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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #36 of 54: Namibia | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #38 of 54: Nigeria »

August 10, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #37 of 54: Niger

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
37. NIGER
Flag of Niger

Formal Name: Republic of Niger

Term for Citizens: Nigeriennes.

Capital: Niamey. Population: 821, 000.

Independence Achieved: August 3, 1960, from France.

Major Cities: Niamey.

Geography:

Niger is in West Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Mali. Niger is the largest country in West Africa, covering 489, 191 square miles. It encompasses a segment of the Sahara desert. The country is mostly arid, except for a thin strip of land along the Niger River. Niger is relatively flat with monotonous topographical features. The climate is very hot and harsh with very little rainfall.

Society:

Niger has a small population estimated to be about 11, 972, 000; most of them live in the south, along its 370 miles long stretch of River Niger. The population centers are in the departements of Zinder, Niamey, Tahoua, Maradi, and Dosso.

Ethnic Groups: The main ethnic groups are: Hausa 50%, Djerma-Songhay 25%, and small population of Fulani, Beriberi (Kanuri), Manga, Boudouma, and Tuareg.

Languages: Each of the ethnic groups speaks its own language. Hausa is the chief language. French is the official language.

Religion: Most people in Niger profess Sunni Islam.

Education: Access to primary school education is available to all but is not compulsory. Literacy rate is estimated at less than 17.6%.

Economy: Niger is a landlocked country with very little rainfall hence little agricultural activities. It does, however, produce exportable peanuts, cotton, cattle and uranium. Overall, Niger is a very poor country. GDP estimate: $8.8 billion; Per Capita GDP: $830. Monetary Unit: CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF).

History and Government:

Niger was a former colony of France and inherited French traditions in government. However, it is also a Muslim country with Islamic theocratic traditions. These two forces, as well as the struggle by the different ethnic groups for leadership conflict, and the result is instability. The struggle for governance by the secular and Sharia based religious elements is a feature of Niger. Military intervention is frequent. The country is divided into 7 departments and one the capital district. The current president is Tandja Mamadou. The president governs through a prime minister who is in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the government.





CONTEMEPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS OF NIGER


Historically, what is now called Niger was part of the old empires of Mali and Songhai, the Hausa states, and Kanem Bornu. However, the contemporary history of Niger began with her encounter with Europeans in the 19th century.
In the late nineteenth century, France and Britain were in a race to stake out territories in West Africa. France laid claim to the area and by the end of the century it was accepted that it was a French sphere of influence.
Niger was part of French West Africa until it got its independence from France in 1960. Hamani Diori became the president and began his single person rule. In 1974 he was replaced in office by Col. Seyni Kountche. Col. Kountche was replaced in office by Col. Ali Saibou in 1987.
The 1990s was an era when African countries were under international pressure to become democratic, so a constitution was hastily written permitting multiple parties participation in elections. And in 1993 Andre Salifou was elected the president. Shortly thereafter a palace coup led to his ouster and Col. Ibrahim Bare Mainassara came to power. In 1999 Bare was killed and Major Daouda Wanke came to power. A new constitution was written and a new election and Mamadu Tandja was elected the president. He was reelected in 2004.
The only game in town is to be elected the president, not what is done while in office, but just to be the president. Now that we have mentioned who was elected and when, the next question is what do they do in office? They changed the constitution to make sure that they would be elected and that is just about it.

Niger is divided into seven departments, which are further divided into 35 arrondissements and into 129 communes.

The economy of Niger is based largely on subsistence faming and livestock. There are some minerals, such as Uranium. The revenue from uranium is lately shrinking because of the reduced demand for uranium in the world market. The environmental movement in the West is anti nuclear plants for generating electricity and, as such, reduces demand for uranium.
Niger, along with Mauritania and Sudan, still has slavery. As a matter of fact, this seems her only claim to fame: she enslaves some of her citizens and when international pressure is brought to bear on her, she claims that those in slavery chose voluntary servitude! It is reported that over ten percent of the politicians have their own domestic slaves.
It is truly amazing that Africans still find it necessary to be the joke of the world, to do such horrible things as enslave their fellow human beings. They are no longer amusing, may be they are not truly intelligent? Otherwise, how is it that they do not feel ashamed of their history, a history that is mostly known for selling themselves into slavery to non-Africans?
The People of Niger: Hausas, Tauregs, Kanuri, Fulani, Toubou etc can hardly be said to have contributed anything else to history than sell themselves into slavery. What a glorious history of contribution to the welfare of mankind!
In the present, the country has the highest infant mortality rate in the world (248 per 1000) and not much is done about it. Perhaps, it is better that the children died in infancy for otherwise they would grow up to be slaves and or struggle to be the president and do-nothing from that office.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at August 10, 2006 10:08 AM

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