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Coups in Niger

Niger began its history as an independent state under the single-party regime of President Hamani Diori. During this period Niger was reasonably quiet and stable with the exceptions of a weak economy and scattered ethnic conflicts. The Sahelian drought of 1968-75 killed much of Niger's livestock and drastically reduced its crop production. That, coupled with accusations of severe government corruption, led to a military coup in 1974 that overthrew Diori.

He was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountche. Kountche and his military government ruled Niger while improving ties with the European Community, neighboring states, and Arab states. Wealth disparities caused by the uranium boom of the early 1980s culminated with an unsuccessful military coup against the regime in 1983. This prompted the Kountche government to change cabinets rather often, hoping to ensure loyalty among government officials.

Kountche's death in 1987 brought General Ali Seybou to power. Seybou promised to dissolve the military government and replace with a democratically elected civilian government. The government was finally dissolved and the constitution was suspended in 1991 and a transitional civilian government followed, referred to as the Third Republic. Mahamane Ousmane was elected president in free elections in 1993, but the opposition won control of the legislature, leading to a political stalemate. Despite this, considerable democratic progress was made, including freedom of the press, the adoption of key legislation, and the holding of several free, fair, and non-violent elections.

After adoption of a new Constitution in December 1992, Niger conducted in early 1993 its first multiparty presidential and legislative elections since independence in 1960. In the presidential elections, which international observers judged to be free and fair, eight parties banded together against the party created by the former military rulers to elect Mahamane Ousmane as President of the Third Republic.

In July 1993 some of the same elements that mutinied in 1992 once again attempted an uprising, demanding rejection of the Government's budget austerity measures, payment of salary arrears, and implementation of longstanding proposals to reorganize the military. Supporters of the newly elected coalition staged large counterdemonstrations, and the troops returned peacefully to their barracks. Following the mutiny, the Government initiated disciplinary action, including loss of rank, transfer, and removal, of personnel associated with the mutiny.

However, democracy in Niger was short-lived as the government was ousted in a coup led by Colonel Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, who won flawed presidential elections held in 1996 and began to draft a constitution for a Fourth Republic. Suffering from a lack of credibility and support both domestically and internationally, Mainassara turned to Libya, then a pariah state under international embargo for support, thus violating international law. Opposition leaders were imprisoned, journalists were beaten and intimidated, and independent media offices were often looted and burned.

Mainassara was assassinated by members of his presidential guard in 1999 and Major Daouda Malam Wanke took power soon after and established a transitional National Reconciliation Council designed to draft a constitution for a Fifth Republic. Free and fair elections were held in November of the same year and Tandja Mamadou, a retired colonel, won the presidency.

President Tandja, who should have left office in December 2009 after having served two consecutive 5-year terms, manipulated political events to prolong his rule. To do so, in 2009 he mounted a campaign to replace the 1999 constitution, which he could not amend, with one that would eliminate term limits and consolidate presidential authority, a clear violation of the 1999 constitution. Overriding the formal ruling of the Constitutional Court and the views of pro-democracy civil society and political parties, Tandja forced through a costly referendum and instituted the Sixth Republic.

On February 18, 2010, military forces stormed the presidential compound and took members of the president’s senior staff and ministers into custody. There were few casualties, and by that evening leaders of the military junta who led the coup against Tandja announced on Niger’s public television station that the government would be led by a new entity called the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD). In April, the president of the CSRD and leader of the coup, Major Salou Djibo, chaired a national ceremony for the installation of the National Consultative Council (NCC), charged with providing guidance on all questions of national interest and producing versions of the “fundamental documents,” notably a draft constitution, a draft electoral code, a draft political parties’ charter, draft statutes for the opposition, and a draft law on public access to information. On May 6, 2010 the CSRD accepted the NCC’s proposal for a 12-month transition to democracy, retroactive to February 18, 2010.

In December 2015 the government announced it had foiled an attempted coup allegedly involving military officers and several members of the opposition.

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Page last modified: 07-05-2017 19:08:05 ZULU