Niger's Head of State, Lieutenant-Colonel Seyni Kountche, attended a ceremony celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the country's independence in the capital, Niamey, on Sunday (3 August).
Niger's Head of State, Lieutenant-Colonel Seyni Kountche, attended a ceremony celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the country's independence in the capital, Niamey, on Sunday (3 August). Only the day before he had announced the arrest of Commander Sani Souna Siddo, the second most powerful man in Niger's Military Government, as well as two other leading political figures.
Commander Siddo and the other were arrested on charges that they had attempted to reconstitute a dissolved political party. In a radio broadcast, Colonel Kountche said "I have taken measures against them which their behaviour deserved".
The three arrested were Commander Siddo, Vice-President of the Supreme Military Council who was also the Minister for Mines and for Development, Mr. Djibo Bakary, the former leader of the dissolved Sawaba Party and a former Prime Minister, and Mr. Maitourare Gadjo, the former Assistant-Director in the Cabinet of ex-President Diori Hamani.
Colonel Kountche said that the three had attempted to divide the people and set up an ideological "cliqe". He also charged them with corruption and intimidation of officials.
Immediately after the announcement of the arrest, the capital was reported to be calm and there was no official confirmation that the arrest were in retaliation against an attempted coup d'etat.
The fact that Colonel Kountche chose to attend the public ceremony for the Independence Anniversary celebrations the next day, underlined the impression that political life had almost returned to normal.
Niger became an independent republic in August 1960, after having been a territory of French West Africa since 1904. Colonel Kountche's regime came to power when Niger was suffering the worst effects of prolonged drought in West Africa's Sahelian region.