Elections Offer Little Hope in Niger After Opposition Leader’s Arrest

Elections Offer Little Hope in Niger After Opposition Leader’s Arrest
Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou at a summit on migration, Valletta, Malta, Nov. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Antonio Calanni).

With just two and a half months to go before presidential and legislative elections in Niger, the political climate is turning increasingly sour. The tensions ahead of February’s vote broke into the open last month when former Prime Minister Hama Amadou—the leader of the opposition Moden Lumana party who has declared his plans to stand as a presidential candidate next year—was arrested on his arrival in Niamey.

Amadou had fled into exile in Paris in August 2014 after being accused of involvement in a baby-trafficking scandal. He has repeatedly claimed that the attempts to charge him in connection with the case, in which babies from Nigeria were allegedly sold to Nigerien couples, are politically motivated.

Questions about whether the authorities would follow through on their threat to arrest Amadou if he returned to Niger were definitively answered by the police operation at Diori Hamani International Airport on Nov. 14, the scale of which sent a clear message to those still harboring any doubts. The main road to the airport was closed for most of the day, and police fired tear gas at hundreds of Amadou’s supporters who had gathered to welcome him. Several other people, including four journalists from a private TV station, were arrested. After stepping off the plane, Amadou was whisked to a prison at Filingue, more than 120 miles from Niamey. His political future is now hanging in the balance.

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