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Nigerien Opposition Calls for Good Governance, Credible Prime Minister


Opposition leaders in Niger are calling on the president to appoint a prime minister dedicated to good governance and the fight against corruption. The former prime minister, Hama Amadou, has been ousted in a no-confidence vote after being accused of complicity in embezzling foreign aid intended for education. Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar.

The opposition in Niger is celebrating what it calls a victory in the fight against corruption. Thursday, the parliament voted to dissolve the prime minister's government and asked Prime Minister Hama Amadou to step down.

Mamadou Kaligio, who has spent a decade in Niger's opposition, says this is a triumph for good governance in Niger.

"I am completely pleased," said Kaligio. "Because I think it is a lesson that should be learned by all the politicians. And everybody should know it is people who voted to appoint you to where you are. So what you have to do is to serve them correctly."

The prime minister, who held the post since 2000, faced long-standing opposition in parliament. But he had strong support from President Mamadou Tandja, and he had survived three other no-confidence votes.

Under Niger's constitution, the president appoints the prime minister, but parliament maintains oversight.

This time, 62 out of 113 lawmakers voted to dissolve the prime minister's government. Twenty five opposition delegates, as well as other delegates from factions loyal to the president voted against the prime minister.

Issa Kassoum, a leader in Niger's civil society, says the president did not intervene this time as he has done in the past.

Kassoum says the president recognized there was a problem and allowed the parliament finally to oust Prime Minister Amadou.

Amadou was implicated in a corruption scandal involving the alleged embezzlement of foreign aid intended for education. Two former education ministers were detained last year in the same affair.

Amadou has denied wrongdoing, but he told reporters that he will accept the results of the vote. He said, "Niger's democracy has made itself heard."

Opposition leaders are calling on the president to appoint a new prime minister who is dedicated to fighting corruption. According to the constitution, the president must select someone from a list of three candidates supplied by the parliamentary majority.

Opposition member Kaligio says corruption is an ongoing, and destructive, problem in Niger, which is ranked the world's poorest country on the UN human development index.

"Corruption is the reason why in our schools we do not have the tables or the books, all the things which are necessities for education," he said. Corruption is everywhere, in every corner of the country."

Niger, a mostly desert nation on the southern edge of the Sahara, suffers chronic food and water shortages, and has undergone a series of rebellions and coups since independence from France in 1960.

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