Friday, January 14, 2011

Niger: UN, African officials assess progress towards democratic poll following coup

UN - A joint United Nations-African mission arrived in Niger today to assess progress by the transitional authorities in organizing elections following last year’s coup and a recent wave of arrests.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit was accompanied by African Union (AU) Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission Vice-President Jean de Dieu Somba.

“The purpose of the visit is to express collective support to the transition process in Niger and assess progress and remaining challenges in restoring constitutional order, including the organization of the elections,” the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) said in a news release.

The delegation is scheduled to meet with national authorities, as well as presidential candidates and members of the international community in Niamey, the capital.

Last February renegade soldiers stormed the presidential palace and deposed Mamadou Tandja, who had been accused by opposition figures and others of anti-democratic practices.

The electoral timetable provides for polls to be held by 6 April, starting with a referendum on a new constitution and culminating with the election of a new president to be inaugurated on 11 April. Members of the transitional government and the military and security forces will be ineligible to stand.

Niger’s transitional head of State, General Salou Djibo, reassured the mission on a similar visit last October that the agreed timeline would be adhered to.

Mr. Djinnit told the Security Council last month that the situation in Niger continued to be a work in progress. “Evidence from the ground shows promising prospects for a swift return to constitutional order, despite a recent wave of high-profile arrests indicating divisions within the military leadership,” he said.