Capital : Niamey
Size: 489 000 sq m Popn: 8 252 000
The spread of the Sahara forced people south of areas of Niger they had inhabited about 4000 years ago. Parts of the country, which takes its name from the Niger river, were ruled by the Songhai and Borno Empires or the Hausa until colonial times and it was the Southern base of the trans-Saharan slave trade. European explorers arrived in the late C18th and the Tuareg people invaded from the north.
France, despite resistance, established a colony by 1906, and it became part of French West Africa although fighting continued until 1922. In 1946, it became a French overseas territory and an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958, achieving full independence under President Hamani Diori in 1960. He retained close ties with France and looked to have established a stable regime with the help of economic benefits resulting from the discovery of uranium deposits.
He was deposed by the military under Seyni Kountché in 1974 after discontent caused by corruption, authoritarianism and considerable hardship due to drought and a collapse in groundnut prices. He suspended the constitution and established a military government to become president but tried to restore the economy and negotiated a more equal relationship with France. He died in 1987 and another officer, Ali Saibou, took over as President and drafted a new, more liberal, constitution in 1988. In 1990, a multi-party system was announced and Saibou agreed to hold a constitutional conference with representatives of all political opinions. He was stripped of his executive powers but remained head of state whilst a new constitution was agreed. The tansitional government of the High Council of the Republic collapsed in March 1992.
Ethnic groups include the settled Hausa, Zarma and Kanuri as well as the nomadic Fulani and Tuareg, French is the official language, Hausa, Zarma, Fulani, Tamachek and Kanuri are also spoken and Islam is the country's religion.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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