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Niger Cabinet Ministers Resign Ahead of Parliamentary Election

In Niger, the resignation of some cabinet ministers to contest in the October 20 parliamentary election is escalating debate.

Several members of President Mamadou Tandja's cabinet, including Prime Minister Seini Oumarou resigned Wednesday.

But the opposition dismissed the resignation as a dictatorial ploy of Tandja and reiterated its decision not to participate in the parliamentary vote.

Embattled President Tandja dissolved parliament after members opposed his constitutional amendment that extended his rule for three additional years.

Human rights activist Abdul Kamardine said that Mr. Tandja wants to push his staunch allies into parliament to solidify his ultimate powers.

"The general understanding here is that people don't actually understand as to what President Tandja wants. That is why there is all this confusion all over the place," Kamardine said.

He said the resignation was a surprise to Nigeriens.

"The Prime Minister Seini Oumarou is resigning the ministry of communication. Ben Omar is resigning the commerce and industry ministry. One Mr. Bagi, as well as one minister who is in charge of religious and humanitarian affairs, Mr. Issaka Labo. So there are four of them," he said.

Kamardine said there are indications the president wants control of parliament.

"Some are thinking that the prime minister is trying to be the next president of the House of Assembly. Because he understood that they are there just because they are scared of him (Tandja). Because if you refuse to go with him, he will create all sorts of problems to you, arrest you, take you to Koutoukale (maximum prison), etcetera, etcetera," Kamardine said.

He said Nigeriens seem be tired of the political crisis.

"Some people are saying, okay, let him (Tandja) do whatever he wants. He is 71. He doesn't have enough to live again…Instead of creating violence. And whatever in the country, let him do whatever he can and we will see. He can't last more than three," he said.

Kamardine said there seems to be nobody to stop President Tandja's power.

"Even the house of assembly he wants to create, they don't have any power. He is creating a house of representatives and a senate too. So in the senate he is planning to put some traditional rulers, can you imagine?" Kamardine asked.

He said the opposition seems too weak to challenge President Tandja.

"They just choose to do an (anti-violent) opposition. So when this one is…peaceful, I don't think a dictator can slow down with what he is doing. They need to maybe make it violent. It is very important, but this way, Tandja is feeling at ease, and he is doing whatever he wants," he said.

Kamardine said the president has so far refused to heed the international community's call for a return to democracy.

President Tandja has so far rejected demands to relinquish power, claiming Nigeriens want him to stay to continue with his "good" works,