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'Supreme Council' claims to have suspended constitution

Video by Georja Calvin-Smith

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-02-19

Niger's constitution has been suspended following a coup bid against President Mamadou Tandja, a group calling itself the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) claimed on state radio on Thursday.

Niger's constitution has been suspended following a coup bid, a group calling itself the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) claimed on Thursday on state radio.
  
"The Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, of which I am spokesman, has decided to suspend the constitution of the Sixth Republic and dissolve all its institutions," Colonel Goukoye Abdoulkarim said.
  
He called on the people of Niger to "remain calm and stay united around the ideals postulated by the CSRD" to "make Niger an example of democracy and good governance".
  
Earlier on Thursday Niger troops had stormed the presidency complex amid gun battles that killed at least three in Niamey and seized President Mamadou Tandja and his cabinet in a coup d'état, diplomats said.


Gunfire and loud explosions reverberated across the city as soldiers assaulted the palace where Tandja, the country's strongman for the past decade, had been presiding over a cabinet meeting.

France urged its nationals in Niamey to stay indoors following a report from a senior French official - speaking on condition of anonymity - that a coup attempt was indeed under way.

Background: Niger's political crisis

A controversial presidency

Tandja, 71, has spent more than a decade as president of the uranium-rich West African country.

The leader drew criticism and sanctions after dissolving parliament and implementing a constitutional reform in 2009 that gave him additional powers and extended his time in office beyond the second five-year mandate, which expired in December.

A widely criticised constitutional referendum in August eliminated many of the remaining checks on Tandja’s authority, abolished term limits, and gave him three more years in power without an election.

The constitutional court deemed that vote illegal, prompting Tandja to abolish the court and replacing its members with appointees of his choice.

Niger has since been isolated on the international stage. West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS suspended Niger in October, and the US ended trade benefits for the country in December. Meanwhile, the EU delayed aid payments to the country, while former colonial power France was also critical of Tandja following his actions.

Opposition party leaders ‘likely’ behind coup attempt

Negotiations between Niger's government and opposition leaders in order to find an exit to the political stand-off were suspended last week, having repeatedly stalled since they began on Dec. 21.

According to Africa specialist Douglas Yates, interviewed by FRANCE 24 as the situation in Niamey unfolded, those behind the coup attempt are indeed likely “leaders of the opposition parties, because those are the ones in a position to take power.”

As Yates explained, Niger’s status as one of the world’s biggest uranium producers is a key factor in the political turmoil that has gripped the country, coming to a head on Thursday. “The real prize here is the big uranium contracts,” Yates noted. “Niger is a uranium-dependent country. Most of its trade with the outside world is selling its uranium..[...]..These kinds of contracts have signature bonuses, they also have terms that are negotiated. So he who controls the presidential palace also controls the uranium revenues.”

Date created : 2010-02-19

  • NIGER

    Soldiers seize President Tandja in coup

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