Three army officers held over 2002 mutiny released

Three army officers in Niger, who had spent 18 months in jail for their alleged role in a 2002 mutiny, were granted conditional release last week, family members said.

Majors Namata Samna Boube, Adamou Djibo and Lieutenant Adamou Maiguizo were granted provisional liberty by a military tribunal, but it banned them from speaking to the media or receiving visitors.

On 31 July 2002, hundreds of soldiers stationed in the capital Niamey and at the garrisons of Ngourti, N’guigmi and Diffa near Lake Chad in southeastern Niger staged a mutiny demanding higher wages, better living conditions and lower meal prices at army dining halls.

Several army officers and civilian officials were held hostage, but they were released a few days later following government mediation.

However, 235 soldiers from Diffa were arrested. A further 33 were detained in Niamey where there was another aborted mutiny on 4-5 August.

The week-long uprising led to two deaths, according to official sources.

Boube, Djibo and Maiguizo were the highest-ranking officers accused of involvement in the mutiny, the latest in Niger’s long history of military unrest.

Dozens of other participants in the uprising were released during 2003 for “lack of evidence,” but some are still in custody awaiting trial.

Ordinary soldiers in Niger earn about 24,000 FCFA (US$48) per month, enough to buy a 100-kg bag of millet in Diffa. They also receive a soap ration and a new uniform every six months.

Niger, a mainly desert country of 11 million people, returned to civilian rule in 1999 following the election of President Mamadou Tandja.