Definitions

army rule

Military of Niger

The Niger Armed Forces (FAN) comprises both the military and national police services of the West African nation of Niger, totaling around 12,000 personnel. While under civilian political control since 1999, the military has played a major role in Nigerien government, ruling the nation for 21 years of the period from independence in 1960 to the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1999. Military leaders have staged three successful Coup d'etats, and there have been several more attempted, as recently as 2002. While never engaging in open warfare with foreign nations, the Nigerien Military has participated in international peacekeeping missions and fought two domestic insurgencies. Since 2007 the armed forces have carried out a campaign against ethnic Tuareg based rebels in the north of the country. The FAN has frequently come under international scrutiny for its human rights record.

Composition and structure

General staff

The military forces are governed by a Military General Staff (composed of the heads—Chef d'État-Majors of each service arm), the Chief of the Defence Staff (Chef d'État-Major des Armées), and a civilian Minister of Defense, who reports to the President of Niger. This system closely resembles the French Armed forces model.

Chiefs of Staff

General Boureima Moumouni has been Chief of the Defence Staff of the FAN since 2003.

From independence through the 1960s Major Mainassara Damba was Chief of the Defence Staff, followed by Major Bala Arabe (1970–73), Major Seyni Kountché(1973–75), and Major Ali Seibou (1975–1987). Major Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara served as Chief of the Defence Staff from 1995, before seizing power in 1996. He placed Colonel Moussa Moumouni Djermakoye as his Chief of the Defence Staff, one of the men later implicated in the coup which in 1999 killed Maïnassara.

Army

The Army is made up around 8,000 troops (2003), which includes draftees, around 4,000 members of the elite Garde Republicaine, and career soldiers. There is an additional 5,000 member reserve force of part-time National Guard forces. Units include Infantry, logistics, two paratroop companies, four light armored squadrons, and nine motorized infantry companies located in Tahoua, Agadez, Dirkou, Zinder, N'Guigmi, N'Gourti, and Madaweli (the last two near Niamey).

Air Force

The Niger Air Force ( L'armée de l'air) replaced the previous air forces (Groupement aérien national GAN) 16 December 2003, and was then structured as follows:

  • Command unit, led by General Salou Souleymane (chef d'état major) answerable to the Joint Chief and the Minister of Defense;
  • Operation units (opérations, escadrons);
  • Technical units;
  • Generalised staff;
  • One company of infantry (compagnie de fusiliers).

Resources (2003): just less than 300 persons (41 officers of which 25 are pilots, 95 NCOs, 150 enlisted).

Operational aircraft (2008):

  • 1 Boeing 737
  • 1 Lockheed C-130 Hercules
  • 1 Dornier Do 228 - 14 passengers or 2 tonnes of freight
  • 1 Dornier Do 28 - 8 passenger
  • 4/3 ULM Tétras - 2 place reconnaissance aircraft, organized into their own unit (Aviation légère d'observation, ALO). Rebel forces claim one of these was destroyed 4 May 2008. Government claims accidental crash.
  • 2/0 Mil Mi-17 Hip-H - helicopters. Rebel forces claim these were destroyed 27 June 2008. No government confirmation.

National police

The General Directorate of National Police, headquartered in Niamey consist of a national police force (National Gendarmerie, modeled on the French Gendarmerie) and the Nigerien Internal Security Forces (Forces nigerienne d'internale securite- FNIS). These are two arms of a centrally controlled 3,700 member paramilitary police force that provides police across Niger, with the FNIS armed and trained in military fashion, similar to the Internal Troops of the nations of the former Soviet Union.

Cultural sponsorships

The Army, FNIS and the National Police sponsor semi-professional football clubs, ASFAN, AS-FNIS and AS Police, which play in the Niger Premier League.

Foreign missions

In 1991, Niger sent a 400-man military contingent to join the American-led allied forces against Iraq during the Gulf War. Niger provides a battalion of peace-keeping forces to the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire.

