Niger. In January, French mining company AREVA signed a contract worth over SEK 10 billion to build what will become the world’s second largest uranium mine in northern Niger. According to countryaah, work started in May, and when the mine is ready to be put into operation in 2012, it is estimated to produce up to 5,000 tonnes per year and more than double the country’s uranium exports.
At the same time, peace strikes existed between the government and the Tuareg rebels operating in the north, in the same area as the uranium. President Mamadou Tandja met in May to take the time personally to represent the rebels and offered them amnesty if they dropped the weapons. In June, the Tuareg states agreed on a ceasefire and a peace agreement was signed later. In October, general amnesty was announced. Niger has great hope that the mineral wealth will give the country a good economic development. Growth has also been high in recent years. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for abbreviation NG which stands for the nation of Niger.
President Tandja, who according to the constitution would be forced to resign in the fall, announced in May that he planned to call a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow him to extend his mandate. He motivated that he deserved to be left behind because he made such great efforts for the development of the country and partly had to take personal responsibility for the completion of projects started. However, his message was met by extensive protests. Demonstrations and strikes were followed by opposition parties, community organizations and trade unions forming a common front against the president. One of Tandja’s partners left the coalition government. When the Constitutional Court rejected the plans for a referendum, the president dissolved the government and took all power himself. After the court declared twice more the referendum contrary to the constitution, he dismissed all judges and appointed new ones. The referendum was then carried out in August, with the result that just over 92 percent agreed to allow Tandja to remain president for three more years, with the opportunity thereafter to be re-elected an unlimited number of times. The new Constitutional Court quickly approved the result. Despite appeals from the West African cooperation organization ECOWAS to abstain, Tandja in October arranged parliamentary elections, which gave parties loyal to him a clear majority. Most of the opposition boycotted the election. The EU had already canceled some aid projects and ECOWAS now excluded Niger from the organization.
Despite impressive economic growth, Niger was very recently on the UN agency’s UNDP list of living conditions in the world. The list measures conditions such as life expectancy, level of education and general standard of living.
Niger is a semi-presidential republic in the heart of the Sahelian belt. A former French colony, independent since 1960, it has had a troubled political history, in which coups and rebellions have followed one another until recent years. The Nigerian Tuareg rioted on several occasions, in the 1960s, 1990s and 2007, often combining their rebellion with that of the Malian Tuareg groups, since the claims have always been mirrored. The independentist and autonomist demands of the nomadic populations were combined with requests for a more equitable redistribution of resources and greater participation and representation in the political life of the country. More than half of the Nigerian population belongs to the Hausa group and the Songhai djerma. As for the gourmantches, they are mostly settled peoples, residing in the south of the country, who practice agriculture for a living. The north of Niger, arid and desert, is instead the territory of the semi-nomadic groups Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, and Toubou, which make up about 20% of the population and which find their traditional source of livelihood in farming. Niger, like other states of the Sahelian belt, is extremely conditioned by the duality of its geography. While the production activities that guarantee food security are mostly concentrated in the south and south-east, in correspondence with the banks of the Niger river, raw materials and extractive infrastructures are concentrated in the center of the country, near Arlit and Agadez.. The extreme north of the country, which borders Algeria, Libya and Chad, is instead a desert area, with porous borders. This is an area of great importance for national and international security, as it represents an important logistical hub for the exchange of arms and illicit trafficking, used by terrorist organizations operating in the Sahel, first of all AQiM (al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb). In addition to the unresolved tensions between central government and semi-nomadic populations and the terrorist resurgence of the last five years, Niamey has had to deal with the enormous fragility of his political institutions. The country only found a kind of stability in 2010. In 2009, the then president Mamadou Tandja had extended his mandate through a constitutional device, calling for a popular referendum to decree the end of the fifth republic and the beginning of the sixth.. This would have given him the position of president for the next three years of transition. The economic community of West African states (Ecowas) then invited Tandja to open a dialogue with the opposition, which intended to boycott the referendum. Tandja’s failure to accept Ecowas’ requests prompted the organization to suspend Niger from it. The result of the referendum was in favor of the president, although there have been numerous allegations of violence and fraud.
In February 2010, after months of political stalemate, General Salou Djibo was among the main authors of the dismissal of Tandja, assuming the position of president of the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSDR). The unconstitutional overthrow of the government led to condemnation of the international community and especially the African Union, which also suspended Niger from the organization. New presidential elections were held between January and April 2011, which marked the victory of Mahamadou Issoufou, one of the leaders of the opposition, and marked the start of the return to democracy.
Niger is the last country in terms of human development index. More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas and almost 40% of the GDP depends on the agricultural sector. The median age is only 15, and the country has the highest fertility rate in the world. About 40% of children live in conditions of malnutrition and only just over 50% of the population has access to drinking water. The succession of military governments has also significantly reduced democratic freedoms.
Despite the precarious conditions in which the majority of the population finds itself, the real growth rate of GDP is around 6%, a milestone that the country reaches thanks to foreign direct investments initiated in the construction sectors (construction of roads and dams in primis), electricity and mining and oil extraction. Niger is the fourth largest uranium producer in the world. Among the most significant projects underway are the first hydrocarbon refinery in Zinder, entirely financed by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and the opening in 2013 of the second largest uranium mine in the world, managed by Areva, in Imouraren. French state company already operating in Niger. Just France, whose nuclear sites depend for a third on Niamey uranium, is the first donor country and one of the major trading partners. The Chinese presence is growing sharply. The proceeds of uranium are one of the main reasons of contention between the Tuareg populations and the central state and represent one of the main claims of the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (Mnj),
The Tuareg revolt of 2007-09 ended with the signing of an end-hostility agreement signed in Tripoli and in which Mu’ammar Gaddafi participated as mediator. The agreement laid the foundations for greater decentralization and for the effective integration of some Tuareg leaders into national political institutions. The partial success of the negotiations was the basis for the renunciation of the Nigerian Tuaregs to support their Malian counterparts during the 2012-13 crisis. Despite this, underlying tensions remain, as well as the risk that a future conjunction between Tuareg and AQIM movements may occur.. Social tensions could also increase due to the influx of refugees from Mali, which has expanded the poor segment of the population. In addition to the political issues, aridity, drought and desertification that increasingly afflict the country.
The improvement of the economy is strongly linked to the plans launched by the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa and to those adopted by the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (Cen-Sad). Niger shares the currency, the CFA franc, and a central bank (Bceao – Central Bank of West African States) with Benin, Burkina, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal and Togo.
The trans-Saharan anti-terrorism axis
Niger adheres to the US Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (Tscti), which trains, equips and coordinates the border troops of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in an anti-terrorist key. Together with Nigeria, these last three countries have also recently inaugurated a joint military command. At the beginning of 2013, one hundred US soldiers reached the capital Niamey, most likely destined for the Agadez region, in the Niger desert, to set up a military base. First objective: intelligence operations on the movements of jihadist groups and their location. Drones should also leave the desert. Niamey has thus become one of the pillars of Sahelian security, given its proximity to Mali and northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is active. However, the level of activity of AQIM remains high in the north of the country, which since 2010 has kidnapped numerous foreign workers and in 2013 attacked a site for the extraction of uranium.