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Niger Opposition Vows to Continue Challenging President Tandja


Opposition political parties in Niger have vowed to continue to thwart President Mamadou Tandja's rule despite the arrests of their members.

The opposition accuses Tandja's government of trumping up charges to silence critics of a referendum on extending presidential term limits, which they describe as a coup.

The determination to protest continues following a government crackdown on Marou Amadou, leader of the United Front for the Protection of Democracy (FUSAD) and Abdoulaye Tiemogo, editor of an independent newspaper.

Amadou was arrested Monday after the government accused him of calling for protests against a three-year mandate to extend President Tandja's rule.

A judge released Amadou, but he was later rearrested by security agents just hours after his release.

"When Mr. Marou was on trial, we decided to go there to attend the trial. But there were more than 100 police there, and they forbade us to enter. When we decided not to go, but to stay there to discuss with them to allow us even to allow some of us to enter, they refused. And then they decided to use gas, and they beat us. They gassed us," said Bazoum Mohammed, a leading member of the opposition in Niger.

He denied that the arrested opposition leader was inciting violence.

"What he (Amadou) said was that Mr. Tandja has no legitimacy and no legality now. And he called on the military to respect the constitution and not to respect orders that are not legal," he said.

Mohammed said the opposition suspects Amadou was sent to a high security prison shortly after his second arrest.

"Now we think that he is in the Koutoukale prison, which is a prison for high criminals. But Tandja wants to (turn) this prison into a prison for politicians and for activists … (mixing them) with the high criminals who are there," Mohammed said.

He said the opposition aims to continue protesting Tandja's rule.

"Of course we can challenge him because we have people with us, and he has nobody with him," said Mohammed.

Mohammed claims that dictatorship across Africa is frowned upon.

"Let me tell you that today, you can count how many countries there are under a dictatorship. But some years ago in Africa you had many dictatorships, so we are sure that today it is no longer time for dictatorship here in Niger and all other African countries," Mohammed said.

He accused President Tandja of undermining Niger's democracy.

"Here in Niger, we had our democracy (until Tandja's referendum) … and people have decided not to give up. We will fight, and we are sure that we will win. We have no doubt about our next victory, and it will be very, very soon inshallah (God willing)," he said.

Supporters of President Tandja in Niger are blaming the opposition for undermining the country's peace.

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