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Niger Opposition Plans to Undermine President Tandja’s New Cabinet


Niger's opposition will hold a conference Thursday to plan ways to prevent embattled President Mamadou Tandja's new cabinet from functioning.

This comes after the government stepped down, allowing Tandja to pick a new cabinet under a new controversial amendment that extends his term for three additional years.

Tandja's administration enacted the amended constitution into law Tuesday, claiming it was approved by more than 90 percent of voters in a referendum.

But local and international observers have described the referendum as a setback in Niger's democracy.

Abdullahi Jauri, a former member of the now dissolved Niger parliament told VOA that the opposition will be seeking divine intervention to return Niger to democracy.

"Today, all the members … will make a one-day prayers and will be (fasting) to do the one-day Ramadan to pray for our country to be back on the democratic way," Jauri said.

He said the opposition will continue to refuse to recognize President Tandja as the legitimate leader of Niger.

"We will have a conference and then on Saturday we will hold what we call a mega meeting (protest) to show everybody and the international community that 95 percent of the population (is) with us. So, for this referendum is a non event," he said.

Jauri accused President Tandja of dictatorship after declaring himself leader of the government, a post normally reserved for the prime minister.

"That means that he has concentrated all of the powers in his hand; the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. Now, in his constitution, the prime minister is no more the head of government; it is Tandja who is the head of government," Jauri said.

He accused the government of clamping down on dissent.

"We are in an atmosphere whereby when you express your view you end (up) in prison. And right now, we have about 96 activists all over the country (in prison). So, that is why everybody is determined to struggle to see Niger back to democracy," he said.

Jauri said there is a need for Nigeriens to fight for their freedom.

"You cannot get liberty by sleeping on your bed; this is impossible. We are not going to reverse or to go back. People are really determined to struggle for their rights…it is a hard thing to get liberty. People have suffered to get it (and) people are not ready to abandon it," Jauri said.

He said the opposition would not be stopped by security agents.

"There is nothing we can do; we have to face everything. If they (security) refuse, people will still go," he said.

Jauri described as ridiculous President Tandja's claim that he won the referendum with over 90 percent of the votes.

Tandja has often claimed Nigeriens want him to stay to oversee the multibillion-dollar oil, mining and infrastructure deals which some say could transform Niger's economy.

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