A leading member of Niger’s opposition coalition has welcomed a regional bloc's call for embattled President Mamadou Tandja to step down after his second-term expired Tuesday.
Bazoum Mohammed said the Economic Community of West African State’s (ECOWAS) call boosts the group’s demand for President Tandja to hand over power.
“The statement is welcome here in Niger because 22 of December 2009 is the last day for his mandate. It must expire today and ECOWAS statement is a good opportunity for the international community to know that his mandate expired and to take all the decisions that are necessary,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, the regional body said that President Tandja’s mandate has expired ignoring the recent constitutional amendment, which extended his two-term limits. ECOWAS “takes note of the fact that December 22 2009, marks the legal end of the mandate of President Mamadou Tandja,” read the statement.
The opposition boycotted a referendum President Tandja’s organized claiming it was illegal.
Mohammed said the opposition was right to boycott the referendum.
“The referendum was illegal and it has been (described as) illegal by the constitutional court and it is why ECOWAS in a statement of 17th October of this year that the referendum is illegal…ECOWAS and the international community said that it is illegal after it was said by the Constitutional Court. And Now, we are having discussions in order to have an agreement to stabilize the situation to define a new process of a constitutional consensus,” Mohammed said.
The opposition has often claimed that a majority of Nigeriens are against President Tandja’s continued stay in power. But President Tandja rejected the opposition claims contending that many people want him to stay to continue the good works he has started.
Mohammed said the opposition supports ECOWAS sanctions against the government.
“A great majority (of people) are against Mr. Tandja and what he has done in these six past months. So, people are very happy of what has been done and what has been said by ECOWAS and they hope that ECOWAS will go on with the sanctions they have taken in the past,” Mohammed said.
The government was not immediately available for comments.