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ECOWAS Official Tells Niger Junta 'Deeds not Words'

Peter Clottey | Washington, DC 25 February 2010

An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has cautiously welcomed a decision by members of Niger’s new military junta not to participate in a yet to be organized democratic election.

ECOWAS Political Director Abdel-Fatau Musah said the regional bloc demanded a speedy return to constitutional rule at a meeting with the junta.

“We of course welcome the decision of the junta not to be candidates in whichever elections they are going to hold as soon as possible. But we are also very cautious because we have recent experiences where the military comes to power and then they promise one thing and then a few months later they start prevaricating,” he said.

Niger’s media quoted Abdoul Karim Goukoye, spokesman for the new military government as saying that the junta’s priority is to hold credible elections that would ensure a return to constitutional rule.

The junta also said members of the military government will not be allowed to participate in future elections.

But Musah said the junta needs to implement structures that would ensure a swift return to democracy.

“All we need is for them to put structures in place for the speediest return to constitutional rule as the situation demands,” Musah said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the junta has reportedly begun a tour of several West African countries including Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

Musah said the regional bloc was “cautiously pleased” with the military’s promise of a swift return to constitutional rule.

“ECOWAS was cautiously pleased with what they had to hear from the junta in Niger. So even though we were encouraged by what the junta said while the two (ECOWAS) missions were in Niger, we are still holding them to their word, and we want action. We want deeds not words,” Musah said.

Last week, former President Mamadou Tandja was detained along with a majority of his cabinet ministers following a coup d’état.

Bazoum Mohammed, a leading member of the opposition coalition demanded the former leader be prosecuted for subverting Niger’s constitution.

Musah said the regional bloc is worried about the security of the former president.

“ECOWAS will not have accomplished its mission if it was not concerned about the security, the safety and the health of the ousted president. That was definitely an issue. And it was assured that President Mamadou Tandja was being held in excellent condition in the country. We demand that you cannot also hold the former president who is being held illegally according to our estimation in detention forever,” Musah said.

The international community, including the United Nations, Washington, the African Union as well as ECOWAS have condemned last Thursday’s (February 18th) coup d’état.

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