Niger junta arrests ex-ministers in suspected plot


Police in Niger have arrested three former ministers suspected of plotting against the ruling military junta in the uranium-exporting country, interior minister Cisse Ousmane said.

The arrests were the latest sign that the junta is tightening its grip after last month ousting President Mamadou Tandja, who had defied international and domestic criticism to push through constitutional changes extending his own term in power.
“They have been questioned about subversive activities against the authorities,” Ousmane told reporters, without giving details of those activities.

Since taking over in a coup that was largely well-received in the West African country, the so-called Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) junta has appointed a transitional government and promised elections, although without naming a date.

A police source said the ministers were arrested late on Sunday. “There were a dozen people, among them former finance minister Lamine Zeine and former justice minister Garba Lompo, who we have questioned and detained since Sunday evening,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We are investigating schemes intended to harm public order,” he said. Former minister of public works Lamido Oumarou was also arrested, the source said, without elaborating on what the suspects were thought to be plotting.

Foreign observers have urged elections be held as soon as possible, while investors are on the watch for signs that the junta might review deals struck under the deposed president.

Last week, Ousmane had promised a crackdown on activities deemed to endanger public order. “Every act, every opinion which disturbs peace and public order will henceforth be punished according to the law,” he said on state television.

Junta leader Major Salou Djibo, like other soldiers who have seized power in the region, has promised to clean up the corruption he said characterised the former regime.

Earlier this month, civil rights groups said the junta should review and possibly renegotiate dozens of resource exploitation contracts.

Firms including French nuclear group Areva, Toronto-listed Cameco and China National Petroleum Corporation are active in Niger’s resources industry.

Pic: Niger junta leader- Major Salou Djibo