As of 2003, the FAN had troops deployed in the following foreign missions:

Budget and foreign aid

Niger's defense budget is modest, accounting for about 1.6% of government expenditures. France provides the largest share of military assistance to Niger. Morocco, Algeria, the People's Republic of China, and Libya also provide military assistance. Approximately 18 French military advisers are in Niger. Many Nigerien military personnel receive training in France, and the Nigerien Armed Forces are equipped mainly with materiel either given by or purchased in France. United States assistance has focused on training pilots and aviation support personnel, professional military education for staff officers, and initial specialty training for junior officers. A small foreign military assistance program was initiated in 1983 and a U.S. Defense Attaché office opened in June 1985. After being converted to a Security Assistance Office in 1987, it was subsequently closed in 1996, following a coup d'état. A U.S. Defense Attaché office reopened in July 2000.

The United States provided transportation and logistical assistance to Nigerien troops deployed to Cote d'Ivoire in 2003.

Additionally, the US provided initial equipment training on vehicles and communications gear to a company of Nigerien soldiers as part of the Department of State Pan Sahel Initiative. Military to military cooperation continues via the Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Partnership and other initiatives. EUCOM contributes funds for humanitarian assistance construction throughout the country. In 2007, a congressional waiver was granted which allows the Niger military to participate in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, managed by the Defense Attaché Office. This program funded $170,000 in training in 2007.

History and involvement in politics

The Military of Niger has been highly involved in politics since independence, and has been denounced at several points for broad abrogation of human rights and unlawful detentions and killings.

History of the FAN prior to 1974

The Armed Forces of Niger were formed according to the 28 July 1960 Decree, with the National Police as a subsection of the military. Initially, units of the Army were created from three companies of French Colonial Forces: Nigerien soldiers officered by Frenchmen who agreed to take joint French-Nigerien citizenship. In 1960 there were only ten African officers in the Nigerien army, all of low rank. President Diori signed legislation to end the employment expatriot military officers in 1965, some continued to serve until the 1974 coup, when all French military presence was evacuated. As well, the French had maintained until 1974 around 1000 troops of the 4th Régiment Interarmes d'Outre-Mer (Troupes de Marine) with bases at Niamey, Zinder, Bilaro and Agadez. In the late 70s a smaller French force was again based in Niger.

1970 reorganisation

In 1970, the forces were reorganised. The Army was organised into four Infantry battalions, one paratroop company, one light armored company, a Camel corps, and a number of support units. A new Republican Guard of 120 elite troops was created. A 1000 man National Guard was also created in 1970. The Air Forces of 12 aircraft were two squadrons, including a transport squadron. The National Police, also headquartered in Niamey and divided between 500 paramilitary Gendarmes and 400 civil police, based brigades at Zinder, Maradi, Agadez, and Tahoua. Apart from policing duties, the National Police were responsible for tax collection until 1974.

1974 military regime

During the Military government of Seyni Kountché in the late 1970s, the FAN numbered some 2500, 500 of whom were National Police. Headquartered in Niamey with bases in the Gamkalle and Yantala suburbs, the military included infantry, one company of paratroops and one company of armor in the mid 1970s. Following the 1974 coup, the Nigerien defense budget accounted for around 9% of government expenditures.

History of military rule

Niger has had four republican constitutions since independence in 1960, but four of its seven presidents have been military leaders, taking power in three coups. Three of the four military rulers of Niger were Chief of Staff of the FAN when they ascended to Head of State, while the current democratically elected President, Tandja Mamadou, was an officer who participated in the 1974 coup that brought Seyni Kountché to power and became a member of the Supreme Military Council.

1974–1993 Military government

In 1974 General Seyni Kountché overthrew the first president of Niger Hamani Diori. The government that followed, while plagued by coup attepts of its own, survived until 1993. While a period of relative prosperity, the military government of the period allowed little free expression and engaged in arbitrary imprisonment and killing. The first presidential elections took place in 1993 (33 years after independence), and the first municipal elections only took place in 2007.

