The nomadic Tuaregs were the first inhabitants in the Sahara region. The Hausa (14th century), Zerma (17th century), Gobir (18th century), and Fulani (19th century) also established themselves in the region.
Niger was incorporated into French West Africa in 1896. There were frequent rebellions, but when order was restored in 1922, the French made the area a colony. In 1958, voters approved the French constitution and voted to make the territory an autonomous republic within the French Community. The republic adopted a constitution in 1959 but withdrew in 1960, proclaiming its independence. Parliament elected Hamani Diori as president.
The drought of 1968-1975 devastated the country. An estimated 2 million people were starving in Niger, but 200,000 tons of imported food - half supplied by the U.S. - substantially ended famine conditions.
An army coup in 1974 ousted President Hamani Diori. The new president, Lt. Col. Seyni KountchÃ© installed a military government. A predominantly civilian government was formed by KountchÃ© in 1976.
KountchÃ© died of a brain tumor on November 10, 1987. He was succeeded by the armed forces chief of staff, Ali Seybou.
In 1993, the country's first multi-party election resulted in the presidency of Ousmane Mahamane, who was deposed in a January 1996 coup. In July, the military leader of the coup, Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, was declared president. Mainassara was assassinated in April 1999 by his own guards. In November 1999, Mamadou Tandja was elected president.
Under pressure, Niger criminalized slavery in 2003. In March 2005, a public ceremony freeing 7,000 slaves was planned, but the government reversed itself, denying that slavery existed in the country.
In 2005, Niger faced its worst locust infestation in 15 years as well as a severe drought. The UN reported that 3.6 million citizens were suffering from malnutrition. President Tandja claimed the food crisis was propaganda invented by the country's political opposition.
Prime Minister Hama Amadou resigned in June 2007, after a no-confidence vote against his government passed in parliament. Former trade minister Seyni Oumarou was appointed to succeed Amadou. In June 2008, Amadou was arrested on charges of embezzling state funds.
In an effort to abolish term limits and broaden powers, President Tandja suspended the Constitution and implemented emergency rule, dismissed a Constitutional Court ruling that he said cannot use a referendum to seek a third term in office, and dissolved Parliament. The referendum was put to a vote in August 2009, and voters endorsed Tandja's plan for a new Constitution, which allowed Tandja to remain in office for three more years. The opposition boycotted the referendum, as well as the parliamentary election in October, which were won by the candidates supported by Tandja.
In February 2010, the military of Niger staged a coup and overthrew the government of President Tandja, replacing him with Salou Djibo. A new government, deemed the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, was formed. Djibo promised a return to civilian rule and elections to choose a new leader. Tandja had been in office for over 10 years.
In the first round of 2011 presidential elections, Mahamadou Issoufou of the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) won 36.2% of the vote while Seyni Oumarou of the National Movement for the Development of Society (MNSD) tallied 23.2%, triggering a runoff. After capturing 58% of the runoff vote, Mahamadou Issoufou assumed the presidential office in April and appointed Brigi Rafini as prime minister.
In August 2011, ten people were arrested for plotting to assassinate President Issoufou and take power in a coup.
In May 2013, suicide bombers staged separate attacks on a military barracks and a French-run uranium mining site.
In February 2015, Boko Haram, an Islamist sect based in Nigeria, began attacking villages in Niger. The city of Diffa was hit extremely hard. Officials there implemented a 15-day state of emergency.
© 2015 World Ministries International