The first human beings appeared in West Africa. During the prehistoric times, the “desert areas” were humid enough to allow a sedentary life, agricultural activities and some urban organization. The Berbers or Arabs came through the Sahara then a desert and communications took place between White and Black communities during the first centuries.

Prosperous African Empires

Around the 15th century, the Songhay of Gao conquered the territories from the Air Mountains to the Senegal River and the West part of Niger. The East was under the control of the powerful Bornou Empire. The Songhay Empire was destroyed later on by the Moroccans and Tuaregs from Fezzan (Libya) who became the new rulers. At the beginning of the 19th century , a Peul empire is established from Sokoto ( currently located in Nigeria).


At the end of 19th century France conquers the future Niger and Great Britain the future Nigeria. Niger remains a French military territory until 1922 and Zinder is the capital. In 1926, after the submission of the Touareg, Niger becomes a French colony with Niamey as the capital.

Towards Independence

In 1946 the Parti progressiste nigérien (P.P.N.) is founded and affiliated to the Rassemblement démocratique africain (R.D.A.). This party first opposes the colonial administration then accepts the proposals of becoming autonomous in 1956. The party of Independence (Sawaba) calls for a vote against the French community at the referendum of September 28, 1958. But 80 % of the votes are in favor of the Community. The Sawaba party is banned and the P.P.N.-R.D.A. becomes the unique party. The Territorial Assembly becomes the Constituent Assembly on December 18, 1958 under the presidency of Boubou Hama. The republic of Niger is proclaimed and becomes independent on August 3rd, 1960.

The Republic of Niger

Hamani Diori is elected president in 1960 and reelected in 1965 and in 1971. On March 15, 1974 a military coup d’ état breaks up the national assembly and lieutenant colonel Seyni Kountché rules the country. On his death in November 1987, he is succeeded by Col Ali Seibou. As a follow up to a democratic transition he is replaced by a social democrat Mahamane Ousmane on April 27, 1993 .Since these first pluralistic elections, Niger has had three presidents. On April 9, 1999 the President Baré was killed in a military coup. Niger’s new constitution was approved by referendum on July 18, 1999. General elections took place in 1999 and Mahamadou Tandja was elected at the second round. In December 2004 Mahamadou Tandja was reelected in the second round with 65 % of the votes against Mahamadou Issoufou who got 35 % (Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism).

In 2009, President Tandja announced he intended to remain in power at the end of his second mandate, notwithstanding the constitution, this was the ‘Tazartche.To adopt a new constitution, he organized a referendum which the opposition boycotted, he was overthrown by a military coup led by Salou Djibo who promised to hand over power to civillians in 2011.
The current President is Mamadou Issoufou, historical leader of the opposition, who was elected on March 12th 2011 with nearly 58% of votes. In 2016 he was re-elected for a second mandate.

Photo d’Alain Roux