NIAMEY — The junta in Niger on Tuesday named former minister Mahamadou Danda as the new prime minister, days after it ousted the government of President Mamadou Tandja, an official statement said.
"Major Salou Djibo, chairman of the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), signed today (Tuesday) a decree on the appointment of prime minister. Therefore, Mahamadou Danda is appointed prime minister," said the statement, read out on state radio.
Danda was communications minister in 1999 during a transitional government headed by major Daouda Mallam Wanke.
He is currently political counsellor in the embassy of Canada in Niger, according to the president of the network of human rights journalists, Abdoulrahamane Ousmane.
With Danda's appointment, the junta is seen to be enjoying support given to it across the country after on Thursday overthrowing Tandja, who has been in power since 1999 and had changed the constitution to extend his mandate.
Djibo, a former UN peacekeeper, is expected to oversee the organisation of fresh elections and usher in a new constitution after a referendum.
The junta is likely to come under more pressure in the weeks ahead to name a date for elections.
Profile: Ex-UN peacekeeper is Niger's new military ruler
A so-called "constitutional committee" and a court will be set up to replace the constitutional court and the supreme Court, all dissolved in the aftermath of the February 18 coup.
New election laws and a draft constitution would be put to a referendum, it said.
The junta has given no timeframe for a handover to civilian rule but has pledged to hold consultations with the country's political parties during the unspecified transition period.
The lack of a timeframe offered by the junta in talks with UN and African envoys at the weekend has alarmed France, whose Areva nuclear giant is the country's biggest foreign investor and largest private employer.
France's foreign ministry urged Djibo "to make every effort to ensure that the country finds healing, national harmony, the path to democracy and constitutional normalcy."
Spokesman Bernard Valero said only the people of Niger should chart the way to democracy and that "France will not tell the people of Niger what to do and what not to do."
Areva is currently investing 1.2 billion euros in a new project to develop Africa's biggest uranium mine, at Imouraren, in northwestern Niger.
Djibo was named the uranium exporter's new head of state and government in a decree late Monday.
Earlier Tuesday, Niger's main labour body called on the junta leader to ensure the state functions properly during the transition to civil rule.
"Niger's problems are numerous, some are more urgent than others," Issoufou Sidibe, head of the Democratic Federation of Niger workers told AFP.
"Understandably, it's not all about taking power but ensuring that the state functions properly, with the regular payment of salaries being among the priorities," he said.
Washington has led international calls for an early return to democracy since middle ranking officers blasted their way into the presidential palace on Thursday and seized Tandja and his government during a cabinet meeting.
Tandja and several key ministers are still being held, the military leadership said.
Tandja, 71, a former army colonel, who led Niger for a decade, sparked the crisis when he decided to extend his grip on power beyond the legal limit.
The move stirred anger at home and abroad. Niger was suspended from a regional grouping as the European Union, the main donor to the poverty-stricken country, suspended aid.
Thousands of people have taken part in pro-junta marches in Niamey and other cities across the country since the takeover.
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