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A Christian lawyer group was established in the Republic of Niger after a visit from the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON). The fellowship has a pending application to be registered. They are a very small group of only about 10 lawyers, but they hold meetings every two months to pray and discuss subjects relevant to the church in Niger.
They are often asked to provide training on questions of human rights by way of seminars, or to give their advice on certain legal situations that the church is facing. One example occurred in October 2008, when they met with the Alliance of Missions and Churches in Niger to propose solutions to a problem of a violation of the right to worship, in a place not far from Niamey. The local authorities in that place had decided not to allow the planting of a church in that town. They chased the pastor out of the town and threatened the brother who had been housing him. The Christian lawyers were able to intervene, to bring calm to a potentially explosive situation.
Niger is over 90% Muslim. Officially freedom of religion is observed, but Christians have experienced problems in exercising this freedom at times (as highlighted by the case mentioned above.)
The Republic of Niger went through a major constitutional crisis in 2009. The President, Mamadou Tandja, brushed aside domestic and international objections to change the constitution and stay in power. At the end of his second and final term of office, he sought a constitutional amendment to overturn a provision banning him from standing for a third term. The Constitutional Court ruled his plans for a referendum illegal, saying the vote had to be approved by Parliament. Mr. Tandja reacted by dissolving both the court and parliament and assuming emergency powers. The referendum went ahead in August 2009, with a landslide victory for Mr. Tandja, but amidst allegations of fraud and rigging. The new constitution allows him to hold office for three more years without a vote. Opposition parties accuse him of having mounted a coup. Foreign governments have voiced grave concern about the developments. The West African bloc ECOWAS suspended Niger’s membership.
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Issaka Moussa (firstname.lastname@example.org)