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Niger Activist Calls for More Empowerment of African Civil Society Groups

Marou Amadou says only through citizen mobilization can freedom, democracy and transparency be attained and sustained in Africa

Colonel Gokoye Abdul Karimou, spokesman for the Niger millitary junta delivering a televised statement in Niamey, 19 Feb 2010
Colonel Gokoye Abdul Karimou, spokesman for the Niger millitary junta delivering a televised statement in Niamey, 19 Feb 2010
James Butty

A Niger civil society leader is calling on other civil society groups throughout Africa to stand up in defense of democracy and the rule of law.

Marou Amadou, president of the United Front for the Safeguard of Democratic Gains in Niger was arrested and jailed several times during Niger’s civil society activism against attempts by President Mamadou Tandja to prolong himself in power.

He said civil society groups and citizens around Africa should stand up against dictatorships even if it means they would be killed.

“We have, as Africans, to believe in democracy; to have tireless struggle for the establishment of freedom in all parts of Africa. We cannot accept dictatorship and poverty and fatalities in our continent. If in some parts of Africa dictatorship can establish, we, Nigeriens will not accept it even if we will be killed,” he said.

Amadou said only through the mobilization of citizens all over Africa can freedom, democracy and transparency be attained on the African continent.

He said some of the reasons for coup d’états in Africa have been corruption, injustice and irresponsibility on the part of the political elites.

The army overthrew President Mamadou Tandja in a military coup last week. Mr. Tandja had grown increasingly unpopular since expanding his power and giving himself another three years in office through a controversial referendum last August.

Former Niger President Mamadou Tandja
Former Niger President Mamadou Tandja

The new military leaders said over the weekend they will hold elections but have not yet set a date.

Coup leader Squadron Chief Salou Djibo is promising to set up a consultative council for decision-making.

Diplomats from the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States arrived in Niamey over the weekend for meetings with Niger's new military rulers and political leaders on how best to return to constitutional rule.

Amadou called on Niger’s new military leaders to organize free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Some ECOWAS leaders with ECOWAS President Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Some ECOWAS leaders with ECOWAS President Mohamed Ibn Chambas

“We need a good and credible constitution. Secondly we need free and transparent general election. After this, we think that never, never again any political class will begin corruption and irresponsibility to justify a coup d’etat in our country,” Amadou said.

Even though he described himself as a democratic activist who does not believe in the unconstitutional taking of power, Amadou said last week’s coup against President Tandja was a justified one.

“You are always happy when you come at the end of a bad government. That is why the happiness of all our people is justified. But when you see what’s happening in Mauritania, when you see what’s happening in Guinea, you have to be vigilant. That is why even though people are very happy, they hope their happiness will not be betrayed,” he said.

Amadou blamed the intransigence of former President Tandja for last week’s coup d’etat.

He said if the new military leaders do not respect the views of the citizens, the people will return to the streets again in protest, even if it means they would be killed.

“This struggle for democracy is our destiny as democratic activists. Any government in Niger who will not want to respect democracy and the return to constitutional order we will be in the streets and we will fight dictatorship, even a civilian dictatorship or military dictatorship. For this we are ready to die,” Amadou said.

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