Objects of the Levalloisian and Mustardian type, elsewhere dated to about 40,000 BC, are known from Adrar Bous in the Ténéré desert; the area also provides examples of later Stone Age cultures. Changes in the economy, including an emphasis on fishing, are noticed from about 7500 BC. at the Tamaia Mallet west of the Aïr massif; the pottery indicates connections with eastern Sahara. Livestock keeping and probably dura cultivation occurred from about 4500 BC.
In Niger there is the oldest metal work in West Africa: smelting of native copper occurred around Agadez from 2000 BC. and more refined mining and processing from about 500 BC.
For the past millennium, Niger has been the scene of a series of immigration of peoples from different directions. From the north, Tuaregs have penetrated the area, east from the headland. The Songhair Empire, centered in present-day Mali, reached western Niger, and the songhais are still a politically dominant group in the country. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Niger.
Towards the end of the 19th century, French and British entered into the Niger region under mutual commercial competition. Present Nigeria came under British rule, while Niger came under French. But the subjugation of the people, especially the Tuareg rulers, was slow. For example, rebellion took place during the First World War, and only in 1922 did Niger transition from military district to colony in French West Africa. In the following decades, France applied an indirect system of government, at least among the Hausa and Tuareg governments, but invested little in its economic and cultural development.
After World War II, Niger gradually gained local autonomy and in 1958 became an autonomous republic within the French Commonwealth. In elections that year, the Party won the Progressive Nigeria (PPN), and the leader Hamani Diori became prime minister. When Niger gained full independence in 1960, he became president. However, the regime could not live up to the high expectations. The country was poor, drought disasters hit the agricultural industry, and newly discovered uranium mines yielded income but not livelihood.
In 1974, Diori was overthrown by a military coup, and Seyni Kountché took power. After his death in 1987, Niger was ruled by (later) General Ali Saïbou. This transposed a new constitution in 1989 and formed the party Mouvement national pour une societe de devolution – Nassara (MNSD). No other parties were allowed. Economic problems and Tuareg uprisings continued to occupy the country; in addition, Tuaregre rebels in the north took up arms against the regime in 1990. Together with student demonstrations and strikes, these factors contributed to the regime’s decision to introduce multi-party systems in 1990 and to convene a national conference in 1991.
Following a transitional regime under Saïbou, a new constitution was approved in a referendum in December 1992, after which Niger’s first general election was held in 1993. MNSD became the single largest party in parliament, but was prevented from forming government after six smaller parties formed an alliance after the election. In the presidential election, Mahamane Ousmane, representing the Convention Democratique et Social Party, won(CDS), in the second round. However, renditions within the newly formed government alliance forced new elections as early as January 1995, after which President Ousmane must accept Hama Amadou from MNSD as prime minister. The cooperation between them worked poorly, and after Ousmane refused to approve the government’s budget proposal in January 1996, the military took power in a coup led by Commander-in-Chief Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara. A state of emergency was announced and all democratic institutions were dissolved. Assistance from the western world was withdrawn and loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund were suspended. The isolation from the outside world quickly propelled a new constitution, after which Maïnassara was elected president in July in a debatable election while the opposing candidates were held under house arrest.
A protracted peace process in the northern part of the country led to a final peace treaty with the guerrilla movements of the Tuaregs in the fall of 1997, after a previous agreement of 1995 had failed. However, civilian protests and dissatisfaction in the military undermined the regime, and in April 1999, Maïnassara was assassinated by soldiers. A military junta under Major Daouda Malam Wanké temporarily took over power. Under strong pressure from the outside world, the junta quickly drafted a new, democratic constitution that was approved in a referendum.
A controversial section guaranteed the freedom of prosecution of all those involved in the coups in 1996 and 1999. After the parliamentary and presidential elections in October 1999, the military handed power to the elected politicians. President was nominated MNSD candidate Mamadou Tandja, with a past in Seyni Kountche’s military regime. The MNSD with allies captured a scarce majority in parliament. In 2004, Tandja was re-elected for another five years. Under Tandja’s leadership, there was a long period of calm in Niger. A military uprising in southeastern Niger in 2002 spread to the capital Niamey, but was quickly defeated. The uprising was based more on financial dissatisfaction than on political contradictions.
Economic and social motives were also mainly behind the armed uprising that erupted in the Tuaregic minority in the north in 2007. The revolt coincided with major government investments in increased uranium production, some of which are the world’s largest deposits in the Tuaregic areas. After the state concluded an agreement with French and Chinese companies on uranium extraction, in May 2009, the government was able to enter into a peace agreement with the Tuareg states, which were later granted amnesty for participation in the uprising. Increasing violence from Islamist extremists remains a serious cause for concern. The so-called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), mainly recruited among Algerians, has carried out a large number of kidnappings of mainly foreign nationals and killed several.
As time began to approach Tandja’s constitutional departure in 2009, he dictated a series of constitutional changes that would allow him to retain power for another three years, and then be able to run an unlimited number of times. He motivated this by only being able to be responsible for completing the major mineral and energy projects he helped to drive through. When the Constitutional Court had illegally declared his draft constitutional amendments three times, he dissolved the court and appointed a new one, which gave him a clear sign. He gathered all power with himself by dismissing the government and dissolving Parliament, after which he supported the constitutional changes in a referendum and conducted general elections that gave him a loyal parliament.ECOWAS.
In February 2010, Tandja was overthrown in a military coup and placed under house arrest. The military junta promised a swift return to civilian rule and kept its promise. Since yet another new constitution, which guaranteed, among other things, the junta’s political amnesty, was adopted by a referendum, general elections were conducted in early 2011. Prior to the return of power, the military entered into a “pact of stability” with the political parties and organizations representing the entire civil society, in which all Parties pledged to respect the Constitution.
The 2011 and 2016 presidential elections were won by Mahamadou Issoufou, while his party’s Party of Nigeria pour la democratie et le socialisme (PNDS-Tarayya) won in the parliamentary elections held the same year.