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Niger President Tandja to Meet Pan-African Lawmakers

Niger's main opposition partisans will support their leader Mahamadou Issifu in court Monday when he is expected to face charges of defying a decree by President Mamadou Tandja.

This comes a day ahead of a meeting between members of the Pan- African Parliament, the government, and the opposition.

The African parliamentarians are in Niger to ascertain and report to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the political crisis.

The opposition has been demanding the regional body impose sanctions on President Tandja and his administration after accusing him of subverting the constitution.

But the government responded by arresting several opposition leaders including opposition leader Issifu, leader of Niger's Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS).

PNDS Deputy President Bazoum Mohammed said that opposition partisans will resolutely show their support in court today for their leader.

"We call (on) our people to go with him (opposition leader) and to support him. And we are sure that they (government) will refuse the people access to the justice, and I think that we will have to fight against the police," Mohammed said.

He urged opposition supporters not be violent while backing their leader Issifu in court.

"They won't be violent. It is a public ceremony and they (police) have no reason to forbid the people to go there. They must allow people to go and attend the ceremony," he said.

Mohammed accused the embattled president of dictatorship.

"Mr. Tandja does not want to have parties with supporters in a democratic system. He wants one-man power, a dictatorship power, and he uses the justice (system) to deal with political issues," Mohammed said.

He said the Pan African legislators will be meeting all stakeholders in Niger.

"Now we have MP's (members of parliament) from the Pan-African Parliament who are here. From tomorrow (Tuesday), they will have to meet with the government, with the opposition and with the civil society," he said.

Mohammed said the opposition is hopeful that the African lawmakers will witness the ongoing tension.

"We expect that they will understand Niger's situation. And they will do to the Pan-African Parliament a good report and we hope that after this report, the Pan-African Parliament will (give) good recommendation to the African Union," Mohammed said.

He said the opposition wants sanctions imposed on President Tandja's administration.

"We will say to them (lawmakers) to tell to the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Executive Commission to implement the sanctions they have decided to take," he said.

He said the regional body's lack of action emboldens President Tandja.

"We could not only speak. Speaking only is encouraging Tandja to go ahead on his dictatorship power," he said.

President Tandja recently amended the constitution that extends his presidential term limits for three additional years.