Cave paintings from the Aïr Mountains show that many thousands of years ago there was both settlement and rich wildlife in parts of Sahara that are now uninhabited. Traces of human presence are believed to go back 600,000 years in time. Among the oldest residents of Niger were the Tuareg people – nomads who still live in the area.
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From the 13th century, the Tuarans engaged in trans-Saharan trade and developed significant realms (confederations) in an area that was a hub of trade between North Africa, the coastal areas in the west and central West Africa. Most important of these was Takadda-Azelik, which was also an Islamic teaching site, next to being a trading center based on the extraction of copper and salt. Copper was a means of payment at that time, and salt was one of the most important commodities throughout the Sahara, dominated by the Tuareg regime. Takadda was followed by the Agadez Sultanate. As a result of the drought in the north from the mid-18th century, several Tuaregans sought further south.
A key feature of the older history of today’s Niger is the division into two regions, each with its own history and culture: the nomadic tuareg (and toubou) culture in the arid north and the agricultural culture in the south – with ethnic groups such as songhai-sarma in the west, hausa in the middle and kanuri in the east. The areas were often subject to the other great kingdoms of the Sahel region, such as Gao, Mali, Kanem and Bornu – as well as several Hausa kingdoms and the Fulani kingdom of Sokoto.
As in Nigeria took place clashes between hausaer and Fulani in Niger in the early 1800s; the majority of the population is heady. Fulani advancing had great significance for the development of the area as the Hausa kings were replaced by fulani- emirs. As a result of relocation from Nigeria, new Hausa kingdoms were established, including in Katsina, following a revolt against the Fulani regime, and in 1821 Maradi was established as a new Hausa state. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Niger.
A smaller kingdom in Bornu, Damagaram, gained independence and took control of much of the trade through the Sahara from Zinder. The majority of the population was associated with Islamic religion and culture.
Europeans’ arrival in Niger started with explorers such as the British Mungo Park and the German Heinrich Barth, who were in search of the sources of the Niger River. But it was France who gained control of the area during the colonial race. France feared British expansion in Nigeria and failed to protect Niger from its more important possessions by the sea, especially the Ivory Coast. France also had a plan to form a belt of French-controlled territory from Algeria and Tunisia to Congo.
France undertook several military expeditions from the late 1890s to secure control of Niger, but faced armed resistance, especially from two local empire builders in the south – Samori Touré and Rabih az-Zubayr, who both fought against the French, but were beaten respectively. 1898 and 1900. In the same year Niger became a French military territory, ruled from Senegal in 1903, and part of French Sudan in 1920.
Niger became its own colony in 1922, administered as part of French West Africa. Prior to this, the Tuaregs’ resistance in the north had been wiped out in 1918, which meant the end of their long-standing independence and political power. France had a modest interest in the country due to the lack of known natural resources, with the exception of the areas which – often under duress – were used for peanut cultivation for export.
Like other French colonies, Niger became an overseas territory in 1946, and its inhabitants became French citizens, with the right to choose envoys to the French parliament. This gave the people of the west of Niger an advantage, being more open to European influence than the Hausa in the east.
Several batches were formed; the two most important were the Party of Progressive Nigeria (PPN), led by Hamani Diori, and the Union Nigerian Democratique (UND), with Djibo Bakary as its leader. The PPN was part of the West African political movement Rassemblement démocratique africain (RDA). Bakary became the leader of the new National Assembly, established in 1957. PPN advocated close relations with France, while UND advocated full independence and recommended voting no in the referendum on the country’s future in 1958. However, it provided a majority for membership in the French union, and Niger became an autonomous republic within this.
In a subsequent political crisis, UND was banned and Bakary went into exile; Diori became prime minister and responsible for drafting a new constitution in 1959.
Niger achieved full independence on August 3, 1960, with Hamani Diori as president. He led a conservative policy based on close ties to the former colonial power, and France was allowed to retain a military garrison in the capital Niamey. A coup attempt failed in 1963 and in 1965 Bakari carried out a guerrilla attack from a base in Ghana. Diori was re-elected in 1965 and 1970, but deposed in a military coup in 1974, led by Colonel Lieutenant Seyni Kountché. A military council was formed to take over the governance of the country; the National Assembly was dissolved and political parties banned.
The military rulers pursued a more nationalist policy and reduced France’s influence somewhat, including by canceling the base agreement. Disagreements in the military council led to coup attempts against Kountché in 1975 and 1976. In 1987, President Kountché died and was succeeded by army chief of staff, Colonel Ali Saïbou.
Saïbou gradually opened to pluralism, and in 1988 the ban on political organization was lifted. At the same time, a new government party, the Mouvement national pour une societé de development (MNSD) was launched. In 1989, Saïbou was elected president, without a counter candidate; a legislative assembly was elected on the basis of one list of only government-approved candidates.
Against the background of civil opposition to the regime, a national conference was held in 1991 to prepare for the introduction of democratic governance. The conference declared itself an independent political body and decided to repeal the constitution and dismiss the government, but Saïbou remained in his position as head of state in a transitional phase for free elections.
Twelve parties participated in the 1993 elections. The MNSD received the highest support, but not the majority, and a six-party group formed a coalition government. The presidential election was won by Mahamane Ousmane of the Convention Democratique et Social (CDS), who was inaugurated as President of the Third Republic. He thus became Niger’s first head of state from the Hausa people. However, he did not have the support of a majority in the new parliament, which led to a difficult political situation.
