Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NIGER : The Uranium Coup

By Michael Carmichael -

February , 2010


U.S. House of Representative Alan Grayson led a Congressional delegation that just happened to be in Niger at the time of the recent military coup last Thursday that deposed the legitimate elected government of the Uranium-rich nation.


The official story is that the members of Congress were focused on science, technology and humanitarian relief - at the very same time that the military coup was unfolding on the streets of the capital, Niamey.

This intriguing "coincidence" raises the question: Was this Congressional presence during a military coup another instance of a massive intelligence failure or something entirely different?

Niger is a landlocked African country with a population of 15 million mostly Islamic citizens. Niger has a relatively small military that consumes a mere 1.6% of its annual budget.

When the Grayson delegation reached Niamey, the military staged a coup d'etat to displace the elected government of President Tandja Mamadou who had raised some concerns by moves to introduce reforms and revise the constitution as well as to extend his term in office.

Niger is rich in Uranium holding at least 6% of global reserves - a figure that is twice as large as US Uranium deposits. The radioactive mineral constitutes 72% of national exports. In recent years, foreign corporations have invested billions into the Uranium-driven economy of Niger.

The military coup was allegedly led by a relatively low-level Platoon Commander Salou Djibo who held an official briefing during which he maintained silence about any future return to Niger's constitutional democracy.

Djibo is the now the leader of a 'Supreme Council' of army officials that currently constitutes the military junta governing the Uranium-rich nation.

Following Djibo's coup, the UN promptly condemned the military takeover, and the African Union immediately expelled Niger. France, Niger's former colonial overlord, condemned the coup, but the official American reaction struck a distinctly different chord when US State Department Spokesman, P. J. Crowley, briefed reporters that President Tandja may have triggered the coup himself by, "trying to extend his mandate."

The simultaneous presence of a US Congressional delegation in a uranium-rich Muslim nation at the time of a right-wing military coup is bound to arouse international scrutiny — especially when official spokesmen in Washington are the sole sources to rationalize — if not defend — the military action against the elected government of Niger.

Grayson is a member of the Science and Technology Committee that has jurisdiction over non-defense (ie. non-military) federal scientific research and development including NASA, FEMA and the Department of Energy. Grayson is a progressive on domestic issues, but, as Max Blumenthal has pointed out, he follows the AIPAC line on Israel and the Middle East - because he supported Israel's Operation Cast Lead and a pro-Israel position vis a vis Iran, an Islamic nation currently developing nuclear energy.

At this point in time, no other names of the members of the "Congressional delegation" led by Alan Grayson have been released raising deeper questions about the Uranium Coup.....

Niger ex-intelligence chief arrested:

NIAMEY — Niger's former intelligence chief was arrested Wednesday, days after four senior members of the west African country's ruling junta were detained for an alleged "attempt to destabilize the regime", a source said.

Seini Chekaraou, who headed the counter-espionage agency and was sacked on Monday, was "arrested today (Wednesday)," a security source told us, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Chekarou is reportedly close to Colonel Abdoulaye Badie, the former number two in Niger's junta, who was arrested on Friday.

The junta took power in a February 18 coup which ousted President Mamadou Tandja after a decade in power.

Badie and three others were arrested over an alleged plot that aimed to delay the pledged transition to civilian rule.

The transition process is due to kick off on October 31 with a constitutional referendum followed by a presidential election on January 31.

Rumors of another coup have swirled in Niamey over the past few weeks. For several days, the military presence in the capital and its suburbs has been stepped up with larger patrols, particularly at night....