Wave of opposition arrests after Niger’s post-election violence
In Niger, two people have been killed and nearly 470 arrests, according to the latest figures revealed by the interior ministry, following post-election violence in the capital Niamey after Tuesday’s announcement of provisional results in the presidential polls.
Interior Minister Alkache Alhada told a press conference that certain political figures have been arrested and the authorities are on the hunt for Hama Amadou, an opposition leader.
Opposition fomenting unrest?
Alhada blamed Hama Amadou for the tensions, which he said has ramped up over several months with speeches from the opposition leader, notably that of 21 August when he called for a change in power before elections, effectively suggesting a coup d’etat.
Amadou was stopped from standing as a candidate in Niger’s presidential election, after being rejected by the country’s constitutional court, with his candidacy described as “ineligible”.
Interior Minister Alhada said violence and vandalism in Niamey was unacceptable and the authorities would not allow Niger to become “a country of dictatorship”. He said those bent on insurrection would not be tolerated.
Presidential opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane, who Amadou threw his weight behind in the presidential polls, complained about arbitrary arrests targeting his supporters, without due judicial procedure and not based on evidence.
Ousmane said the backlash after the violence was designed to hinder preparations to file a legal challenge to the polls, which were declared in favour of ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum by the electoral commission on Tuesday.
Amadou was arrested Thursday afternoon when security forces swooped on his home. His lawyer Boubacar Mossi was present and accused the authorities of not possessing an arrest or search warrant, saying they were not following due process.
Resolving electoral dispute
The French government said it called on all parties to have “dialogue” and pursue legal means to deal with any disagreements. The regional Ecowas bloc and the UN said in a joint statement that all stakeholders must show restraint.
Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said it was concerned by the violence carried out by protesters, but also the crackdown organised by the authorities. Police arrested 468 people since Tuesday, and internet access in the country remains limited.
Many neighbourhoods of Niamey were quiet following the outbreak of violence, reported correspondent Magali Lagrange. Makeshift barricades had been erected on certain roads during Thurday’s violence, with tyres burnt and rocks dragged across thoroughfares.
A number of properties were targeted in arson attacks including the home of Niamey correspondent Moussa Kaka, an attack that drew criticism from Niger’s press associations and campaigners for a free press.
Bazoum won the country’s election with 55% of the vote, beating Ousmane with 44% of the ballots in the second round run-off.
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