Niger junta should leave within a year: commission

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Niger’s military-led transitional government should hand over power to civilians within a year, a coalition of the West African nation’s political and business representatives said.

“The general agreement over the course of our debate was 12 months,” said Morou Amadou, president of the 131-member national advisory council set up by the government, on state radio. “The report will be sent to (the transitional government).”

Niger’s military toppled the regime of President Mamadou Tandja in a dramatic attack on the presidential palace on February 18, later promising to clean up politics in the uranium-producing nation before scheduling an election.

The international community is eager to see a return to democratic rule in the country, which has drawn billions of dollars worth in oil and mining investment and where al Qaeda cells operate.

But Western powers have been reluctant to forcefully condemn the overthrow of Tandja, who in 2009 orchestrated a constitutional rejig that extended his time in office and broadened his powers.

Junta chief Major Salou Djibo appointed a transitional government in March and a spokesman said no members of the transitional team will be allowed to run in elections, for which no date has yet been set.

Djibo Hamani, a member of the national advisory council, told reporters last Friday that preparations for elections could potentially begin in October.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and facing a severe food shortage this year.

But it has drawn investment from companies such as Areva and China National Petroleum Corp, and there has been no sign the projects have been set back by the military coup.

The head of African regional bloc ECOWAS said he hoped Niger would restore civilian rule soon.
“Experience has shown that the longer a transition lasts, the greater the chances tensions will build in the process,” ECOWAS president James Victor Gbeho told reporters during a trip to Niamey.

Pic: Major Salou Djibo of Niger

Source: www.af.reuters.com