In 1996, a group of officers, led by Colonel Ibrahim Barre Maïnassara, seized power through a military coup. The president and the government were ousted, the parliament dissolved and the political parties banned. A Democrat reintroduction conference was held in Niamey in April 1996, and in May the ban on political activity was lifted. In the July presidential election, Colonel Maïnassara won a majority and was elected President of the Fourth Republic. The election was criticized by the opposition, which largely boycotted the election to a new national assembly, which was won by the president-friendly Union National des Independents pour le renouveau démocratique (UNIRD).
In April 1999, President Maïnassara was assassinated by his own security forces, and a military junta led by Major Daouda Mallam Wanké took power. New elections were held October – November 1999; a retired officer, Mamadou Tandja, became the new president of the Fifth Republic and reelected in free elections in 2004.
A new coup attempt took place in 2002, and in 2009 President Tandja implemented what the opposition characterized as a silent coup: In order to sit for a third term, the Constitution had to be changed, and the president dissolved the National Assembly and wrote a referendum as well as new elections – despite for the Constitutional Court to hold that this was contrary to the Constitution. The opposition boycotted the referendum in August, which decided to repeal the Fifth Republic, and authorized it to draft the Constitution of the Sixth Republic; At the same time it was accepted that Tandja could sit for a third period. The opposition also boycotted the parliamentary elections in October, with several parties supporting the president standing. National Movement of the Nassara Development Society(MNSD) increased its majority from the 2004 election and gained a pure majority.
In February 2010, Tandja was deposed in a coup, and a military council took over control of the country. A new presidential election was held in January 2011, won by former opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou. The election result was recognized by the opposing candidate, but the dissatisfaction was still great: In July 2011, a planned attack against Issoufou was revealed. A major, a lieutenant, and three soldiers were arrested for the attempted assault.
In 2005, Tandja denied that his population was starving – at a time when several aid organizations were engaged to cushion the effects of a severe humanitarian crisis as a result of life-threatening food shortages of about 2.5 million people. The reasons for the lack of food were both reduced crops due to grasshopper invasion the previous year, and high prices of food found in the market. The severe drought also threatened the traditional life of the country’s nomadic population, Tuareg and Fulani, which account for approx. 20 percent of the population.
In the 1990s, there was a conflict between the authorities and the Nigerian Tuareg population. The conflict has been even more prominent in neighboring Mali, with demands for the establishment of an independent Tuareg state which will also include parts of Niger. On several occasions, there were armed clashes between government forces and Tuaregs, which established several organizations to fight for self-government within a federal system – with the Front de la Libération de l’Aïr et l’Azaouad (FLAA) as a driving force.
In 1990, a commission was set up with the participation of the authorities of Algeria, Mali and Niger to look at the conditions of the Tuareg regime, including with a view to facilitating their movement across national borders. A ceasefire was entered into after French mediation in 1993; two breakout groups from FLAA did not accept the agreement, and the clashes continued in 1994.
An agreement negotiated with the Nigerian authorities in 1995 opened for autonomous Tuareg regions, and for Tuareg to be incorporated into public institutions, including the security forces. The disarmament of the rebels was formally completed in 1997. A new Tuareg rebellion broke out in 2007, with greater demands for influence and yield from the extraction of uranium in the Tuareg areas. The uprising caused a number of clashes, and exception laws were introduced in parts of the country. A ceasefire between the government and two of the rebel groups was concluded in the fall of 2009, but at the turn of the year 2009/2010 came new meetings which in turn increased the tension. Security measures in the north were in part maintained due to the danger of actions by cells belonging to al Qaeda.
Ethnic contradictions also came to the surface in southern and eastern Niger. The conflict was, among other things, linked to grazing land rights, and included large groups of refugees from Chad. In 1994, a new organization, the Front Democratique du Renouveau (FDR), demanded increased autonomy for the southeastern part of the country. A ceasefire with the FDR was concluded in 1998. Ethnic clashes between toubou and hausa took place east of the country in 2001. Demands from parts of society in 2000 on the introduction of Islamic law, sharia – as in the Muslim parts of Nigeria – led to political tension. State and religion are separate from Niger’s constitution.
Since independence, Niger has mainly maintained close relations with the former colonial power France, and has also established good relations with the United States. Relations with Western countries worsened following the 1996 elections and the assassination of President Maïnassara in 1999, and several countries, as well as the EU, imposed financial sanctions. These were discontinued and relations with the United States improved when Niger came to the spotlight in 2003 – indirectly accused of supplying Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq with uranium, without this being documented. Niger was also suspected of illegally exporting uranium to other countries.
A strained relationship with Libya was improved in 2000 when President Mamadou visited Libya and Gaddafi visited Niger. In the same year, a conflict between Niger and Benin escalated. The conflict involved several smaller islands along the Niger River border – and the case was left to the OAU, then the International Court of Justice in The Hague. This in 2005 allocated most of the disputed area to Niger. In 2004, it was reported that Islamists from an Algerian Islamist militant group had backed up with Nigerian forces in the north of the country.
The dissolution of Parliament and subsequent developments in 2009 were criticized by Niger’s closest allies, including France, the US and the EU, and the country was suspended from the ECOWAS partner organization. The United States also withheld agreed assistance. China strengthened relations with Niger in 2009 by entering into an agreement on oil exploration and extraction in the country, to a value of approx. $ 5 billion.
Nine West African countries in 2008 entered into a plan in Niamey to Niger River from possible dehydration. Increased settlement and climate change are why the river, which is a lifeline for Niger and other countries in the region, has lost much of its water flow. While Norway was voted the world’s best country to live in by the United Nations Human Development Index (2013), Niger came in last place out of 187 countries.