Niger -- Geography --
Official name: Republic of Niger
Official language: French
Official currency: franc of the African financial community - CFA franc (XOF)
GDP (2008): 8.902 billion $
Population: 13 272 679
Territory: 1 267 000 km2
Republic of Niger is a country in western Africa, situated almost in the heart of the Sahara, and landlocked. About 80% of the territory covered by desert, the remaining 20% are covered by savanna, suitable for livestock and agriculture. The climate is mostly hot and dry, but in the southernmost parts of the country's climate is tropical and humid. There are two seasons - dry and rainy (March to May - dry and hot, from October to February dry and cool, rainy from June to September). The average altitude is 350 meters. The highest point is Mont Bagzan (2 022 meters above sea level), and the lowest are the banks of the River Niger (200 meters above sea level). The area of the Niger is estimated at 1 267 000 Íž2, Sixth largest place in Africa after Sudan, Algeria, DR Congo, Libya and Chad. It borders with 6 countries - with Chad to the east, Libya to the northeast in Nigeria and Benin to the south, southwest Burkina Faso, Mali to the west, Algeria to the northwest. The total length of border is 5 967 kilometers, of which:
* 1 497 km with Nigeria;
* 956 kilometers of Algeria;
* 821 kilometers in Mali;
* 628 kilometers with Burkina Faso;
* 354 kilometers with Libya;
* 266 kilometers in Benin
The main source of water is one of Africa's longest rivers - Niger. It is Duty 4 200 km, of which 500 run throughout the country. Larger tributaries are also an important source of water for the population. These are “ŗpÓŗ, Mekru, Sirba, Dargol and others. Only 0.2% of the total area of the country are water pools.
Useful resources include uranium (one of the largest stocks in the world), oil, coal, tin, phosphates, gold, molybdenum, salt and lime.
Evidence of human settlement in the region now known as Niger goes back 6000 years, when what was then a highly fertile area supported a well-developed civilization. In the thousand years up to the 19th century, power in the region was based on control of the great trans-Saharan trade routes. The Hausa Kingdom dominated the central area from the 13th century. This power decreased from the 18th century onwards, as European traders used sea routes to make contact with West Africa. Colonised by the French in the late 19th century, Niger became part of French West Africa until 1958. It achieved independence
in 1960. Hamani Diori was elected head of state and re-elected in 1965 and 1970. His government presided over a period of stability until its latter stages when severe drought from 1968 onwards brought about widespread civil unrest.
In April 1974, the army, which is prone to intervening in Nigerís politics, staged a military coup under Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Seyni Kountche. A series of failed coups followed when Kountche attempted to civilianise the government. By 1983 however, the legislative Council of Ministers was entirely composed of civilians, under Prime Minister Oumarou Maname. Kountche died in 1987, to be replaced by his staunch ally, Ali Seibou, who consolidated his position during the late 1980s. Seibou established the Mouvement Nationale pour une Societe de Developpement (MNSD), which became the sole legitimate political party.
In the early 1990s, the government came under internal and external pressure to introduce democratic government. After some initial uncertainty and opposition from Seibou, the government chose to follow the regional trend and installed an interim administration, prior to multi-party elections and the introduction of a new constitution.
The National Assembly poll, held on 14 February 1993, saw a victory for the six-party coalition, the Alliance des Forces de Changement (AFC), which accumulated 50 of the 83 seats over the MNSD. The MNSD was similarly thwarted in the presidential election, held in two rounds during February and March 1993, which was won by Mahamane Ousmane, a leading member of the AFC coalition. Apart from the economy, the new governmentís main problem was the Tuareg rebellion. Since 1990, there had been a series of clashes between security forces and guerrillas belonging to the nomadic Tuareg people. The Tuareg had left Niger to escape the chronic Sahel drought of the 1980s. A series of agreements were brokered, providing for Tuareg land rights and defined future relations between the Tuareg and central government. Despite occasional problems, the agreement has held.
Following the January 1995 legislative elections, MNSD recovered control of the national assembly and the government under ex-World Bank official Amadou Aboubacar Cisse. Over the next 12 months, friction between the Cisse government and President Ousmane steadily worsened until, exactly one year later, the military stepped in once again. Army chief of staff Colonel Ibrahim Bare Mainassara took control of the country. Under strong external pressure, particularly from Nigerís main Western financial backers, the military moved quickly to restore a veneer of civilian government.
In April 1999, Mainassara was killed by his own head of security, after an escalating series of disputes with his erstwhile military colleagues. The uncertain political situation which followed was resolved with the holding of simultaneous presidential and legislative elections in November that year. The MNSD, the countryís historic ruling party, recovered control of both the presidency Ė in the person of Mamadou Tandja Ė and the national assembly, where it forms the government with Hana Amadou as premier.
In 2002, the government faced a series of mutinies by soldiers demanding better pay and conditions; these were put down by other units loyal to the government. The following year, the United States and Britain claimed that Niger had sold uranium ore to the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the course of his efforts to build nuclear weapons. The claim was subsequently proven to have been based on forged documents but the case drew unwelcome attention to Niger and its dependence on sales of the ore.
