Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Republic of Niger

The National Flag of Niger

Niger was part of the French Empire, as part of its French West Africa region. The flag used was the French tricolour. 

In 1958, parts of the French Empire where reorganised into autonomous, self governing territories within the French Community. Then, on August 3, 1960, Niger gained its independence.

In its history, Niger has been bedevilled by dictatorships and military rule. For its first 14 years, Niger was ruled as a civilian single party state, under Hamani Diori. A major drought, and accusations of rampant corruption saw the military overthrow his government, and saw his Chief of staff, Ali Saibou replace him. Saibou then proceeded to liberalize many of Niger's laws and release political prisoners, and write up a new constitution, creating a new single-party Second Republic.

In 1991, under heavy pressure from the unions and students, Saibou acquiesced to their demands to introduce multi-party democracy. The new political parties that grew up where all invited to join a national debate on the creation of a new constitution paving the way for a transitional government to lead into elections. This led to the creation of the 3rd Republic.

The results of the 1995 election saw the President, and Prime Minister come from opposing political parties. This led to governmental paralysis, and in 1996, Col. Ibrahim Bare Mainassara led another military coup. He led the way to a new constitution, and the establishment of a 4th Republic. During the civilian elections, he replaced the electoral commission which then went on to declare him the winner in what many say was a fatally flawed election. 

His regime was boycotted by many, and in desperation he turned to regimes round the world that where less than democratic for assistance. His regime engaged in many civil rights abuses. Whilst not out and out large scale torture, some examples include the disappearance and forced expulsion from Niger of members of the media critical of the government.

In 1999, yet another military coup overthrew the government, leading to the creation of yet another constitution, for the 5th Republic, creating a French style semi-presidential system of government. This limited a president to 2 terms in office. 

President Mamadou Tandja looked to amend the constitution as his second term was drawing to an end. He wanted to seek re-election for a 3rd term. This then led to another coup in February of this year. The military has stated it wants to hand power back to a civilian government once the constitution was strengthened and its terms protected.

However, through all that, the flag of Niger has not been touched. The flag was introduced in 1959, a year before independence. It consists of 3 equal stripes of orange, white, and green. In the centre of the flag is a simple orange disc.

The orange represents the northern Sahara regions (or the Sahel), the white represents the river Niger (or purity), and the green represents the southern grasslands of Niger. The disc in the centre represents the sun, and independence. The flag is unusual in that whilst it is not square, it uses a ratio of 6 to 7, making it a very short rectangle.

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