In Niger's present territory, fossils have been found to
show that it was populated from the most distant prehistoric
times. Later, like other states in the region, it was
inhabited by various nomadic and commercial people. According to
the Nok Empire had its peak in present-day Nigeria from the
15th century BCE to the 5th century CE It made its impact in
this nearby region. Since then, Niger has been controlled by
various kingdoms, empires and city states in the area.
In the 7th century, the western part came under the
Shongai empire, which the Berbers created (see Guinea ) and
which from the 11th century became an important source of
the spread of Islam. From the 14th to the 19th centuries,
the eastern part of the area belonged to the state of
Kanem-Bornú, founded by the Kurani's in the 8th century (see
Chad ). To the south, meanwhile, flourished the Haussa
states (see Nigeria ), which in the 19th century were
conquered by the Fulani.
During the 19th century, the French colonized the
territory and dominated - through weapons or through
agreements - the various kingdoms that coexisted in the
area. In 1922, Niger formally became a French colony. The
traditional subsistence crops were replaced by peanuts and
cotton for export, and for the inhabitants the lack of food
became a daily reality.
During the general decolonization of the 1950s, Niger
gained its own independence movement, led by Hamani Diori.
In 1960, the first constitution was approved and Niger
became an independent state.
When colonial ties broke, Niger was the poorest country
in French West Africa with 80% of the population living in
rural areas, with recurring drought periods, eroded soil and
a population explosion that threatened agriculture and the
At the first election of the new republic, Hamani Diori
was elected from the Progressive Party. He defeated the
party Sawala ("liberation") led by Djibo Bakari. The new
government maintained close economic and political relations
with France, and even tolerated its troops staying in
Niger's territory. In his first years as president, Diori
Sawala banned the party and its leader Bakari had to go into
exile. Diori's government was accused of being corrupt and
of suppressing the increasingly numerous political
In the early 1970s, the entire Sahel area was ravaged by
drought, which meant that the Nigerian army had to
distribute food to the rural population, thereby meeting the
needs of this sector. Therefore, on April 13, 1974, the
military took power, and the office of President passed to
Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kuntché. His first step was to set
prices for agricultural products, increase wages, curb
nepotism, divert investment and plan activities in education
and hygiene. They wanted to exploit the groundwater and
production collectives were supported.
The new government sought to establish an organizational
framework for youth - the development of «samarias», a
traditional form of social grouping - to develop the missing
political base. The government again expelled Djibo Bakari,
who had returned from exile to support the regime, and
signed bilateral treaties with France, with neo-colonialism
orienting more towards the exploitation of the underground
than the traditional products. The treaties were extended in
Throughout the 1970s, the country experienced economic
growth, mainly due to rising international uranium prices,
of which Niger is the world's fourth largest producer. This
mineral accounted for 90% of exports in 1980, when the
so-called miracle ceased.
Foreign debt in 1977 was US $ 207 million. It had risen
to $ 1 billion in 1983, forcing Kuntché to launch a
structural adjustment program led by the International
Monetary Fund ( IMF ) this year in the hope of an economic
recovery. However, the favorable prices did not return, and
in addition, the drought in the Sahel worsened in 1984-85.
The government also faced political challenges in 1983:
partly, it resisted a coup attempt by former members of the
secret police, and partly the Tuareg people's guerrilla,
which had started a rebel movement north.