February 24, 2010 / 4:39 PM / 10 years ago

Niger junta says no members to run in vote

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Members of Niger’s military junta and a transitional government will not be allowed to stand in promised elections, the junta said on Wednesday.

Colonel Goukoye Abdul Karimou reads a statement signed by Salou Djibo in Niamey in this videograb dated February 18, 2010 after President Mamadou Tandja was ousted in a military coup. REUTERS/Reuters TV

The junta, which calls itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, overthrew President Mamadou Tandja last week after he had ruled the West African uranium exporter for more than a decade.

Its priorities are to clean up politics and restore democracy by holding transparent elections, spokesman Col. Abdulkarim Goukoye told reporters.

“We are here to clean things up. That involves a lot of

things,” he said.

He said an election would be held but he gave no date, saying it would not be a unilateral decision by the junta.

“We will not remain in power forever. No member of the Council or any transitional body will stand,” he said.

The coup, the fourth since independence from France in 1960, was welcomed by Nigeriens tired of months of political bickering in a nation that is one of the world’s poorest but attracts billions of dollars of investment in its oil and uranium.

Foreign governments have criticised the army takeover but diplomats privately say it has offered a breakthrough in a stalemate where international mediation failed.

On Tuesday, the junta named Mahamadou Danda as prime minister. Danda served as information minister in the transitional government that followed Niger’s last coup in 1999, when the army ousted the president and organised elections soon afterwards.

An official close to the justice ministry said it was too early to say what the junta planned to do about corruption despite its hints it may launch a probe into the ousted administration it overthrew last week.

“The dossiers are there. There just needs to be some political will,” the official said, asking not to be named. “If they are going to do this, the transition will take a long time...The junta can’t tackle all of Niger’s problems.”

The cases include dozens of investigations into corruption by politicians, senior civil servants and businessmen, accused of being involved in stealing public funds or abusing positions.

French state-owned nuclear power firm Areva and China National Petroleum Corp, among other investors, are spending large amounts of money to develop resources in Niger.

Issa Ousseini, a spokesman for ROTAB, a coalition of anti-graft organisations, said powerful members of Tandja’s clan had used their influence to earn millions of dollars by facilitating mining contracts for companies.

“(The soldiers) should look at everything that went on and put together investigations to see what really went on,” he said.

Frustrations over the political class have been deepened by months of bickering between Tandja and those opposed to his extended grip on power.

“People fear that if the soldiers leave, politicians will come and ignore these cases. There is a need for social justice. People have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Oumarou Keita, managing editor of weekly newspaper Le Republicain.

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