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Niger Opposition Rejects Calls for Negotiations With President Tandja

By Peter Clottey
16 September 2009

Niger opposition parties have unanimously rejected calls for negotiations with embattled President Mamadou Tandja to resolve the escalating political crisis.

This comes after African parliamentarians met President Tandja and urged the opposition to hold discussions with the government.

But opposition members say they will not negotiate with what they called an illegitimate president.

The African lawmakers are currently assessing the ongoing political crisis following last month's controversial referendum. After that, the lawmakers will present their report to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is considering sanctions against President Tandja's government.

Bazoum Mohammed, a Niger opposition leader said that the African delegation overstepped its boundary by calling for negotiations with what he described as an illegal president.

"About this request, we are saying that it is a mistake that the chairperson of the delegation when he proposed us to have a political discussion with the Nigerien government," Mohammed said.

He said the objective of the African lawmakers is to assess Niger's political situation.

"His aim is to come here and have information about the situation and to go back to the parliament to do some proposal of resolution to AU (African Union). It is not in his ability to engage in negotiations between us and the government," he said.

Mohammed said there is reason to believe that the lawmakers were bamboozled by President Tandja.

"(They) met Mr. Tandja who tried to charm them. They don't know him they don't know how he is able to cheat them and now they are thinking that they are important people. And that Tandja really want to have negotiations with us (opposition)," Mohammed said.

He said the opposition refuses to be fooled by what he called President Tandja's trickery.

"We know him (Tandja), he has done his coup d'état (and now he wants to engage in negotiations with us)," he said.

Mohammed said the opposition would only engage in discussions with the government on a level playing field.

"Yes we would be ready to have discussions with them, but on a real basis and with people who can manage the mediation. Not with MPs (Members of Parliament) whose mandate is to have only information about the situation and to go do a report," Mohammed said.

He said the African parliamentarians seem not to be familiar with the ongoing political crisis.

"Our friends of the Pan-African Parliament came here and because they don't know anything about the situation they tell us to go have discussions on Mr. Tandja's basis… it is not a basis for us," he said.

Mohammed expressed worry that the final report the lawmakers will present to the African Union would be skewed in President Tandja's favor.

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