[JURIST] Niger's military leaders on Thursday suspended the country's constitution [text, DOC] and dissolved all state institutions after the coup [JURIST report] that took place the same day. A spokesperson for the military junta, which is calling itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), made the announcement [Reuters report] on state TV. The African Union (AU) [official website] condemned the coup in a statement [text, PDF] issued Friday by AU Chairperson of the Commission Jean Ping:
The Chairperson of the Commission stresses that the relevant AU instruments systematically condemn any unconstitutional change and, accordingly, he condemns the seizure of power by force that took place in Niger. He calls for the speedy return to constitutional order and affirms the readiness of the AU, in close collaboration with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), to facilitate such a process.
Ping also noted that the AU has played an active role in facilitating dialogue within Niger on the country's tenuous political situation.
Thursday's coup, which left at least three Nigerien soldiers dead, comes six months after a referendum was passed abolishing presidential term limits [JURIST report] and allowing ousted president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] to remain in office for three more years and to run in any subsequent elections. Niger's opposition parties denounced the referendum, claiming that Tandja inflated poll numbers to support the new constitution's adoption. In September, members of the opposition parties said that police had detained 30 former opposition lawmakers [JURIST report], allegedly at the behest of Tandja. The 30 former members of parliament were arrested on charges of embezzlement [AFP report], but were likely being targeted for their dissidence, as they refused to recognize Tandja's expansion of powers. One week later, leader of the opposition Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website, in French], Mahamadou Issoufou, was charged with financial crimes [JURIST report]. The PNDS claimed the corruption charges were politically motivated [BBC report]. Niger [CIA World Factbook profile], which is known for its exportation of uranium, has gone through five constitutions and military regimes since its founding in 1960.