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Niger junta sacks heads of state companies

By on April 3, 2010

Niger’s military junta has sacked 20 top officials working for state-owned companies, including those involved in representing the country’s uranium and oil interests, according to the government.

The sacked officials, who were nominated by, and seen as backers of, ousted President Mamadou Tandja, were replaced by a mix of civilians and soldiers in a decision taken during a cabinet meeting late on Thursday.

The move follows a wave of arrests of over a dozen of Tandja’s supporters, who were accused of plotting against the military junta. The 14 officials, including several former ministers, were freed on Friday, but will remain under surveillance, a government statement said.

Ahmed Mai Ousmane was named as the new managing director of SOPAMIN, the state-run firm that holds the state’s interests in mining operations and is in charge of selling minerals.

SOPAMIN holds a 33.35 percent share in Niger’s largest project, the Imouraren uranium mine in northern Niger, which is being developed by French energy giant Areva and will start production in 2013.

Moussa Idrissa was named as the new managing director of SONIDEP, the state-run company that controls all imports of fuel into the land-locked West African nation.

SOPAMIN and SONIDEP’s former heads were among the officials from Tandja’s regime arrested by the junta over the last week, accused of plotting against it.

The arrests came as the authorities also instigated broader efforts to clean up politics and business in Niger. Investigations are being carried out into decisions and deals -made under Tandja’s watch.

“Impunity will no longer be accepted. The results of these investigations will be transferred to the competent authorities and will be dealt with,” Interior Minister Cisse Ousmane said.

The anti-graft drive has won plaudits in Niger as analysts say corruption has spiked as a flurry of mining deals were signed under Tandja. But diplomats are concerned that any such campaign could lead to delays in a return to civilian rule.


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