As previously pledged, the military regime that suddenly seized power in Niger from the democratically-elected president just over a week ago in a violent coup d’état has begun taking steps to restore democratic rule:
As its promised transition to democratic rule begins, the military junta that overthrew Nigerien president Mamadou Tandja on February 18 has named a former information minister, Mahamadou Danda, as the new prime minister while retaining legislative and executive powers for itself.
Danda, 59, is seen as unaffiliated to any political party, was appointed on Feb. 23 by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (known by its French acronym, CSRD).
In a declaration broadcast nationally the previous day, CSRD head Djibo Salou was announced as head of state and the government; the junta will, for the moment, have the final word in governing the country.
Marou Amadou, president of a coalition of groups opposed to the ousted president known as the United Front To Safeguard Democratic Gains (FUSAD, after its French acronym) believes this first decree provides further guarantees of the junta’s intention to return power to civilians.
“The length of this transition will be decided after the consultations with all political and social stakeholders in the country announced by the junta,” Amadou told IPS. He hopes the transition will be neither too slow, nor overly hasty.
Because of the falling popularity of the democratic administration — due to it’s consolidation of power and the famine conditions nationwide — the coup has been met with generally positive reactions within Niger, though some expressed concern of a repeat of the breakdown of bureaucratic function seen in the months after the more violent 1999 coup.
Outside Niger, there were mixed reactions as most major power diplomatic corps struggled to decide whether to condemn the coup, encourage the rapid reintroduction of democratic norms, or help the average Nigerien get critical food supplies. Since sanctions placed on the democratic regime were already aggravating a food crisis, further sanctions would have been damaging and entirely unproductive. The United Nations pledged food aid, while the United States cautiously urged the junta to continue steps toward democracy and lightly condemned the illegal seizure of power (which involved heavy exchanges of fire right near the US embassy in Niamey). An interview about the coup with the Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs, William Fitzgerald, can be read here.
As I previously examined, Niger is a major uranium-producing country, so there is a good reason for the world to be paying attention to its politics.
This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.