had dissolved the government after a coup that toppled President Tandja.

Junta sacks Niger government after military coup

Niger's new military junta announced Friday it had dissolved the government after a coup that toppled President Mamadou Tandja in the impoverished but uranium-rich west African country.

The Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) announced that its head would be squadron leader Salou Djibo, whose heavily armed unit played a key role in Thursday's coup.

"The government is dissolved," said a statement signed by Djibo and read by an unnamed military officer on state television.

"The CSRD informs the population that public business will be run by secretaries of ministries and local government administrators."

Soldiers in Niger ousted Tandja amid gunbattles that killed at least three troops Thursday.

"On this day February 18, we the defense and security forces, decided to take our responsibilities in ending the tense political situation," said CSRD spokesman colonel Goukoye Abdoulkarim.

Commander of Niger's elite military unit and former member of the junta behind the 1999 coup, colonel Dijibrilla Hima Hamidou popularly known as "Pele" flanked the spokesman who announced the take over.

Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna, a former aide-de-camp of the 1999 coup leader commander Daouda Mallam Wanke, also stood next to Abdoulkarim.

The CSRD said it "has decided to suspend the constitution of the Sixth Republic and dissolve all its institutions".

The new military rulers' statement said they had closed the borders and imposed an overnight curfew.

The president of the CSDR has been identified as Salou Djibo. Other leaders of the Thursday coup included Colonel Adamou Harouna, who military sources said commands the Nigerien standby force of regional bloc ECOWAS, and Colonel Djibril Hamidou, a Niamey-based soldier and former spokesman for the junta that perpetrated a coup in 1999.

They gave no indication of how long they intended to hold power but called on Nigeriens and the international community to support their actions. The West African economic body ECOWAS said it would punish any unconstitutional power-grab.

Presidential term issue

Tensions had been high in Niger since Tandja dissolved parliament last year and changed the constitution to extend his rule following a referendum, a move that drew widespread criticism at home and led to international sanctions.

In June, Tandja dissolved the constitutional court that had ruled against him and assumed the power to rule by decree, brushing aside international criticism of the move, saying he was answerable only to the people of Niger.

Tandja was supposed to step down in December following two five-year terms in a row, but his so-called reforms removed most checks on his authority, abolished term limits and gave him an initial three more years in power without an election, an extension he said he needed to complete large-scale investment projects.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Niamey in November, calling for Tandja to resign.

The opposition Co-ordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic (CFDR), which comprises political parties, human rights and labour organisations, denounced the August 4 referendum as a "coup" and called for fresh elections to be organised.

The opposition also boycotted October 20 legislative elections, after which ECOWAS suspended Niger as a member and the European Union put a freeze on its development aid.

The US terminated trade benefits while former colonial power France also criticised the president's actions.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the situation was "very fluid" in Niger and the United States was closely monitoring it.

"Clearly, we do not in any way, shape or form, you know, defend violence of this nature, but clearly we think this underscores that Niger needs to move ahead with the elections and the formation of a new government," he said.


Agencies

Last Mod: 19 Şubat 2010, 15:29
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