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 Countryaah data, 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 environment.
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 opposition.
According to thesciencetutor, 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 1977.
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.
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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.