Niger Opposition Demands End to Harassment
By Peter Clottey
04 September 2009
Niger's opposition parties are demanding an end to what they describe as government harassment aimed at stifling dissent.
Security agents interrogated former opposition legislators after they attended a meeting last week in defiance of President Mamadou Tandja's decree.
Tandja dissolved parliament and assumed emergency powers after legislators opposed a referendum to change the constitution and give President Tandja three additional years in office.
His current term expires on December 22nd.
Abdul Kamardine, a human rights activist said that the arrest of several opposition leaders has escalated tensions in the capital, Niamey.
"Tandja's people are harassing the opposition… like the former members of Parliament. Last week they tried to recall all the members of the national assembly. So they did it symbolically in front of a party headquarters and then the government sent policemen on them and they were beaten," Kamardine said.
He said the legislators who participated in the opposition meeting are still being held without bail.
"Now those former parliamentarians are in police custody. And the latest I heard is that some of them have been arrested, some like Bazoum (Mohammed, deputy president of the opposition Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism… (PNDS)," he said.
Kamardine said the former legislators are refusing to recognize the controversial new constitution that extends President Tandja's term.
"According to the fifth constitution not that new dramatic constitution… under it those people were elected parliamentarians (and) under it… a parliament member cannot be harassed for something he did during his tenure as members of the House of Assembly… so it is really a political harassment," Kamardine said.
He said the government is clamping down on the opposition.
"It is really a political harassment just because they are still against his (Tandja) referendum. That is why he is trying to harass them to shut them up," he said.
Meanwhile, both local and international communities have condemned the recent political developments describing them as a step back in Niger's democracy.
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