The political crisis in Niger appears deadlocked over the fate of a government elected under a referendum that West African leaders say was unconstitutional. The regional mediator to the conflict is waiting for the government and its opponents to respond to his plans for a power-sharing deal.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says President Mamadou Tandja's legal mandate expired last month at the end of his second five-year term. He remains in power today thanks to a controversial August referendum that did away with term limits and gave him another three years in power.
While ECOWAS has suspended Niger for what it calls "constitutional illegality," the regional alliance remains involved in the search for an end to the political crisis through the mediation of former Nigerian President Abdulsalami Abubakar.
He is proposing an interim government of national reconciliation and has given both sides until next week to respond to his plan before direct talks reconvene in early February.
But prospects for that proposal already appear dim, with Communications Ministry spokesman Kassoum Maman Moctar saying nothing will be done outside the framework of Niger's 6th Republic, which began with President Tandja's new term.
Moctar says President Tandja's government is still determined to do its best to pursue dialogue. He says those who are not negotiating in good faith have tried to prevent talks from taking place in Niger. Moctar says the president's supporters succeeded in having the mediation inside Niger so people can see for themselves who is negotiating in bad faith.
Moctar says President Tandja is determined to bring this dialogue to a reasonable conclusion. He says some of the opposition demands appear to be jokes. The government and the people of Niger have been patient, he says, and are willing to make concessions. He says that is why they have agreed to talk with people who Moctar says want to reverse the decisions of a sovereign people, opponents who he says know nothing.
Opposition spokesman Marou Amadou says it is President Tandja who is being hostile to sincere dialogue, something he says the president makes clear every time he speaks directly to both the regional mediator and to the nation.
Amadou says there is no question the government will reject former president Abubakar's proposal, meaning there is no real dialogue.
Amadou says the opposition is asking its supporters to prepare themselves for a determined and resolute fight to block what he says are President Tandja's plans to expose the people of Niger to suffering and distress just because the president and his supporters want to enjoy the country's riches.
One of the main reasons President Tandja gave for extending his time in office is to finish several large projects including a hydroelectric dam, a Chinese-financed oil refinery, and a French uranium mine.
With his political opponents boycotting the new government, President Tandja begins his eleventh year in power with a new legislature and a new constitutional court both stripped of those who spoke out against his staying in power.