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Niger's new leader faced coup attempt for pursuing corruption investigation

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Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

(Read caption) France's President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 6.

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In April, Niger’s newly elected civilian President Mahamadou Issoufou took office, marking an end to nearly 14 months of military rule. Senior military leaders had seized power from the previous civilian president, Mamadou Tandja, after he manipulated the constitution to remain in power past stated term limits. Both the coup and the civilian transition reflected what many say is a conviction among senior Nigerien military officers that they are the guardians or referees of the country’s democracy. This position – a complicated one indeed – is apparently not shared by all, though.

Yesterday, news surfaced that authorities in Niger had arrested some seven army officers accused of plotting to assassinate Issoufou.

[A security] official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the foiled assassination was to have taken place [on July 16] at a press conference addressed by Mr Issoufou to mark his 100 days in power.

Mr. Issoufou’s killing would have opened for the way for the military to recapture power, the official said.

Some sections of Niger’s military have been angered by Mr Issoufou’s attempts to end corruption, which has led to the dismissal of several officials, correspondents say.

Issoufou’s initiation of corruption proceedings against army officers have been bold, but they have, it’s clear, also already caused discontent. As I wrote earlier this month, “The junta itself had conducted investigations of the Tandja regime. But it is one thing to go after an ousted and disgraced administration, and quite another to go after a group that earned domestic and international plaudits for its efforts to create and facilitate a smooth transition to civilian rule.”


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