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Niger Armed Forces
Forces Armées Nigeriennes (FAN)
Seal of the Niger Armed Forces
Founded 1 August 1961
Service branches Army, Air Force,
National Gendarmerie,
National Guard (GNN).
Headquarters Niamey
Commander-in-Chief President Mahamadou Issoufou
Minister of National Defence Karidio Mahamadou
Chief of staff General Seyni Garba
Military age 18–49
Conscription 2 year compulsory[1]
Available for
military service
2,135,680 (2005 est.), age 15–49
Fit for
military service
1,155,054 (2000 est.), age 15–49
Active personnel 12,000
Reserve personnel 5000 (2003)[1]
Percent of GDP 1.6% (2007)
Foreign suppliers France
People's Republic of China
United States

Nigerien army soldiers from the 322nd Parachute Regiment practice field tactics during combat training facilitated by U.S. Army Soldiers during exercise Flintlock 2007 in Maradi, Niger, April 6, 2007

The Niger Armed Forces (French language: Forces Armées Nigeriennes) (FAN) comprises both the military and national police services of the West African nation of Niger, totaling around 12,000 active personnel and 5,000 reservists. 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'états, 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.

History[edit | edit source]

The Nigerien Armed Forces has been extensively 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[edit | edit source]

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 of expatriate 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[2] (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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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.[3]

History of military rule[edit | edit source]

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[4][5][6] and became a member of the Supreme Military Council.

1974–1993 Military government[edit | edit source]

In 1974 General Seyni Kountché overthrew the first president of Niger Hamani Diori. The government that followed, while plagued by coup attempts 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.[7]

A paratrooper of the FAN Parachute Company armed with an Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun, 1988

1985–1990 insurgency[edit | edit source]

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 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 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.[8] 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[edit | edit source]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Continued political involvement[edit | edit source]

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.[12] 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.[13] Amnesty International has charged the military with widespread detention and at least 16 military killings of unarmed civilians.[14]

Member of the rebel MNJ, northern Niger, 2008

Recent conflicts[edit | edit source]

The Nigerien Armed Forces were involved from 2007 to 2010 in an 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.[15]

In February 2013, about 100 United States military personnel were deployed to Niger. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Congress saying the forces will concentrate on sharing intelligence with French troops fighting Islamist militants in neighboring country of Mali. He also stated the American forces were deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.[16]

Composition and structure[edit | edit source]

General staff[edit | edit source]

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 Defense 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. A Chef d'État-Major and an Adjunct serves each of the military arms (Army, Air, National Guard) as well as commanders of each of the seven regional Military Zones. The President also appoints a Chef d'Etat Major Particulier and a Commandant of the Garde Présidentielle who answer directly to the President but sit on the General Staff.[17][18]

Chiefs of Staff[edit | edit source]

With advent of the 7th Republic in 2011, Général de division Seyni Garba was named Chief of Staff, serving under Minister of Defense of Niger Karidio Mahamadou.[19] He succeeded by General Salou Souleymane, put in place after the coup that toppled Mamadou Tandja in February 2010. General Boureima Moumouni was Chief of the Defense Staff of the FAN from 2000, and was a prominent member of the junta which staged the April 1999 coup.

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.[20] 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.[21]

Army[edit | edit source]

In 2003 it was reported that the Army was made up around 8,000 troops. This number included draftees, around 4,000 members of the elite Garde Republicaine (folded with the FNIS into the new GNN in 2010) and career soldiers. There was an additional 5,000-member reserve force of part-time National Guard forces. Units include logistics, motorized infantry, airborne infantry, artillery and armoured companies. There is a total of 10 pure motorized infantry battalions, three of which are Saharan. The other battalions are mixed, or inter arms like the ones in Niamey (12eme Battaillion interarmes de Niamey),[22] Zinder, Tahoua and Madawela. Each of these battalions comprises a logistics and engineering or genie sapeur company, an infantry company, be it airborne or land, an armoured squadron and an artillery company. The Armed forces are commanded from the Joint Chiefs in Niamey through appointed commandeers of each of the seven "Defense Zones", which largely overlap each of the civilian Regions of Niger.[17][18]

The IISS Military Balance 2012 says there are 5,200 army personnel, with three military districts, four armoured reconnaissance squadrons, seven infantry companies, two airborne infantry companies, one air defence company, one engineer company, and one logistics group. (IISS 2012, 446.)

