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The 1974 Coup d'État in Niger: Towards an Explanation

  • Richard Higgott and Finn Fuglestad
Extract

In the early hours of Easter Sunday, 14 April 1974, the army, led by Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché, overthrew the Government which had held power in Niger since independence. President Hamani Diori's régime became the twenty-fifth in Africa to fall to a coup d'état in eleven years, and Niger the eighth republic of former French Africa to come under the control of the military.

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Page 383 note 1 For a good discussion of these problems, especially relating to francophone Africa, see Decalo, Samuel, ‘Military Coups and Military Régimes in Africa’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), XI, 1, 03 1973, pp. 105–27.

Page 384 note 1 Finer, Samuel E., The Man on Horseback (London, 1969), p. 47.

Page 384 note 2 The population of Niger on 1 January 1972 was estimated to be 4,110,000, with the following ethnic breakdown in thousands: Hausa, I, 850; Zerma/Songhay, 870; Fulani, 565; Tuareg/Buzu, 465; Kanuri, 310; Foreigners, 50. ‘La République du Niger’, in Notes et études documentaires (Paris), July 1973, 3, 994–5, p. 8.

Page 384 note 3 On the pre-colonial history of Niger in general and the west in particular, see Urvoy, Yves, Histoire des populations du Soudan centrale (Colonie du Niger) (Paris, 1936), and Perié, Jean and Sellier, Michel, ‘Histoire des populations du cercle de Dosso (Niger)’, in Bulletin de I'I.F.A.N. (Dakar), 4, 1950, pp. 1015–74.

Page 385 note 1 van Hoey, L., ‘The Coercive Process of Urbanisation: the case of Niger’, in Green, S. et al. , The New Urbanisation (New York, 1968), p. 25.

Page 385 note 2 Certain aspects of the opposition between the east and the west in Niger are discussed by Raulin, Henri, Techniques et bases socio-économiques des sociétés rurales nigériennes (Paris and Niamey, n.d.).

Page 385 note 3 Pehaut, Yves, ‘L'Arachide au Niger’, in Etudes d'économie africaine (Paris), I, 1970, pp. 9103.

Page 385 note 4 Fuglestad, Finn, ‘Djibo Bakary, the French and the Referendum of 1958 in Niger’, in The Journal of African History (Cambridge), XIV, 2, 1973, p. 359.

Page 385 note 5 On the career of Djibo Bakary, see Chaffard, Georges, Les Carnets secrets de la décolonisation, Vol. II (Paris, 1967), pp. 270–3.

Page 385 note 6 Fuglestad, loc. cit. p. 330.

Page 386 note 1 Source: the members of the politburo are listed in the special issue of Bulletin de l'Afrique noire (Paris, 1971), ‘Répertoire de l'administration africaine’. The details of ethnic origin are from private sources. The Mawri, although Hausa-speaking, are considered to be a distinct ethnic group; they number about 200,000, and are to be found in the Dogondoutchi region.

Page 386 note 2 Nicholas, Guy, ‘Crise de l'état et affirmation ethnique en Afrique noire contemporaine’, in Revue française de sciences politiques (Paris), XXII, 5, 10 1972, pp. 1017–18.

Page 387 note 1 It seems probable that Barcourgne had been compromised in an abortive and rather burlesque, if not altogether imaginary attempt to change the Government. He had believed, quite wrongly, that a coup d'état was under way, and had acted in support of it. Delanne was the leader of the Nigérien trade union movement, and had been dismissed for not supporting the Government when pay increases had been demanded.

Page 387 note 2 Chaffard, op. cit. pp. 311–18.

Page 387 note 3 Morillon, J. P., ‘La Tentative insurrectionnelle du Sawaba au Niger’, in Est et Ouest (Paris), 342, 05 1965, pp. 20–2.

Page 388 note 1 Corbett, E. M., The French Presence in Black Africa (Washington, 1972), p. 57.

