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Tandja appeals for clemency from junta

media Mamadou Tandja AFP

Former Niger President Mamadou Tandja, detained since a coup on 18 February, has pleaded for clemency from the military junta that deposed him, according to correspondence obtained by RFI. Two letters, both with Tandja’s signature, document the ousted leader’s request to the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) junta, as well as his rebuttal of an earlier request that his case be referred to the Economic Community of West African States, Ecowas.

Both letters are dated 22 July and sent from Niamey, where Tandja is believed to be held at a military barracks.

Mamadou Tandja's letter to the CSRD (in French)
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One is addressed to the “President of the CSRD”, Salou Djibo, as well as the ministers for the Interior, Security, Decentralisation and Religious Affairs, and states a request for “clemency and leniency”.

“Given the state of my health, which requires regular and specialist monitoring, I urge you to reconsider your decision to put me at the disposal of justice,” it reads.

Tandja, 72, asks to be allowed to remain at his current location, where he says he is “well treated”.

The letter also assures that Tandja had nothing to do with an earlier suit submitted by his family, seeking the referral of his case to Ecowas.

Mamadou Tandja's letter to Ecowas (in French)
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The same claim is reiterated in a letter to Ecowas, which instructs the regional group “not to take account of any suit filed in my name”.

The request was made without Tandja’s authorisation, the letter states.

It goes on to assure that this latest letter was written voluntarily and in sound mind.

The letters go against the position of Tandja’s own party, the National Movement for the Society of Development (MNSD), which has campaigned for his release.

Niger’s junta has opened several investigations into the previous regime since seizing power in February.

An anti-graft commission is currently investigating cases of mismanagement of public funds, while a former minister, an ex-mine director and a journalist are in custody after a report exposed alleged irregularities in the granting of mining permits.

Tandja’s son Hadiatoulaye was also arrested in June, on charges of money laundering and corruption.

Niger's biggest problems

Niger is a largely desert area in west Africa, larger than Nigeria but with a smaller population  at about 15 million people. Its people face several social and political problems:

  • Hunger: more than three-quarters of the population lack food and need it urgently to cover the nutritrional gap caused by low production during the rainy season;
  • Education: 28.7 per cent adult literacy, with an estimated 15 per cent of women able to read; 80 per cent of girls aged between seven and 12 are not going to school.  
  • Health: Very poor health coverage in rural areas. Only four out of 10 babies live till five years.
  • Economy:  Dependent on uranium whose price has fallen. The country imported almost 70 per cent of goods consumed. 70 000 receive regular wages or salaries.

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