History Briefing: Niger
May 26 2022
On May 26, it was our honor to welcome Mr. Abdourahamane Idrissa Abdoulaye, from the African Studies Department at Leiden University for our first event in a series focusing on Niger from a variety of angels. This event served as an introduction into the country’s modern history, to lay the basis for future studies of the country.
Established by decree by the French Minister of colonies in 1900, Niger’s borders have had a variety of shapes, which only were finally defined after the Second World War. At the time, the country’s population consisted of 2 million people, 99 percent of whom were farmers and herders, living in rural settings.
Niger’s nationalism was inspired by and learned from European leftist movements, leading to the first governments to be formed by the Socialist party. The first democratically elected government, called sawaba government, (sawaba meaning “liberation” in Hausa), was elected in 1957, was replaced only a year later by Hamani Diori, who led the country to independence in 1960 and thus became the first president of Niger.
This success was shortly followed by several political and economic crises: several coup and assassination attempts fail until in 1974 Diori is ousted from his post. Meanwhile rising prices of livelihoods and droughts force the government to implement difficult reforms. Meanwhile oligarchism and corruption start to take a serious toll on the country.
Idrissa structures the succession of leaders as follows:
“The first African leaders were Promethean leaders. They had a vision. They placed great emphasis on development. The second generation were Epimethean. They were completely pragmatic without a clear vision, whereas the third generation were Pandorans. They had to face all the problems.”
A striking point in this period of Niger’s history is the emphasis on education:
“What I find very original in the case of Niger is the idea that in order to develop you also have to change the mindset of the people through some kind of education.”
We thank Mr Idrissa for his time and this introduction to Niger and continue our event series by looking at migration policy in the country.