Page 388 note 2 Although impossible to document accurately, an impression of the overall size of French involvement in the post-independence Niger economy can be gleaned by referring to the relevant sections of (i) ‘Les 500 premières sociétés d'Afrique noire’, in the special 1971 issue of Bulletin de l'Afrique noire, and (ii) Ngango, Georges, Les Investissements d'origine extérieure en Afrique noire francophone (Paris, 1973).

Page 389 note 1 West Africa (London), 22 September 1972, p. 1249.

Page 389 note 2 In 1973 Niger severed diplomatic relations with Israel.

Page 389 note 3 Details of the agreements have never been officially published, but their outline can be gained from Ligot, Maurice, Les Accords de coopération entre la France et les états africains et malgache d'expression française (Paris, 1964), and ‘Lea Accords de coopération entre la France et les 4 états du conseil de l'entente’, in Bulletin de l'Afrique noire, 187–9 and 192–3, May–June 1961.

Page 390 note 1 Lee, J. M., African Armies and Civil Order (New York, 1968), p. 171.

Page 390 note 2 On the drought, see Dalby, David and Church, R. J. Harrison (eds.), ‘Drought in Africa: report of the 1973 symposium’, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1974, and Bernus, E., ‘Drought in Niger’, in Savanna: a journal of the environmental and social sciences (Zaria), II, 2, 1973, pp. 529–32.

Page 390 note 3 On earlier droughts, see Fuglestad, Finn, ‘La Grande famine de 1931 dans l'ouest du Niger’, in Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer (Paris), 222, 1974.

Page 390 note 4 The Guardian (London), 16 April p. 52.

Page 390 note 5 West Africa, 22 April 1974, p. 454.

Page 390 note 6 B.B.C. 1 News Broadcast, 20 May 1974.

Page 390 note 7 Le Monde (Paris), 6 May 1974, p. 9.

Page 390 note 8 Ibid.

Page 391 note 1 Ibid. 25 April 1974, p. 12.

Page 391 note 2 Ligot, op. cit. p. 91.

Page 391 note 3 Le Monde, 25 April 1974, p. 12.

Page 392 note 1 Ibid.

Page 392 note 2 Ibid. 17 April 1974, p. 8.

Page 393 note 1 Ibid. 2 May 1974, p. 9.

Page 393 note 2 Finer, op. cit. p. 40.

Page 394 note 1 Le Monde, 2 May 1974, p. 9.

Page 394 note 2 Gutteridge, William F., The Military in African Politics (London, 1969), p. 145, and First, Ruth, The Barrel of a Gun: political power in Africa and the coup d'état (London, 1970), p. 429.

Page 395 note 1 Interview with Diori, , Jeune Afrique (Dakar), 6 04 1972.

Page 395 note 2 On the effects of the military being used in a policing rôle, see Welch, Claude E. Jr, Soldier and State in Africa (Evanston, 1970), p. 22.

Page 395 note 3 Le Monde, 2 May 1974, p. 9.

Page 395 note 4 Ibid.

Page 395 note 5 ‘Opération cheval noir’ was the name of a contingency plan, to be implemented to take President and Madame Diori to the safety of Camp Leclerc, the French H.Q., in the eventuality of a coup d'état.

Page 396 note 1 For a fuller discussion of the actual coup, see Comte, Gilbert, ‘Les Pâques nigériennes’, in Le Monde, 26 04 1974, p. 17.

Page 396 note 2 By early 1975 the Niger military junta had still to sign a new agreement with France.

Page 397 note 1 Ruth First, op. cit. p. 4.

Page 397 note 2 Our interpretation of the rôle of Boubou Hama as the éminence grise of the P.P.N. régime would appear to be supported by the people of Niamey. Immediately after the coup the rallying cry in the streets of the capital was not without significance; ‘A bas le truand Diori. A bas le tyrand Boubou.’

Page 397 note 3 Le Monde, 6 May 1974, p. 13.

Page 398 note 1 For a discussion of the army's ‘cleansing’ rôle, see Grundy, Kenneth, Conflicting Images of the Military (Nairobi, 1968), pp. 1121.

* Richard Higgott is Tutor in Political Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, and Finn Fuglestad is Research Scholar of the Norwegian Research Council for Sciences and Humanities, Oslo.

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