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African Kingdoms

West Africa

 

Modern Niger
AD 1958 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1958-2023), First Republic (1960-1974), Second Republic (1989-1993), Third Republic (1993-1996), Fourth Republic (1996-1999), Fifth Republic (1999-2009), Sixth Republic (2009-2010), & Seventh Republic (2010-On)

The modern 'Republic of the Niger' - usually shortened to Niger or 'the Niger' - lies on the southern side of Africa's Sahara Desert. This is more familiarly known to the locals as the Tenere Desert, and as a result of the state's position a large proportion of its extended territory is arid. Its capital is Naimey, which is located in the populous south-western corner of the country. A landlocked state, it is neighboured by Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso to the south-west, and Mali to the west.

The territory which forms modern Niger first emerged into history as the easternmost section of the Songhai empire, encompassing perhaps a quarter of the empire's entire territory. However, the Songhai empire held only the south-western quarter of what is now Niger, with something of an extension towards the Sahara.

The empire was founded as a small state which was initially centred on Gao, around AD 700, by Songhai Berbers from the Middle Niger. It evolved slowly, only truly becoming an empire in the fifteenth century and reaching the height of its power by around 1500. By this time it was the one of the largest African empires in terms of territory, stretching almost the entire length of the River Niger which cuts through a wide swathe of Mali but which barely touches the far south-western corner of Niger. In 1901 the empire's descendant, the Dendi kingdom, was conquered by France. Colonial occupation lasted for fifty-nine years.

Even before colonial possession began, the Anglo-French convention of 14 June 1898 delimited for those both countries their possessions to the west of Lake Chad. In 1900, the French possessions (and soon-to-be possessions) were consolidated within the military territory of Niger and were made part of French West Africa. In 1910, the military territory of Niger was attached to 'Upper Senegal & Niger', one of the five colonies which comprised French West Africa. In 1922, Niger became a separate colony within French West Africa. On 19 December 1958, the colony became the autonomous republic of Niger.

Following independence in 1960, the new national entity which was the republic of Niger - gaining its name from the river - enjoyed a troubled life. The new parliament elected Hamani Diori as Niger's first president for what became the relatively short 'First Republic'. Straight away the country suffered a severe drought, with the instability this cause resulting in military coup after coup. The 'Second Republic' saw Niger emerged from military dictatorship, and the 'Third Republic' saw it become a democratic republic. Three more republics have followed, to date, interspersed by further military interference in the political system.

Today the country is prone to frequent droughts (and, perversely, floods), insurgency, and widespread poverty. The struggle to improve the standard of living is an ongoing one in this predominantly Islamic country. Niger remains one of the world's least developed countries, and one of its poorest by GDP. Its economy is still largely linked to subsistence agriculture, with some uranium export from the south being added to that. Rural dwelling remains predominant.


Sub-Saharan Africa

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Historical Dictionary of Niger, Samuel Decalo (1979), from Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, Cambridge (England), 1910), and Washington Post (1996-2015), and from External Links: Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and Niger (Rulers.org), and Niger (Zárate's Political Collections (ZPC)), and BBC Country Profiles, and Perspective Monde (French), and Niger News (dead link)), and Population explosion (The Economist), and Niger's troubled borderlands (The Guardian), and Devastating floods (2022) (The Guardian), and Niger soldiers announce coup (The Guardian), and Niger coup leader calls for support (The Guardian).)

1958 - 1960

Jean Colombani

French high commissioner pre-independence (to Aug).

1960 - 1974

Hamani Diori

First president. PPN. Deposed.

1960 - 1974

Niger becomes fully independent of France on 3 August 1960, joining the United Nations on 20 September 1960. For the first fourteen years of its existence, the country is governed as a one-party state with President Hamani Diori leading its affairs.

This is the country's 'First Republic' period, but its one party system is imposed by Diori almost immediately following independence and does not bode well for the country's future.

Hamani Diori
Hamani Diori ruled Niger from the beginning of independence until he was deposed by a military coup during a deeply unsettled period of the new country's modern history

1968 - 1974

Severe drought between 1968 and 1973 devastates Niger's livestock and crop production. This causes Niger to experience increasing destabilisation, which is exacerbated by accusations of out-of-control corruption in government.

The situation reaches boiling point when President Hamani Diori is overthrown in 1974 by a military coup which is led by Lieutenant-Colonel Seyni Kountché. Niger now experiences its first taste of government by military junta. Several minor counter-coups are attempted and are crushed (in 1975, 1976, and 1983).

1974 - 1987

Seyni Kountché

Military dictator. Deposed and died.

1987

With Seyni Kountché dying of a brain tumour, in effect he is deposed so that he can be succeeded by Ali Seybou, the chief of staff of the armed forces. Seybou immediately introduces political reforms to help improve conditions in the country.

1987 - 1991

Ali Seybou / Saibou

Military dictator. Replaced by transitional government.

1989 - 1990

A new constitution in 1989 brings Niger back to civilian rule, heralding the start of the country's 'Second Republic', but again under a one-party system. Seybou is re-'elected' as president.

In the following year a Tuareg rebellion starts up in northern Niger (not being ended until a ceasefire agreement in 1995). This only adds to the country's political unrest, with a wave of strikes and demonstrations already having led to opposition political parties being legalised.

Tuareg fighter
Despite being traditionalist nomads, the modern Tuareg are virtually a match for the government forces which have been struggling to suppress them

1991 - 1993

A constitutional conference in 1991 strips Seybou of his powers and sets up a transitional government under Andre Salifou. This leads to a new constitution in 1992 and presidential elections in 1993. Mahamane Ousmane is elected president at the start of the 'Third Republic'.

