Last week, the government of President Mamadou Tanja of Niger was overthrown in a military coup d’etat. Based on a keyword search on “Niger,” I appear to be the first one to start a thread on this on the Dope. (Didn’t take that long, when Manuel Zelaya was kicked out of Honduras.) Anyway, how should non-Nigeriens* feel about this? Military coups are teh evulz, generally speaking, but it appears Tanja (unlike Zelaya) really was trying to make himself president-for-life. All of that part of international opinion that has taken notice at all is condemning the coup, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the African Union, and Niger’s former colonial overlord France. The U.S. apparently is trying to steer a middle course.
*Apparently, people from Niger are Nigeriens, people from Nigeria are Nigerians.
This particular one doesn’t really care. So a sham democracy has been replaced by a military government that promises free elections as soon as they’ve prepared the results. Big deal, and same difference.
Things won’t be getting better for Niger any time soon. It’s own geography assures that- it’s located on one of the barest and least populated patches on earth. As if that weren’t enough, the country was haphazardly formed across ethnic and cultural boundaries, which ensures that people will have a hard time finding common goals. Basically, we are talking about a patch of desert populated by free-roaming nomads and a smattering of mud-hut and hand-tool farmers living in a way that would not have been out of place a thousand years ago. Niger has one of the lowest education rates anywhere, and it’s so out of touch that stuff like slavery is still a way of life. We are talking about on of the world’s truly remote and dirt-poor places.
I suspect who happens to be governing in Niamey will continue to have next to no effect on anyone more than a few miles outside of the capital. In the end, it doesn’t really matter exactly whose Swiss bank account the proceeds from the country’s few natural resources is siphoned into. The government’s reach has probably never really extended far and probably does not have much of an effect on the nomads and sustenance farmers still trying to scratch out a living in the vast desert and arid Sahel.
You clearly know more about the country than I do - however, I would respectfully suggest that your assessment may be excessively bleak. I agree that Niger is likely to remain poor for the foreseeable future - but even desperately poor places can develop, and benefit from, fairly good and democratic government. Benin did it, for example - they’re not as poor as Niger, but they’re still pretty darned poor, and they’re actually one of the longest-running genuine democracies in Africa. (That is, they regularly hold free and fair elections.) And I doubt that Benin, as a colonial construct, was built with any greater care for existing ethinic identities than Niger was.
Of course, on the other hand, Benin has a coastline. That’s a huge help - and it’s telling that Benin gets a lot poorer as you head north, away from the coast.
But still - if you’re lucky, and get people in power who actually give a damn, you can have multi-party democracy even in desperately poor states with low literacy rates.
An unfortunate consequence of being too incompetent to draw your own map?
In any case the one bennie of “colonial map-drawing” is that it’s one more external excuse that can be trotted out for failure.
But didn’t Benin have somewhat more political/cultural coherence than Niger even before the colonial period? IIRC, Benin is more or less what used to be the kingdom of Dahomey, which AFAIK existed since at least the 15th century or so.
You all probably know more about Niger than I do, but if the person you were quoting was right, it might not be so bleak after all. Apart from the whole slavery thing (which I don’t know the extent of), they might be perfectly happy. In fact, I seem to recall Niger coming in 1st place in some world happiness study awhile back. What we think of as “poor,” some other cultures think of as “unburdened.” No Blu-Ray, but no Lumberg either.
The situation in Honduras readily reflected the US left/right political divide, so people could argue it on familiar terms. Tanja is too unknown and probably doesn’t fit neatly into our political categories.