Niger -- Economy --
Niger's economy is based almost entirely on agriculture and livestock, as well as uranium mining. Lands suitable for agriculture are 12% of the country's area, of which 53% are pastures and 4.8 % - cultivated land. Export crops are peanuts (5-th place in Africa), cotton, tobacco, fruit trees and dates. here is also cultivation of millet, sorghum, cassava, sugar cane. Livestock production is semi-nomadic and nomadic. Be kept cattle, sheep, goats, camels, donkeys and horses. The industry is represented by enterprises of the mining industry - uranium (about 3 tons of uranium concentrate), coal (170 tons), iron, manganese, oil, platinum, gold, phosphates. There are companies that process peanuts, cotton, rice and others. Drought, high population growth and depressed uranium prices are major problems for the country. Although rich in natural resources, Niger is ranked among the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world because the majority of desert terrain, corruption and low literacy rate, which suggests a lack of specialists and an incentive for investment. The average wage is one of the lowest in the world, between $ 1-2 per day. Uranium contributes about 72% of export earnings. In the region between the Niger River and the border with Burkina Faso has significant reserves of gold, which interest foreign mining companies. Chinese national oil company, which is a state company, has signed an agreement for $ 5 billion, according to which China will develop an oil field near Agadem will build a 2000-kilometer pipeline and a refinery with a capacity of 20 000 barrels per day. The project work will begin in 2009.
Niger -- Culture --
The majority of the population is concentrated in the southern part of the country near the border with Nigeria and Benin. Ethnic groups - Hausa - 52.0%, group songai (Germano, dendi, songai) - 22.9% fulbe - 10.4%, Kanuri - 8.7%, Tuareg - 3.0%, Arabs - 2.4% Other - 0.6%. The culture of Niger is marked by variation, evidence of the cultural crossroads which French colonialism formed into a unified state from the beginning of the 20th century. What is now Niger was created from four distinct cultural areas in the pre-colonial era: the Djerma dominated Niger River valley in the southwest; the northern perephery of Hausaland, made mostly of those states which had resisted the Sokoto Caliphate, and ranged along the long southern border with Nigeria; the Lake Chad basin and Kaouar in the far east, populated by Kanuri farmers and Toubou pastoralists who had once been part of the Kanem-Bornu Empire; and the Tuareg nomads of the Air Mountains and Saharan desert in the vast north. Each of these communities, along with smaller ethnic groups like the pastoral Wodaabe Fula, brought their own cultural traditions to the new state of Niger.In religion, Islam, spread from North Africa beginning in the 10th century, has greatly shaped the mores of the people of Niger. Since Independence, greater interest has been in the country's cultural heritage, particularly with respect to traditional architecture, hand crafts, dances and music. About 94% of the country's inhabitants confess Islam. While successive post-independence governments have tried to forge a shared national culture, this has been slow forming, in part because the major Nigerien communities have their own cultural histories, and in part because Nigerian ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Tuareg and Kanuri are but part of larger ethnic communities which cross borders introduced under colonialism. Official holidays are: January 1 - New Year's Day; April 24 - Concord Day (Commemorates the peace accords ending the Tuareg Rebellion in 1995); May 1 - Labour Day ("la fete du travail": Nigerien observance of International Workers' Day); August 3 - Nigerien Independence Day (Commemoration of Niger's 1960 independence from France); December 18 - Nigerien Republic Day (Commemoration of the First Republic of Niger, semi-independent under France, 1959); December 25 - Christmas Day.
Niger -- Political system, law and government --
The government of Niger is the apparatus through which authority functions and is exercised: the governing apparatus of Nigerien state. The current system of governance, since the Constitution 18 July 1999, is termed the Fifth Republic of Niger. It is a semi-presidential republic, whereby the President of Niger is head of state and the Prime Minister of Niger head of government. The officials holding these posts are chosen through a representative democratic process of national and local elections, in the context of a competing multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature: its Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over constitutional and electoral matters. National government, has, since 1999, been supplemented by locally elected officials, who in turn choose representatives at the Departmental and Regional levels. Prior to 1999, these levels of government had always been appointed by the central government. Central governance is carried out by professional administrative agencies, directed by the Office of the President and/or the Ministries headed by members of the National Assembly appointed to the post by the President. The remainder of Ministry offices are filled by non-political professional administrators. Local governance is carried out by local, departmental, and regional councils, the Ministry of Territorial Collectivities, officials chosen by these elected bodies, and professional government employees. The constitution of December 1992 was revised by national referendum on 12 May 1996 and, again, by referendum, recised to the current version on 18 July 1999. It restored the semi-presidential system of government of the December 1992 constitution (Third Republic) in which the president of the republic, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, and a prime minister named by the president share executive power. As a reflection of Niger's increasing population, the unicameral National Assembly was expanded in 2004 to 113 deputies elected for a 5 year term under a majority system of representation. Political parties must attain at least 5% of the vote in order to gain a seat in the legislature. The Head of State is the President of Niger. Under the 1999 Constitution, the President has many of the powers found under a Presidential System as Head of Government, although the titular Head of Government is the Prime Minister of Niger