The unresolved issue of a president’s death

News organisations reported this week that Niger’s former defence minister, Yahaya Tounkara, has been placed under house arrest after calling for an investigation into the death of ex-president Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, killed in a coup on 9 April 1999.

On Wednesday, AFP quoted a private radio station in Niger as saying that Tounkara had been placed under house arrest. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) quoted a similar report.

A media source in Niamey told IRIN there had been no official announcement that the ex-minister had been confined to his home. However, he said, presidential guards were deployed outside Tounkara’s residence in Niamey and that, at least up to Thursday morning, they were still there.

Tounkara had read out a statement on Sunday in the town of Dogon-Doutchi, calling for an independent commission to be set up to investigate Mainassara’s assassination.

Dogon-Doutchi is the capital of Arewa, the home region of both Tounkara and Mainassara, according to the media source, who told IRIN the statement had been issued on behalf of members of the former ruling party in Arewa.

On 25 May, foreign ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called, at a meeting in Lome, for an independent investigation into Mainassara’s assassination.

Their call came one day after the late president’s family filed a suit in a Niamey court against his killers, designated X in the absence of identified suspects. The case was forwarded to the Justice Ministry on 1 June, the source said.

Meanwhile, a technical committee set up by the government of Major Daouda Mallam Wanke to draft a new constitution and other key texts has proposed the declaring of an amnesty that would cover both the 9 April overthrow and the coup that had brought Bare Mainassara to power on 27 January 1996.