Tandja, Mamadou

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Mamadou Tandja (mämädōō´ tän´jä), 1938–, Nigerien political leader, president of Niger (1999–2010), b. Maine-Soroa. He attended military schools in Madagascar and Mali, joining the army in the mid-1950 and rising to the rank of colonel. In 1974 he was part of a coup that brought General Seyni Kountché to power. Tandja subsequently served as prefect of the Tahoua and Maradi regions, ambassador to Nigeria, and minister of the interior, as well as commander of several army garrisons. He retired from the army in 1991 to head the National Movement for the Development of Society. He made unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1993 and 1996 before being elected in 1999; he was reelected in 2004. Under Tandja, Niger experienced a period of relative economic and social stability, but his insistence on holding a referendum on his running for a third term, which was ruled illegal by the constitutional court, led in 2009 to his rule by decree and his dismissal of parliament and the court. The vote in favor of ending term limits and extending his current term by three years was denounced by the opposition was rigged. He was overthrown and arrested by the military in Feb., 2010, but corruption charges that had been brought against him were dismissed in May, 2011, and he was released.