1991 - 1993

Andre Salifou

Head of the transitional government.

1993 - 1996

Mahamane Ousmane

President (to Jan). Democratic & Social Convention.

1996

The democratic peace lasts a remarkably short time. President Ousmane is ousted in a coup led by Colonel Ibrahim Maïnassara, who then bans all political parties. In May a new constitution which gives him increased powers is approved in a referendum and the ban on political parties is lifted. In July, Mainassara 'wins' presidential elections, beginning the 'Fourth Republic'.

1996 - 1999

Ibrahim Maïnassara

Military dictator. Assassinated by his bodyguard.

1999

Ibrahim Maïnassara is assassinated by his own bodyguards. Major Daouda Wanké assumes power in his place, and in August a new constitution is introduced which reverses the 1996 increase of the presidency's powers.

Ibrahim Mainassara of Niger
On 9 April 1999, Niger's military dictator, Ibrahim Maïnassara, was assassinated on the tarmac of Niamey Airport, with some elements today claiming him as a martyr

1999 - 2000

Daouda Wanké

Military dictator. Former bodyguard. Stood down.

1999

Elections are held in October-November 1999, and Mamadou Tandja wins them with a majority of seats in parliament. Wanké stands down and the 'Fifth Republic' begins. Tandja manages to hold office for a full decade, remaining in place for a third term even though the limit is two.

2000 - 2010

Mamadou Tandja

President for a decade. Ousted by the military.

2003

Remarkably late by the world's political standards, slavery is banned in Niger. Even so it continues to pose a problem in a country in which the rule of law can sometimes be seen as a flexible process. Several prosecutions for slavery follow.

2009 - 2010

The increasingly-power hungry President Mamadou Tandja is ousted in 2010 by the army in February following a decade in power, a term which he has shown every sign of extending with the enforcement of a new constitution and the start of the brief 'Sixth Republic' between 2009-2010. The military vow to oversee free democratic elections. Press freedom begins to see considerable improvement even before then.

Mamadou Tandja
After attempting to secure an illegal and unconstitutional third term in office by changing the constitution, President Mamadou Tandja (seen here in white, voting in 2009) was removed from office by the military

2010 - 2011

Salou Djibo

Military head of state. Stood down for elections.

2011

Veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou of the 'Nigerien [sic] Party for Democracy & Socialism' becomes president in March 2011 during free and fair elections. This ends a year of benevolent control by the military junta which has already heralded the start of the 'Seventh Republic' (from 2010).

The election has aimed to return the country to democracy after Tandja's expulsion by the military, with a remarkably quick turnaround, taking Niger from yet another would-be dictatorship under Tandja to fresh democratic elections in this year.

2011 - 2021

Mahamadou Issoufou

President (and former prime minister). PNDS.

2014 - 2015

In August 2014, Islamist separatists in Nigeria by the name of Boko Haram proclaim a caliphate in the territory which it controls in the north-east of the country. In November 2014 the group launches a series of attacks in north-eastern Nigeria, capturing several towns near Lake Chad and running raids into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon in early 2015.

This forces Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger to form a military coalition against Boko Haram, which claims successes in pushing it back in all of these countries. In late March 2015, the Nigerian army captures Gwoza, which it believes is Boko Haram's main stronghold. This leaves the armed group with only two towns under its control.

Chad's rebels
The rebels who were fighting Chad's rare democratically-elected government in the first decade of the twenty-first century were based in neighbouring Sudan, but by 2009 they were militarily weak and Chad soon had other problems to worry about

2020 - 2021

Following the 2020 announcement by President Mahamadou Issoufou that he would be stepping down to be replaced by a successor who is freely and fairly elected, the elections process swings into action. These go into a run-off on 20 February 2021 following no clear result at the first attempt, on 27 December 2020.

On 31 March 2021, Niger's security forces thwart an attempted coup by a military unit which is located in the capital city. Gunfire is heard in the presidential palace just two days before newly-elected President Mohamed Bazoum is due to be sworn in, but the presidential guard suppresses the attempt and makes arrests.

2021 - 2023

Mohamed Bazoum

President (and former minister). PNDS. Deposed.

2021

Gunmen kill sixty-nine people including a local mayor in a jihadist attack on a remote area of south-western Niger. The attack is part of a wave of violence against civilians which sweeps the country during this year.

The militants behind most of these attacks are associated with a local affiliate of Islamic State, now a terrorist organisation after its brief attempt at creating a caliphate. Boko Haram also occasionally contribute to the general mayhem.

FACT rebels in Chad
About a week after killing President Idriss Déby, rebels from the 'Front pour l'alternance et la concorde au Tchad' (FACT) were routed by the Chadian armed forces and had to retreat into Niger

2022

Tremendous floods strike Chad, Niger, and Nigeria between June and November 2022, made worse by climate change. They are amongst the deadliest on record for the region. Hundreds of people are killed, 1.5 million are displaced, and more than 500,000 hectares of farmland is damaged.

2023

General Abdourahamane Tchiani is the military leader behind a coup which, on 26 July 2023, sees the country's defence and security forces remove the president from office. Elements of President Bazoum's own presidential guard are involved in the coup. This follows an attempted coup in March while the president had been on a visit to Turkey.

2023

Abdourahamane Tchiani

Army general, and coup leader.

 

Tchiani claims justification for his actions as an attempt to rescue Niger from gradual demise. Wagner mercenaries from Russia also seem to be prominent on the streets of Niamey, with their head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, weighing in with his own pro-coup pronouncement. The deposed Mohamed Bazoum refuses to resign.

 
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