Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east. The capital city is Niamey.
The people of Niger need both immediate help and a fair chance to develop sustainable trade. Cadwyn work with the Handicraft Co-operatives in Maradi and Dakoro in the poorest region of the country. We can offer you now decorated Wooden Spoons – all the profits of which will be donated to the work of Christian Aid’s partners in Niger – and also hand-made leather purses with children’s names which we are marketing to develop their trade.
Niger has a population of 14m and an area of 1,267,000 km². Depending on how they are counted, Niger has between 8 and 20 indigenous languages. The discrepancy comes from the fact that several are closely related, and can be grouped together or considered apart. French, inherited from the colonial period, is the official language. It is spoken mainly as a second/additional language by a relatively small percentage of the population.
The largest ethnic groups in Niger are the Hausa, who also constitute the major ethnic group in northern Nigeria, and the Djerma-Songhai, who also are found in parts of Mali. Both groups, along with the Gourmantche, are sedentary farmers who live in the arable, southern tier of the country. The remainder of Nigeriens are nomadic or semi-nomadic livestock-raising peoples--Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, Arabs, and Toubou.
Niger is the poorest country in the world, ranking last on the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index. It is a landlocked, sub-Saharan nation, whose economy centers on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world's largest uranium deposits. Drought cycles, desertification, a 2.9% population growth rate, and the drop in world demand for uranium have undercut the economy.
Niger's subtropical climate is mainly very hot and dry, with much desert area. In the extreme south there is a tropical climate on the edges of the Niger River basin. The terrain is predominantly desert plains and sand dunes, with flat to rolling savannah in the south and hills in the north.
One of the first empires was the Songhaii Empire. During recent centuries, the nomadic Tuareg formed large confederations, pushed southward, and, siding with various Hausa states, clashed with the Fulani Empire of Sokoto, which had gained control of much of the Hausa territory in the late 18th century.
In the 19th century, contact with the West began when the first European explorers - notably Mungo Park (British) and Heinrich Barth (German) - explored the area, searching for the source of the Niger River. Although French efforts at "pacification" began before 1900, dissident ethnic groups, especially the desert Tuareg, were not subdued until 1922, when Niger became a French colony.
Niger's colonial history and development parallel that of other French West African territories. France administered its West African colonies through a governor general in Dakar, Senegal, and governors in the individual territories, including Niger. In addition to conferring French citizenship on the inhabitants of the territories, the 1946 French constitution provided for decentralization of power and limited participation in political life for local advisory assemblies.
Niger became fully independent on August 3, 1960. For its first 14 years as an independent state, Niger was run by a single-party civilian regime under the presidency of Hamani Diori. In 1974, a combination of devastating drought and accusations of rampant corruption resulted in a military coup that overthrew the Diori regime. Col. Seyni Kountché and a small military group ruled the country until Kountché's death in 1987. He was succeeded by his Chief of Staff, Col. Ali Saibou.
A transition government was installed in November 1991 to manage the affairs of state until the institutions of the Third Republic were put into place in April 1993. Rivalries within a ruling coalition elected in 1993 led to governmental paralysis, which provided Col. Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara a rationale to overthrow the Third Republic in January 1996. Baré organized a presidential election in July 1996. While voting was still going on, he replaced the electoral commission. The new commission declared him the winner after the polls closed. His party won 90% of parliament seats in a flawed legislative election in November 1996.
As part of an initiative started under the 1991 national conference, the government signed peace accords in April 1995 with Tuareg and Toubou groups that had been in rebellion since 1990. The Tuareg claimed they lacked attention and resources from the central government. The government agreed to absorb some former rebels into the military and, with French assistance, help others return to a productive civilian life.
In 1999, Baré was killed in a coup led by Maj. In votes that international observers found to be generally free and fair, the Nigerien electorate held legislative and presidential elections in October and November 1999, and Mamadou Tandja was elected as president. Mamadou Tandja was re-elected in December 2004 and reappointed Hama Amadou as Prime Minister. Mahamane Ousmane, the head of the CDS, was re-elected President of the National Assembly (parliament) by his peers.