Niger’s rogue president was taken hostage after dissolving Parliament to keep his position
by Elayne Millar
The president of Niger, Mamadou Tandja, was taken from his presidential palace in the capital city of Niamey on Thursday by soldiers with the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy.
The soldiers entered the capital city in armored vehicles. Equipped with machine guns and explosives, they attacked the palace and killed three presidential guards. Parts of the palace were set ablaze. The city of Niamey was reported to be covered in black smoke.
According to The National Post, the Coup d’état was brought on by Mr. Tandja’s decision to dissolve parliament to stay in office. In 2009 Tandja orchestrated a constitutional reform that “gave him added powers and extended his term beyond his second five-year mandate, which expired in December.”
The constitutional reform eliminated term limits and gave Tandja, who has been in office since 1999, three more years in power without an election. Tandja’s reform went against international sanctions, caused widespread criticism, as well as political tension within the country.
“The Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy […] has decided to suspend the constitution of the Sixth Republic and dissolve all its institutions,” said Colonel Goukoye Abdoulkarim, the Coup d’état’s leader, to the National Post.
The army of rebels are presently in control of the government of Niger and have stated to the media that their objective is to fight corruption and restore democracy within the country.
According to a South African online newspaper The IOL, the 71 year-old president is being held in a luxury villa near the presidential palace with several of his cabinet ministers.
“He does not have total freedom…nobody is allowed to visit him except his doctor” said Ali Sabo, the vice-president of Tandja’s party, the National Movement for Society Development.