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Niger's opposition coalition has rejected direct talks with the
government unless President Mamadou Tandja reverts to constitutional
order. The group met in Abuja with former Nigerian military ruler
Abdulsalami Abubakar, who is mediating a resolution to the crisis that
has unfolded in Niger.
Opposition leaders along with union
representatives and civil society leaders held talks with the
ECOWAS-appointed mediator Abdulsalami Abubakar on Thursday and Friday.
They made it clear to the former Nigerian military ruler that a return
to constitutional order is a pre-condition for direct talks with
President Mamadou Tandja. Former Prime Minister Aboubacar Cisse speaks
for the 41-member Niger opposition delegation.
"The key demand
is that we consider that the crisis has been prompted by the fact that
the constitution has been violated. So the first thing which we are
requesting is to come back to constitutional order. And from there
other discussions could start. The return of constitutional order is
the prerequisite for starting the dialogue between his [Tandja's] group
and the opposition," he said.
On Monday, the ECOWAS mediator met
with a Niger government delegation, also in Abuja as a prelude to a
wider stakeholder forum on Niger at a later date.
leaders last month suspended Niger from the ECOWAS regional bloc in
protest against what they said were flawed legislative elections held
there. The European Union, Niger's main aid donor, is contemplating
severing ties to pressure Niamey to restore constitutional order.
United Nations, African Union, the United States and former colonial
power France have all criticized President Tandja's move to tighten his
grip on power. Analysts say this is a step backwards for democracy in
Niger which could set a bad example for leaders in the rest of the West
Cisse says the opposition welcomes the widening international pressure on President Tandja to resolve the crisis.
will like to use this opportunity to thank not only ECOWAS, but all the
African countries, United Nations, United States, European Union and so
on who have really taken a very strong stance and this is something we
believe is really forceful in the direction which will help, hopefully,
to come to normalcy in the situation," he said.
has been in power for almost 10 years and was due to step down next
month, but he defied local and international pressure to conduct a
referendum, which opened the way for further terms in office.