The first years in Niger after independence
from colonial power France 1960 were marked by political
contradictions and unsuccessful attempts at
reconciliation between the ruling circle of conservative
and French-friendly President Hamani Diori and the
opposition in exile, led by leftist politician Djibo
Within the country, the president faced resistance,
especially from students and intellectuals. The
dissatisfaction was compounded by a period of severe
drought that culminated in 1973. With opposition, all
opposition was suppressed. President Diori remained
until 1974, when the military took power in a coup, led
by Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché. All political
activities were banned.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Niger. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Kountche's access to power coincided with the return
of the rain and the financial situation improved.
However, the regime was shaken by several new coup
attempts, which were followed by tougher repression. At
the beginning of the 1980s, the economy gained a boost
thanks to increased uranium exports, but the drought set
in again and the economy deteriorated again.
When Kountché passed away in 1987, Army Chief Ali
Saïbou took over as Niger's ruler. He banned all parties
except his own, the National Movement for Social
Development (MNSD). However, the regime was met by
strong protests in the country and foreign aid donors
pushed for democratization.
Democracy is introduced
In 1992, Saïbou's regime succumbed to the pressure;
multi-party systems were introduced and elections were
held for a parliament. An alliance between six
opposition parties prevailed. In the presidential
election the following year, Mahamane Ousmane, leader of
the Democratic and Social Assembly (CDS) party, won.
However, the transition to democracy was made more
difficult by the fact that the economy was deteriorating
again. At the same time, armed rebel groups emerged
among Tuaregs, who had moved abroad from the drought in
the 1970s but who returned in the early 1990s. The
rebels considered themselves to be in breach of the
democratization process and made demands for
self-determination in northwestern Niger. The toubou
people and Arab groups in the south and east also took
up arms against the regime.
Tensions also increased in the rest of society. The
trade union movement carried out a series of strikes
against the government's austerity policy and soldiers
took local officials hostage in an attempt to get unpaid
wages. The government was forced to step down after
losing a vote of confidence in Parliament.
The new parliamentary elections held in 1995 were won
by the previous regime's party MNSD with allies. MNSD
leader Hama Amadou became head of government.
The same year, the government signed a peace
agreement with the largest Tuareg rebel group and
promised regional autonomy and social development in the
north. Other Tuareg groups made peace with the regime in
1997. However, the fulfillment of the promises to the
rebels went slowly.
Military coup again
The contradiction between President Ousmane and Prime
Minister Amadou led the military to launch a coup in
early 1996. The coup leader, Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahmin
Baré Maïnassara soon set up a civilian government, but
the takeover of power prompted France and other major
donors to stop the aid. It contributed to the adoption
of a new constitution in May 1996. It provided for
multi-party systems but at the same time gave the
president increased powers.
Maïnassara won in the 1996 presidential election and
his party The Front for the Defense of Democracy (FRDD)
also won the parliamentary elections boycotted by most
of the opposition.
In connection with the unrest during the local
elections in early 1999, Maïnassara was assassinated by
soldiers from the presidential guard. Maïnassaras was
succeeded by one of his closest men who soon
reintroduced civilian rule. In the presidential election
held the same year, MNSD's candidate Mamadou Tandja won.
The parliamentary elections were won by MNSD and Hama
Amadou returned as prime minister.
The time after the election became rife with violent
clashes between security forces and protesters, who
objected to, among other things, missing wages and the
arrest of student leaders. In the fall of 2000, riots
broke out when Islamist groups protested against a
fashion show in the capital Niamey.
Soldiers do mutiny
In July 2002, soldiers in the city of Diffa in
south-eastern Niger revolted in protest against poor
working conditions and for not getting their pay. The
revolt also spread to Niamey and Nguimi, but it was
quickly defeated. President Tandja announced a state of
emergency and military courts were set up to investigate
suspected revolts. Officially, the revolt demanded two
The uprising led to the freedom of the press being
cut. Journalists were arrested for reporting on the
soldier uprising, and the confrontation between the
government and the media continued in 2003 when a number
of private radio stations were closed. Two editorial
staff have been jailed since their newspapers reported
When the economic situation worsened in 2004 as a
result of a fall in uranium, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and the World Bank gave two-thirds of Niger's
foreign debt. At a later stage, Niger's debts were wiped
out to the western countries in the so-called Paris
In December 2004, Tandja was re-elected for another
five years and his MNSD with allies won a majority of
the seats in the parliamentary elections held
Food shortage and refugee stream
Tandja's second term was preceded by a severe drought
in combination with grasshopper attacks on the harvests.