1985–1990 insurgency

In Niger's far north, drought, economic crisis, and the central government's political weakness came to a head in 1985. That year, a number of Tuareg in Libya formed a political opposition group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Niger (FPLN). An armed attack by FPLN members in Tabardene sparked the closing of the borders with Libya and Algeria, and the resettlement of thousands of Tuareg and other nomads away from the area. As economic and political conditions worsened, grievances grew. When aid promised by Ali Saïbou's government to Tuareg returning from Algeria failed to materialise, some Tuareg attacked a police station in Tchin-Tabaradene in May 1990, leading to the death of 31, including 25 of the attackers. Initially the rebel's main demand was for the right for their children to learn Tamashek at school, but this soon escalated to a demand for autonomy. Later in May 1990, the Nigerien Military responded by arresting, torturing, and killing several hundred Tuareg civilians in Tchintabaraden, Gharo and In-Gall. This became known as the Tchintabaraden massacre. Tuareg outrage sparked the creation of two armed insurgent groups: the Front for the Liberation of Aïr and Azaouak and the Front for the Liberation of Tamoust. The ongoing 1990s Tuareg Insurgency only ended in 1995.

1996 and 1999 military coups

In 1996 a former officer under Kountché and the then Army Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, staged his own coup, placing the military again in power. During the Maïnassara regime, human rights abuses were reported by foreign NGOs, including the discovery of 150 dead bodies in a mass grave at Boultoungoure, thought to be Toubou rebels. In April 1999, another coup by Army officers began with the murder of Maïnassara at Hamani Diori Airport by his own guards: an act for which no one has ever been prosecuted. Major Daouda Mallam Wanke, commander of the Niamey based military region and the head of the Republican Guard assumed power, but returned the nation to civilian rule within the year. The 1999 constitution followed, and in 2004 Mamadou Tandja was elected to his second five-year presidential term in an election that international observers deemed generally free and fair. Despite this, there has been one recent large military rising against elected government which took place in the Diffa Region in 2002. Three garrisons rose against the government, and scattered units rebelled in the capital: all were eventually put down by loyal units, and mass arrests of military personnel followed.

Continued political involvement

The involvement of the military in politics has historically led to regular, if infrequent, arbitrary arrest and detention, use of excessive force, torture, and extra-judicial killing by security forces and police. The judiciary has historically suffered from poor jail and prison conditions, prolonged pretrial detention, and executive interference in the judiciary. While all these have improved dramatically since the return to civilian rule, international human rights organizations continue to report sporadic incidents of all these abuses. Post-1999 there has been a marked improvement of civilian control of security forces, with the United States State Department contending every year since 2001 that the military was under civilian control. There have been three blanket states of emergency declared since 1999, the longest beginning in August 2007 for the entire Agadez Region, and renewed in November 2007. These states of emergency essentially remove all rights to protest, gathering and free movement, and are enforced by the Military, including the Gendarmarie. The 2007–2008 state of emergency in Agadez allows detention without charge or trial. Amnesty International has charged the military with widespread detention and at least 16 military killings of unarmed civilians.

Current conflicts

The Nigerien Armed Forces were involved (as of mid 2008) in an ongoing insurgency in the north of the country, labeled the Second Tuareg Rebellion. A previously unknown group, the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ), emerged in February 2007. The predominantly Tuareg group has issued a number of demands, mainly related to development in the north. It has attacked military and other facilities and laid landmines in the north. The resulting insecurity has devastated Niger's tourist industry and deterred investment in mining and oil. The government has labeled the MNJ criminals and traffickers, and refuses to negotiate with the group until it disarms. As of July 2008, some 100 to 160 Nigerien troops have been killed in the ongoing conflict.

References

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