April 11, 2016 / 10:17 PM / 3 years ago

Niger's Issoufou tightens grip after polls with loyalist cabinet

NIAMEY, April 11 (Reuters) - Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou reinforced his control over the West African nation in the wake of a disputed election, naming loyalists to key cabinet positions on Monday while making no concessions to the opposition.

In line with traditional practice, the government resigned earlier this month following his re-election in March polls boycotted by the opposition, but Issoufou immediately reappointed Prime Minister Brigi Raffini.

Having served in several different posts in previous cabinets, Mohamed Bazoum, head of the president’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, was named minister of the interior, according to a list of ministers announced on state television.

Hassoumi Massaoudou, who previously served as interior minister, will take over the defence portfolio, an important supporting role for Issoufou, who is a crucial ally of the West in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.

Saidou Sidibe, meanwhile, returned as finance minister but without the economy portfolio.

Hassane Baraze Moussa, one of the few new arrivals in the 38-member cabinet, will head the mines ministry for uranium-producing Niger, after previously serving as director of a state-owned construction and urban development company.

Issoufou won a second five-year term with 92.5 percent of the vote in the March 20 run-off election.

His opponent, opposition leader Hama Amadou, had been in jail since November on charges related to a baby-trafficking scandal and was therefore unable to campaign. He was flown to France for medical treatment just days before the election, and the opposition called for a boycott of the polls.

Amadou, who said he is innocent and maintained the charges were part of a strategy to sideline him politically, was granted provisional release a little over a week after the election. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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