When about 2.5 million Nigerians were threatened by
starvation, the new government was forced to import
large quantities of grain. In the summer of 2005, the
food shortage worsened and the hungry began to flee to
neighboring Nigeria. The UN Disaster Relief Commission
criticized the Nigerian government for toning down the
extent of the crisis and for not doing enough to prevent
it. The drought led to an increased fight for pasture
among the country's many nomads.
By this time, the relationship between Tandja and
Amadou's head of government began to grate. They openly
showed that they had different opinions on certain
issues, and MNSD was divided into a faction that
supported Tandja and one that supported Amadou. When
Amadou was accused of corruption in the media, he was
dismissed in 2007 by a vote of no confidence in
Parliament. He was later imprisoned and deposed as party
leader. Amadou claimed that the charges against him were
invented to politically harm him.
The Tuaregs who made peace with the government in
1995 resumed their armed struggle in 2007. The Nigerian
Justice for Justice (MNJ) movement carried out a series
of attacks on military targets and uranium mines in
northern Niger as well as the airport in the city of
The MNJ felt that the 1995 peace agreement had not
been implemented and that the northern parts of the
country had continued to be neglected. The movement
demanded greater autonomy and that the region's
residents would have access to up to 30 percent of the
profits from the uranium mining in the north. In 2008,
the attacks escalated. After many trips, a peace
agreement was signed in May 2009 between the government
and the rebels.
Tandja clings to power
Tandja had promised to leave his post when his term
expires in December 2009, but he changed as the day of
his departure began to approach. In May 2009, he
announced his intention to arrange a referendum on a new
constitution that would extend his mandate as president.
Tandja's plans to remain as president aroused strong
opposition from opposition parties, trade unions and
other groups. Criticism also came from the United
Tandja's actions led his critics within the MNDS to
jump off and form a new party Movement for a Democratic
Niger (Moden) that supported the deposed Amadou. (Amadou
himself was in France since he was recently released
from prison for health reasons.)
When the Constitutional Court rejected Tandja's plans
for a referendum, the president said he ignored the
court's ruling. He dissolved Parliament and began to
govern by decree, that is, by issuing temporary laws
without Parliament's approval. He also dissolved the
Tandja passed the referendum that took place in
August 2009. According to the authorities, 92 percent of
the voters agreed to the new constitution, which gave
Tandja a third term and removed the re-election limit
for the presidential post. The authorities stated that
voter turnout was 68 percent, while the opposition,
which called for a boycott, estimated it to be 4
The new constitution came into force in mid-August
and parliamentary elections were announced until October
Elections and new military coup
A newly formed alliance of several opposition
parties, voluntary organizations and trade unions
continued to thwart Tandja's attempt to remain in power.
The alliance called for a boycott of the parliamentary
elections announced by Tandja until October 20. It was
still kept as planned. On the same day, the regional
cooperation organization Ecowas decided to temporarily
exclude Niger, and the US and the EU withdrew aid.
Tandjas MNSD won as expected a clear majority in the
However, the joy of rolling the victory was
short-lived for Tandja. In February 2010, he was deposed
in a military coup. Several opposition leaders welcomed
the coup and the junta leaders also received strong
popular support. To this was contributed the military's
resolute handling of an imminent famine disaster.
In October, the junta organized a referendum on a new
constitution and an overwhelming majority of Nigerians
were reported to have agreed to the Constitutional Law,
which reintroduced the restriction on re-election to the
presidential post and gave Parliament back some of the
powers deprived of the 2009 constitutional change. The
proposal also gave the leaders of the Cup 2010 amnesty.
Presidential elections were held on January 31, 2011.
Among those running were Seyni Oumarou for MNDS, Hama
Amadou for Moden and Mahamadou Issoufou for Nigerian
Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS). Issoufou won
with 58 percent of the vote in the second round, held on
March 12 between him and Oumarou. The parliamentary
elections held at the same time were also won by PNDS.
Issoufou appointed Brigi Rafini, a Tuareg from
Northern Niger, to his head of government; Rafini had
served in the government in the 1990s and also had
extensive experience as a regional politician. Amadou,
who supported Issoufou in the second round of the
presidential election, was rewarded by Moden receiving
five ministerial posts. Oumarou also should have been
offered a seat in the government but declined.