Special training sites include the Ecole de Formation des Forces Armées Nigériennes (EFOFAN) National Officers Training School and The Paramedical Personnel Training School (EPPAN), both based at Camp Tondibiah in the southern suburbs of Niamey.[23][24]

Niger Air Force[edit | edit source]

The roundel of the Niger Air Force

The Niger National flight (Escadrille Nationale du Niger) was first formed on 1 August 1961[25] with ex American Airlines C-47s, Broussands and a Flament. The ENN first started with support and transport operations with French and German assistance. Later deliveries included four surplus Noratlas transports, two Dornier Do 128-2 Skyservants and a single Dornier Do 228-201. The Do 228 is operated alongside a civil-registered Boeing 737-2N9C which replaced an ex-French Douglas C-54B, for VIP and government transport. In 1979 two Lockheed C-130H's were delivered for transport duties. One C-130 crashed at Naimey in 1997. An Antonov AN-26 was donated in June 1997 to take its place. Two SU-25 (S/N 5U-MCC and 5U-MCF) were acquired from Ukraine in early 2013.[26] Additionally, the Nigerien Air Force accepted delivery of two Cessna 208 aircraft in July 2013.[27]

The Niger Air Force (L'armée de l'air) replaced the previous military air wing (Groupement aérien national GAN) 16 December 2003. While long a transport and logistic service for the military and government, it's civilian transport mission was spun off as the Escadrille Nationale du Niger, operator of the Presidential aircraft Mt. Bagzane.[25][28] The Air Forces have since begun to expand their missions, acquiring light reconnaissance aircraft for both internal security and ground support missions.[25] The Air Force is based at "Air Base 101"(base aérienne 101) which abuts Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey.[25]

It is structured as follows:[29]

  • Command unit, led by Chef d'Etat major de l'Armée de l'Air, le lieutenant-colonel Boulama Issa Zana Boukar Dipchiarima (2011 -- )[25] (chef d'etat 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).

Aircraft Type In service Notes
Lockheed C-130H Medium Airlift 1 Two initially delivered in 1979. One crashed in 1997.
Dornier Do-28D Light Airlift 1
Dornier Do-228 Light Airlift 1
Cessna C-208B Light Airlift 2
Diamond DA-42 Reconnaissance 2
ULM Tétras Ultralight Trainer-Reconnaissance 3
Sukhoi Su-25 Close Air Support-Attack 2

Police[edit | edit source]

The General Directorate of National Police, headquartered in Niamey was until the 1999 Constitution under the command of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense. Today, only the National Gendarmerie reports to the Ministry of Defense, with the National Police and its Para-Military Arm—FNIS—moved to the Nigerien Interior Ministry.[30] The National Gendarmerie(modeled on the French Gendarmerie) and the National Forces for Intervention and Security (FNIS) (Forces nigerienne d'internale securite- FNIS) count a combined 3,700 member paramilitary police force. The FNIS, along with some special units of the Gendarmerie, are armed and trained in military fashion, similar to the Internal Troops of the nations of the former Soviet Union.[31] The Gendarmerie has law enforcement jurisdiction outside the Urban Communes of Niger, while the National police patrols towns. Special internal security operations may be carried out by the Military, the FNIS, the Gendarmerie, or whatever forces tasked by the Government of Niger.

Cultural sponsorships[edit | edit source]

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

Professionalisation[edit | edit source]

The Armed Forces—which includes the National Gendarmerie—have undergone a series of structural changes aimed at professionalisation of the ranks and the retaining of more skilled recruits. Greater emphasis on recruiting officers and NCOs, lessening recruitment of lower ranks, and more training required between promotions have been instituted. Annual recruitment for the Army and the Gendarmerie now stands at one thousand each.[32]

Foreign missions[edit | edit source]

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 Côte d'Ivoire.

