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Political Parties in Niger Want 9-Month Transition to Civilian Rule

Soldiers stand guard outside the office of Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's president Mamadou Tandja in Niamey, 21 Feb 2010

Soldiers stand guard outside the office of Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's president Mamadou Tandja in Niamey, 21 Feb 2010

Political parties in Niger say there should be a nine-month transition program to return to civilian rule. Soldiers took power in a coup against President Mamadou Tandja.

Just one month after their coup, Niger's new military leaders have already appointed a civilian prime minister and say they will organize elections to return to civilian rule once political and civil society leaders agree on a new constitution.

Abdou Labo is part of the political coalition that opposed the previous government of President Tandja. He says the country's new military leaders have restored calm, ending Niger's political tension and restoring its international credibility.

Labo says the next step is establishing a serious and credible national consultative council to make real the hopes that have followed this coup. One of the council's missions will be determining the length of a transition back to civilian rule. Labo says the length of this transition is important to political parties who fought the previous government to return to constitutional order.

President Tandja grew increasingly unpopular following a referendum last August that changed the constitution to expand his powers and give him another three years in office. When Niger's constitutional court and parliament said the referendum was illegal, President Tandja replaced them with new judges and new lawmakers who backed his new government.

With those authorities now swept from power and the revised constitution suspended, Labo says it is time to move forward with a transitional authority.

Labo says the international community is also waiting to see what Niger does about a transitional authority before lifting diplomatic and economic sanctions. Labo says Niger's political parties believe a nine-month transitional period is reasonable to conduct a national dialogue mediated by the Economic Community of West African States.

Said Djinnit is the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa. He says Niger's military rulers have demonstrated their commitment to restoring constitutional order.

"The impression we are getting is that they have a sense of direction," he said. "They have a sense of where they want to lead the country and to return the country to legitimate authorities."

Djinnit says the United Nations, the regional ECOWAS alliance, and the African Union are working together to encourage Niger's military leaders to follow through on their promises.

"What I think the international community would expect is a roadmap. And they made it clear that they will seek the advice of a council to be established soon composed of representatives from political parties, civil society, and social-economic groupings to advise on the conditions and modalities of the transition," he added.

Civilian Prime Minister Mahamadou Danda says the military has given him a free hand to conduct the activities of a transitional government that will not include politicians.

The military has already said that none of the members of its ruling council or the transitional government will be allowed to stand in the next election.