By Nangayi Guyson – Niamey – The former number two in Niger’s ruling junta, Colonel Abdoulaye Badie, has been arrested at the military headquarters in Niamey, a military source said on Thursday.
“He is being interrogated,” the source added, without explaining the reasons for the arrest.
Badie was permanent secretary to the junta under General Salou Djibo, leader of the coup which overthrew Niger’s president Mamadou Tandja in February. He also served as chief military quartermaster.
Djibo issued a decree abolishing the post of secretary on Sunday but left Badie as a member of the ruling junta.
The arrest of the number two in the junta comes as Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries rich only in uranium, is preparing for a transitional process intended to restore democracy.
A constitutional referendum is planned for October 31 to start this process, and will culminate in a presidential election on January 31 2011.
In its Monday edition, the independent weekly Le Canard Dechaine suggested that the suppression of the secretary’s post could be linked to “crazy reports about an attempted coup d’etat” in preparation.
For several days, the military presence in the capital and its suburbs has been stepped up, with larger patrols, particularly at night.
Last Friday, in another decree, Djibo sacked the top commander of the national guard (the former republican guard), Lieutenant-Colonel Abdou Sidikou. The official statement announcing his dismissal gave no explanation.
Preparing for democracy
In another decree also signed on October 8, the head of state named a lieutnant-colonel of the paramilitary gendarmerie, Mahamadou Ibrahim Bagadoma, to the post of government commissioner (prosecutor) to the military tribunal. This tribunal has not sat for several years.
The junta plans to hand over to an elected civilian government on April 6 2011, when the new president is due to be sworn in.
The last civilian president, Tandja, was ousted by the military after he took a series of steps to prolong his term in office beyond the end of his elected mandate, which was in December last year.
The junta won widespread public support last February when it pledged to turn the west African country, which ranks last on the Human Development Index, into a beacon of “good democracy and governance”.
However, Several other military sources and a source close to the junta confirmed the arrest, but Badie was seen at his home later on Thursday.
While Badie refused to comment to an AFP reporter, a man who said he was a relative denied that Badie had been arrested.
“That is completely false,” he said. “He was not even detained.”