Advocates of good governance in Africa and civil society activists in
Niger say parliament's decision to open the way for a corruption trial
against a former prime minister is a step in the right direction. The
accused says he is the victim of political machinations to prevent him
from running in the next presidential election. Naomi Schwarz has more
from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.
The 72-28 vote by
Niger's parliament to lift the immunity of former prime minister Hama
Amadou is being hailed by civil society activists.
The head of a
leading Nigerien civil society organization, Issa Kassoum, says this is
the first time Niger's government has taken on such a high-ranking
"It is the first time when our parliament take a
decision to make democracy to make justice go over," he said. "So we
think it is a good thing. And a very good example."
He says it shows no one is above the law.
prime minister Amadou has been accused of misusing more than $200,000
meant to help develop the local press. The parliamentary vote means
Amadou can be brought to trial in Niger's High Court and if convicted
put in jail.
Amadou denies wrongdoing. He says the charges against him are a campaign to block him from running for president in 2009.
had been considered a likely successor to his long-time ally, Niger
President Mamadou Tandja. But the prime minister, who took office in
2000, was ousted last year by a parliamentary no-confidence vote, while
under the cloud of a separate corruption scandal.
of London-based advocacy group, Open Society Foundation, says the
charges against the former prime minister send a strong message that
the rule of law will be respected in Niger.
He says this case shows Niger's government is leaping ahead of other West African countries in enforcing anti-corruption laws.
what you see is the parliament using its prerogative to do the job
properly by trying to find out how the public fund was used by
authorities in charge of the daily management of the country," said
The former prime minister has defended his use of the
money, saying he was instructed by the president to use the funds to
promote Niger's government activities in the media.
Kane says he
hopes the truth will be uncovered during a fair trial. He says if the
prime minister's allegations prove true, he says he hopes that justice
will not stop there.
"Given that nobody is above the law, that
any person involved in the misuse of the money should also be exposed,
even if it is the president of the Republic," he said.
Niger's president won re-election for a second five-year term in 2004. The constitution bars him from running again.