Niger

Info

Capital

Niamey

Population

16,899,327 (July 2013 est.)

Climate

Arid to semiarid

Currency

514.1 XOF = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Maradi, Zinder, Agadez

Area

1,267,000 sq.km.

People

Nationality

Nigerien

Major Peoples

Fulani , Hausa, Tuareg, Wodaabe

Religion

Muslim 80%, African religion 15%, Christian 5%

Literacy

28.7%

Principal Language

Hausa, Zarma, Kanuri, Fulde, Tamacheq

Official Language

French, Hausa, Djerma

Politics

Head Of State

Issoufou Mahamadou Issoufou (since 2011)

Type of Government

Republic

Date of Independence

August 3, 1960

Major Exports

Uranium, Livestock Products, Cowpeas, Onions

Precolonial History

Once less arid than it is today, the Sahara region of northern Niger was inhabited by humans about 600,000 years ago. The area became a crossroads for north African trade caravans and Muslim missionaries. Various empires and ethnic groups claimed territories and founded states, particularly the Hausa peoples, who are the largest ethnic group in West Africa today. The Fulani of Sokoto established a Muslim empire and encroached upon Hausa territory in the late 18th century, taking control of the region. European explorers, namely Mungo Park of Scotland and Heinrich Barth of Germany, began arriving in the early 1800s, seeking the source of the Niger River. French military explorers reached Niger in the 1890s. France gradually began conquering the area and suppressing revolts by indigenous groups, although the nomadic Tuareg peoples staged a fierce resistance. Niger became a colony in French West Africa in 1922 and was granted the status of an overseas territory in 1946.

Postcolonial History

France agreed to Niger’s full independence in 1960. Hamani Diori became the first president of the new republic under a single party, the Parti Progressiste Nigérien (PPN). Accusations of corruption culminated in a 1974 military coup in which Diori was arrested and Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché came to power. He served as military head of state until his death in 1987, and was succeeded by Brigadier General Ali Saibou. Saibou acquiesced to demands for a democratic system with multiple political parties in 1990. Mahamane Ousamane of the Convention Démocratique et Sociale (CDS) was elected Niger’s first Hausa president in 1993. After a series of coups d’état, Mamadou Tandja of the Mouvement National de la Societé de Développement (MNSD) became president in a democratic election in 1999. Tandja attempted to extend his authority beyond his two-term limit, and was deposed by rebel soldiers in 2010. After one year of military rule, elections were held and Tandja’s rival, socialist Mahamadou Issoufou of the Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme-Tarayya (PNDS), became president of Niger in 2011.

Recommended Sources:

African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, “Niger Page” (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Country_Specific/Niger.html).

Pierre Englebert and Katherine Murison, “Niger: Recent History,” Africa South of the Sahara (London: Routledge, 2007).