Niger coup claims rubbished

December 18, 2015, 5:35pm

AFP on News24, photo: istock

Abidjan - A prominent opposition figure in Niger on Friday rubbished the government's claim that it had foiled a coup, saying it had provided no evidence of the alleged plot.

Several leading military figures were arrested this week over the alleged putsch attempt, just weeks before the African country holds presidential and parliamentary elections, in which 63-year-old President Mahamadou Issoufou is seeking a second term in office.

"The main perpetrators behind this crazy plot have all been identified and arrested, with the exception of a single person who is on the run," Issoufou said on Thursday.

"The government has foiled an unfortunate attempt to destabilise our institutions," he said.

Amadou Boubacar Cisse, who is running against Issoufou in presidential elections due in February, said he had "the greatest reservations" about the alleged plot.

"He has not provided any proof," Cisse told AFP, speaking from Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city. "We don't know anything for certain."

The political climate in Niger has been tense since former parliament speaker Hama Amadou joined the opposition in 2013, becoming Issoufou's main rival.

Amadou was later accused of being part of a group that trafficked newborn babies from Nigeria, a charge he maintained was politically motivated.

"We have got used to being manipulated. The moment that the government faces problems, they look for ways to wriggle out. They know that they can't win an election so they're trying to force it," Cisse said.

"The only thing threatening democracy in Niger is the government," he said.

The president had announced the thwarting of another coup plot in a similar message to the nation in 2011. Ten military figures were arrested at the time, accused of attempting to overthrow the regime and "attempted assassination of the head of state".