Background: Niger became independent from France in 1960 and experienced single party and military rule until 1991, when Gen. Ali Saibou was forced by public pressure to allow multiparty elections, which resulted in a democratic government in 1993. Political infighting brought the government to a standstill and in 1996 led to a coup by Col. Ibrahim Bare. In 1999, Bare was killed in a coup by militarty officers who promply restored democratic rule and held elections that brought Mamadou Tandja to power in December of that year. Tandja was reelected in 2004. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world with minimal government services and insufficient funds to develop its resource base. The largely agrarian and subsistence-based economy is frequently disrupted by extended droughts common to the Sahel region of Africa.
Area-comparative: Slightly less than the size of Texas
Terrain: predominately desert plains and sand dunes; flat to rolling plains in the south; hills in the north.
Geography: landlocked; one of the hottest countries in the world; northern four-fifths is desert; southern one-fifth is savanna, suitable for livestock and limited agriculture.
Population: 12,525,094 (as of July 2006)Age Structure: 0-14 years, 46.9%; 15-64 years, 50.7%; 65+, 2.4%
Age Structure: 0-14 years - 46.9%; 15-64 years - 50.7%; 65 + years - 2.4%
Ethnic Groups: Hausa, 56%; Djerma, 22%; Fula, 8.5%; Tuareg, 8%; Beri Beri, 4.3%; Arab, Toubou and Goumantche, 1.2%.
Religions: Muslim, 80%; remainder indigenous beliefs and Christian
Languages: French(official), Hausa, and Djerma.