August 3rd 1960: Niger gains independence
On this day in 1960, Niger gained independence from France. The landlocked African nation borders Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso. European powers first came into contact with Niger in the nineteenth century, and, in 1922, after years of French attempts to subdue dissidents, the country became a French colony. Life under colonial rule was fraught, with Nigerien citizens only entitled to limited French citizenship and power being wielded by distant colonial governors. In the 1950s, the French government introduced reforms aimed at increasing Nigerien political participation and provided for a measure of self-government. In 1958, French colonies in Africa were given the right to hold a referendum on their membership in the French Community - a body seen as a step towards independence. Nigerien voters were divided on the issue, but eventually the ‘yes’ campaign, headed by the Nigerien Progressive Party under the leadership of Hamani Diori, was successful. In December, Niger declared itself a republic within the French Community; this is often considered the founding of the Nigerien nation. Diori became Prime Minister of Niger in 1959 and, with assistance from the French, consolidated his rule into an effective one-party state. In July 1960, France agreed to Niger’s full independence, and Diori declared independence in August, a day which is celebrated as Independence Day in Niger. Diori then became President of Niger, but his administration was notoriously corrupt, negligent of domestic concerns, repressive of dissidents, and exclusionary of major ethnic groups. In 1974, Diori was ousted in a military coup and imprisoned; in the following years, Niger has seen a series of military governments and attempts at liberalising reforms.
55 years ago today