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Canada Reconsiders Relations with Niger Government


Canada says it will reconsider its relations with Niger's government after the controversial referendum that extended embattled President Mamadou Tandja's term limits.

Ottawa expressed concern that the recent referendum contravenes the provisions of Niger's 1999 constitution and undermines the country's democratic progress.

Tandja supporters say Canada should ascertain the facts before jumping to conclusions.

Both the local and the international community have condemned the referendum, which extends President Tandja's rule for three additional years.

Tandja had been scheduled to hand over power after his second five-year term expires in December.

Tandja supporter Alhaji Mahamadou Abubakar told VOA that Nigeriens still back President Tandja despite foreign threats.

"Canada people are welcome. When they come here, let them look for me and I will take them round the country and they have to make the investigations true or not true about this referendum. About whether the people of Niger like Tandja is true or not true. Inshallah (God willing), they will see," Abubakar said.

He denied President Tandja forced the referendum on Nigeriens.

"Surely, President Tandja has to go in December. But now the people say we love you more to stay. So nobody can say no, and Tandja does not have the right to say no because Niger's constitution says Tandja has to respect what the people like. He cannot say no. No way. Tandja never said that he wants to stay to continue (his good works)," he said.

Abubakar sharply denied that only a handful of Nigeriens participated in the controversial referendum.

"92 percent voted yes for the referendum. And that is true because I am the one who went round this country even to the bush where there was no light, and I saw what the people needed… The problem is I'm not happy because it was only 92 percent," Abubakar said.

He expressed regret that opponents of the referendum are vowing to petition President Tandja about it.

Abubakar also pledged to hold a news conference soon to denounce recent threats of violence.

Emma Welford, a spokesperson for Canada's foreign affairs ministry says that in issuing its third press release on the political situation in Niger, Canada is sending a strong message to Niger authorities who are behind the recent democratic setback.

The Canada ministry adds that Ottawa is taking every opportunity to defend the democratic values it supports, and will continue to monitor the situation through its embassy in Niamey.

Canada also says that whenever possible, it will limit contacts with Nigerien officials it believes are complicit with the recent democratic setback.

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