Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja held peace talks with Tuareg rebel leaders for the first time, meeting for two hours in the northern town of Agadez. President Tandja told reporters he had offered an amnesty if the three rebel groups laid down their weapons. The rebels have not yet reacted to Tandja’s offer. However, before the meeting, the rebel Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) said it wants to see more Tuaregs in the army, increased autonomy and a greater share of revenues from uranium operations in the region.
Since 2007, various groups of armed nomads have been fighting for a larger share of the revenue generated by Niger’s uranium mines. Until now, Tandja had refused to negotiate with them. This week, construction began on a new uranium mine in the north of the country. When it is completed in three years’ time it will be the world’s second largest such mine. The French company Areva is building the mine and will hold a majority share in it. (Radio Netherlands, BBC News, May 4)