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Niger Activist Demands Explanation over Recent Arrests

A picture taken on August 3, 2010 shows Niger's number two junta leader Colonel Abdoulaye Baide during ceremonies for the 50th anniversary of the country's independence in Niamey. Abdoulaye Badie, is under arrest at military headquarters in Niamey, a mili

A Niger human rights activist said Nigeriens want the military junta to explain the recent arrests of military officers suspected of plotting to overthrow the transitional government.

Bello Marou, a leading member of Niger Human Rights Association told VOA, despite repeated requests, the junta has refused to explain the rationale behind the arrests saying Nigeriens are concerned with rising tensions after the officers were detained.

“Here in Niger, they say that they respect human rights. Then, if someone is arrested, it’s normal to inform people what happened. I think this is the normal way of doing things. Then, if activists are asking this (explanation) it is their right to ask and it is their right to be informed,” he said.

The arrests came after an official two-week campaign commenced toward a referendum about a newly-proposed constitution. If approved, it would lead to presidential elections in January.

Voters in Niger are widely expected to support the new constitution, which establishes a less powerful chief executive than the previous one passed just last August.

Marou said the junta has so far resisted requests from Nigeriens about the reasons behind the arrests.

“Up to date, I haven’t heard anything official from the authorities in Niger. It’s now speculation, but we have to push the government to have an official statement before we have our (own) view about what happened.”

He adds that it is unlikely that the military junta will be under pressure to explain its rationale behind the arrests.

The former deputy leader of Niger’s military administration and another top commander has been detained on allegations of trying to overthrow the government.

Over the weekend, security sources said Colonel Abdoulaye Badie and Colonel Abdou Sidikou were being held in the capital, Niamey, as part of an investigation into an alleged plot against the state.

Last Sunday, Niger's top military leader, General Salou Djibo, signed a decree removing Badie from his post as permanent secretary to the junta and abolishing the position.

The junta has been in power since February after ousting President Mamadou Tandja, who refused to leave office when his term expired last year.

General Djibo has promised to return the country to civilian rule, starting with a constitutional referendum scheduled for 31st October.