This Day in 1960:Part of the once powerful Sokoto Empire, Niger was annexed by France at the end of the nineteenth century. Long before the arrival of French influence and control in the area, Niger was an important economic crossroads, and the empires of Songhai, Mali, the Dendi Kingdom, Gao, and Kanem-Bornu, as well as a number of Hausa states, claimed control over portions of the area. During recent centuries, the nomadic Tuareg formed large confederations, pushed southward, and, siding with various Hausa states, clashed with the Fulani Empire of Sokoto, which had gained control of much of the Hausa territory in the late 18th century.
Niger's colonial history and development parallel that of other French West African territories. France administered its West African colonies through a governor general in Dakar, Senegal, and governors in the individual territories, including Niger. In addition to conferring French citizenship on the inhabitants of the territories, the 1946 French constitution provided for decentralization of power and limited participation in political life for local advisory assemblies.
A further revision in the organization of overseas territories occurred with the passage of the Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre) of July 23, 1956, followed by reorganizing measures enacted by the French Parliament early in 1957. In addition to removing voting inequalities, these laws provided for creation of governmental organs, assuring individual territories a large measure of self-government. After the establishment of the Fifth French Republic on December 4, 1958, Niger became an autonomous state within the French Community. This was followed by full independence on August 3, 1960.
This Day in 2010:
Today Niger celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence after the military ruler called for agricultural reforms under the shadow of a famine that threatens the lives of millions. General Salou Djibo said in a broadcast Monday that: "Our goal should be radically to transform the system of agricultural production to definitively bring Niger out of the disastrous consequences of unreliable climate change and the cycle of famine."
Crowds watched a military parade through the capital Niamey on Tuesday as Djibo took part in a "tree festival" that has become a feature of Niger's independence days. But with famine threatening seven million people - almost half the population, according to the United Nations - celebrations in the poor former French colony were low key. "Niger prefers to celebrate its 50th anniversary in a simple fashion to take account of the alarming food crisis," the governor of Niamey, Colonel Soumana, said at Tuesday's simple ceremony held on the outskirts of the capital, when trees were symbolically planted. Niger is at the epicentre of a famine that also threatens Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad and Mali, after the past year's insufficient or irregular rains left poor crops and a desparate shortage of capital feed.