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Africa

Junta to run country until elections, promises new constitution

©

Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-21

Niger's new military leaders, who seized power earlier this week, promised international envoys a new constitution and a 'quick' return to democracy, without setting a date. Thousands demonstrated on Sunday to show support for the junta.

AFP - The leaders of a coup that seized power in Niger promised on Sunday a return to democracy and a new constitution, amid popular support for the ouster of longtime strongman Mamadou Tandja.
   
The junta that seized president Tandja and members of his government in Thursday's coup also pledged to fully involve political parties and civil society in talks to set up the new constitution, said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the 15-nation regional economic bloc ECOWAS.
   
"We have discussed with the members of the junta how the country can get back to normalised constitutional life as quickly as possible," Chambas told AFP.
   
"They have given us the necessary guarantees and all this will be done with the participation of civil society and the political parties," he said.
   
"Dialogue will be opened with all the vital forces of the nation which will end in the

Background: Niger's political crisis

drawing up of a new constitution and a period of transition," Chambas added.
   
Chambas was speaking after meeting the junta leadership with UN representative Said Djinnit and African Union commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra.
   
Following the talks, a junta leader told reporters Tandja was being held at the presidential palace in Niamey since his overthrow.
   
"Mr Tandja is in a service quarters of the presidency and is being kept in very good conditions," Colonel Djibrilla Hamidou Hima, one of the top military leaders told reporters.
   
He said three of Tandja's ministers, seized with the president during a cabinet meeting at the presidency last Thursday, were still being held "for their security".
   
"The former prime minister, the former minister of the interior and the former minister for finance are still under surveillance for their security," the colonel said.
   
"Because they hold very sensitive portfolios, we are bound to ensure their security," he added.
   
Tandja's party has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the former leader and government officials still being held by the officers who led an assault on Niger's presidential palace on Thursday.
   
But the military rulers continue to whip up popular support among the impoverished country's 15 million people.
   
Thousands of people staged fresh demonstrations Sunday in support of Niger's new military junta in a the latest outpouring of support from natives of this uranium rich west African country.
   
The demonstrators, including students and civil servants, took part in a "gigantic demonstration" in the west African country's second city Zinder, official Voix du Sahel radio said.
   
The turnout was "to salute the defence and security forces for the patriotic work which it has accomplished," the radio said.
   
Opposition parties which had rallied international condemnation of Tandja for unilaterally extending his presidential mandate last year had called for a massive show of support for the junta.
   
Supporters chanted "Long Live the Army" and other pro-junta slogans as they marched through the southern city.
   
A colonel from the junta greeted the marchers outside the headquarters of the local government.
   
The radio said similar pro-junta demonstrations had been held in the southern town of Dosso and Tahoua, in the west.
   
Around 10,000 people marched through the capital Niamey on Saturday to welcome the coup.
   
The UN, AU and ECOWAS have condemned the overthrow of Tandja, a strongman who had led the uranium-rich nation for more than a decade.
   
Niger's new military leaders have already promised to hold elections, although they have yet to fix a date.
   
"We plan to organise elections but first we have to stabilise the situation," a junta

Africa's constitutional flip-flops
leader, Colonel Djibrilla Hamidou Hima, told journalists in Mali on Saturday.
   
Speaking in Bamako, Hima said he had "explained" the reasons for the coup to west African leaders gathered in the Malian capital for a summit and they "understood us".
   
The AU has suspended Niger while the West African bloc kicked out Niger after Tandja changed the constitution to extend his grip on power.
   
Niger's new rulers, the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), suspended the constitution that Tandja forced through in a contested August referendum. They also dissolved his government.
   
The United States called for a "speedy return to democracy," while former colonial ruler France demanded fresh elections within months.

Date created : 2010-02-21

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