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Niger Opposition Demands Government Explain Recognition of Libya’s Rebels

Immigrants, who are fleeing the unrest in Libya, unload their belongings in Agadez northen Niger September 15, 2011.

Niger’s main opposition National Movement for the Society of Development (MNSD-Nassara) party is accusing the government of confusing Nigeriens after it officially recognized Libya’s Transitional National Council (NTC).

Hama Zada, a leading member of the party, says the government undermined African solidarity after it diverged from the African Union’s (AU) position, which stopped short of recognizing the NTC as the legitimate Libyan government.

“[Niamey] first condemned the NTC. They didn’t agree with [its] behavior because it [overthrew the government] in Libya. So, they considered the NTC as rebels,” said Zada. “There is great confusion, and that is why many people want the government to explain, because the people don’t understand.”

Senior officials of the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) dismissed the accusations as without foundation saying the opposition wants to score “cheap political points.”

Zada said Niger’s government flip-flopped after initially agreeing to the AU’s position at a recent summit in Equatorial Guinea.

The pan-African body insists a political solution – and negotiated settlement -- is the best way to resolve the conflict.

Until recently, Niger had refrained from recognizing the transitional government, despite several African countries doing so.

But some Nigeriens have questioned the rationale behind the government’s change of heart. They contend Niamey is setting a dangerous precedent, which they said could act as an incentive to the Tuareg rebels.

They have been accused of destabilizing countries in the region including Niger. They are suspected of being part of the Libyan army and loyalists who fought for deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Zada said his party wants a peaceful resolution to the Libya conflict.

He accused the government of erring diplomatically by allowing close aides and the son of deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to enter the country.

“Now many people are coming into the country and they [government] say they will take them because they are humanitarian refugees. And they [will] settle them in some big houses of the republic and [the government] said they will take care of them. We don’t understand that,” said Zada.