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Before Independence

Long before Niger became a colony of France at the end of the 19th century, the area lay at the crossroads of the West African empires of Songhai, Mali, Gao, and Hausa states (Sokoto). Important transit routes ran through the area. After a difficult pacification, particularly by the Touareg, Niger became part of the French Community of West Africa in 1922. Niger consists largely of desert. In 1959 commercially interesting uranium sources were discovered.


Niger became independent on 3 August 1960 and had its first president, Hamani Diori. Power was largely concentrated in the capital Niamey and was mainly in the hands of the Zarma people. Both the Hausa in the east and the Touareg in the centre and north of the country offered (armed) resistance to the regime. Uranium exploitation got off to a good start in the early 1970s, but corruption and mismanagement soon caused a decline in trade. A severe drought in 1973 led to famine and general despair in the country. In 1974, the regime was overthrown by Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché who installed a military authority headed by his council, the Conseil militaire supreme (CMS). Kountché would rule the country with a heavy hand until his death in 1987. His successor, Colonel Abi Saïbou, established, with the approval of a referendum, a new constitution that provided for a one-party system. His party was the Mouvement National pour une Société de Développement (MNSD).


In the early 1990s, social and political unrest in Niger grew and calls for a multiparty system increased. In July 1991, a National Conference was convened, which installed a transitional government. In February 1993 the first democratic elections took place, which were won by the opposition party, the Alliance des Forces du Changement (AFC). Mahamane Ousmane, of the Convention Démocratique Sociale (CDS), which formed a coalition with the AFC and the MNSD, became the new President of the Third Republic. Despite the turbulent situation, the government was successful in concluding the peace treaty with the Tuareg in April 1995.

The social and political unrest eventually led to the ungovernability of the country. This was one of the reasons why Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara overthrew the government in a military coup in January 1996. He would then fraudulently win the presidential elections in June 1996 with 52% of the votes. Parliamentary elections later that year were boycotted by the gathered opposition because of Baré's "manipulative" policies. The country was then dominated by strikes, student and opposition protests. Only since mid-1998 ("agreement of 31 July") did there seem to be some normalisation in the political field.

The cancellation of the results of the elections, which were won by the opposition, led to great political tension. On 9 April 1999, a military coup took place under the leadership of the Commander of the Presidential Guard, Major Wanké. The incumbent President Baré was killed. A National Reconciliation Council (CNR) was set up, chaired by Wanké, to manage the transition to democracy. In June 1999, a Consultative Council approved a new constitution, which was adopted by referendum on 11 July 1999. The November 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections were generally considered free and fair. Since then, Mamadou Tandja has been president of the first coalition government of the Fifth Republic and Hama Amadou has been prime minister.

21th century

On 24 July 2004, local elections took place, which were peaceful and yielded a victory for the ruling party, the MNSD, followed by the Parti Nigérien pour la Dé mocratie et le Socialisme (PNDS) and CDS. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held at the end of 2004. President Mamadou Tandja became president for another five years. In 2007, Tuareg rebels attacked the country and the army gained power. In April 2009, Tuareg rebels and the government agreed to cease hostilities after talks in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

In August 2009, President Tandja won a major victory that allowed him to rule for another three years. In February 2010, Tandja was deposed by the military, led by Col Salou Djibo. In March 2010, Col Salou Djibo appointed a transitional government led by Mahamadou Danda. In March 2011, Mahamadou Issoufou became president of Niger. In February 2012, Niger experienced a large influx of refugees from Mali. Thousands of Malians fled the fighting in that country. In June 2013, the historic city of Agadez was listed as a World Heritage Site. In 2015, Niger joins the alliance to fight Boko Haram and faces suicide attacks attributed to Boko Haram. In March 2016, Issouffou is re-elected president. In 2016 and 2017, there are multiple attacks by various Jihadist groups and Boko Haram. In July 2017, a West African force is once again assembled to fight Islamic militants in the Sahel region.

Former Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum was sworn in as president in April 2021, in Niger's first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. His immediate priority is the deadly jihadist insurgency that is causing chaos in the west of the country and the wider Sahel region.Presidential elections will be held in February 2019 after a last-minute postponement of a week, Buhari will remain in power.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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