Soldiers of the Niger army during the Gulf War

As of 2003, the FAN had troops deployed in the following foreign missions:[33]

  • ECOMOG: Liberia, Guinée-Bissau;
  • African Union: Burundi (MIOB), Comoros (MIOC);
  • United Nations: Saudi Arabia (Iraq War), Rwanda (MINURCA), Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC);

Nigerien Panhard AML light armored cars with 90mm guns stand in a holding area during Operation Desert Shield.

Budget and foreign aid[edit | edit source]

Niger's defense budget is modest, accounting for about 1.6% of government expenditures. France provides the largest share of military assistance to Niger. the People's Republic of China 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 Côte 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.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "DOSSIER NIGER: Les forces armées nigériennes (FAN)" in Frères d’armes n°241 (October 2003). Published online by the Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France), 2003: Removed from website. See citation at The library catalogue of the Centre de recherche de la gendarmerie nationale (France) (retrieved 2009-02-21)
  2. 4e Régiment Interarmes d'Outre-Mer: the 4th RIAOM was dissolved after leaving Niger.
  3. for the section History of the FAN prior to 1974, see Decalo (1979) pp.33–35.
  4. "Tandja wins second term as president in historic first for country", IRIN, December 8, 2004.
  5. Idy Barou, "Niger's leader - haunted by hunger", BBC News, August 15, 2005.
  6. "M. Tandja Mamadou, le nouveau président du Niger", Afrique Express, No. 197, November 28, 1999 (French).
  7. For a detailed account in english of the inner workings of the military regime, see Samuel Decalo (1990), pp.241–285.
  8. for the Tchintabaraden massacre and human rights abuse of the period in Niger, see a summary in Amnesty International's Niger: Impunity enshrined in the constitution. 8 September 1999. Bram Posthumus (see below) gives the number of civilians killed as a range between 650 and 1500.
  9. Niger: The people of Niger have the right to truth and justice, 6 April 2000, Amnesty International. President Mainassara: A profile, BBC, April 9, 1999.
  10. Niger: A copybook coup d'etat, April 9, 1999, BBC. Military controls Niger , April 10, 1999, BBC.
  11. Soldiers mutiny in Niger, Globe and Mail (South Africa), Jan 01 2002
  12. For this section, see Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2007, Human Rights Watch: Niger: Warring Sides Must End Abuses of Civilians, Combatants Engaged in Executions, Rape, and Theft. (Dakar, December 19, 2007); and U.S. Department of State. Report on Human Rights Practices - Niger. 1993–1995 to 2006.
  13. “Niger extends state of alert in uranium-rich north”, Reuters, 23 Nov. 2007.
  14. Annual Report (2008): Niger, Amnesty International.
  15. Initial text taken from November 2007 United States State Department report: Bureau of African Affairs, Background Note: Niger.
  16. "OBAMA: 100 US MILITARY PERSONNEL DEPLOYED TO NIGER". AP. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/obama-100-us-military-personnel-deployed-niger. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Au Conseil des ministres : le gouvernement adopte plusieurs projets de lois et des mesures nominatives. Government of Niger, 2011-06-11.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Passation de Commandement à la Garde Présidentielle : le Lieutenant Colonel Tiani Abdourahamane prend le Commandement. Oumarou Moussa, Le Sahel (Niamey), 2011-04-19.
  19. Fin de la visite d'amitié et de travail du Président de la République, Chef de l'Etat, SEM. Issoufou Mahamadou, à Paris (France) : le Chef de l'Etat a regagné Niamey, vendredi dernier. Le Sahel (Niamey) 2011-07-11
  20. Decalo (1979) pp.33–35.
  21. Military controls Niger , April 10, 1999, BBC.
  22. http://nigerdiaspora.net/index.php/nigerdiaspora-la-communaute-virtuelle-du-niger/politique/4330-passation-de-commandement-au-12eme-bataillon-interarmes-de-niamey-le-lieutenant-colonel-mamoudou-seydou-prend-le-commandement
  23. Forces Armées Nigériennes (FAN) : cérémonie de sortie de 25 stagiaires de la 6ème promotion Dan Kassaoua. Laouali Souleymane, le Sahel (Niamey) 2011-08-02
  24. F.A.n°250 : dossier ENVR Niger. Seminaire ENVR 2006, Point de Situation: Quand l'Histoire Nous Parle d'ENVR Localisation des ENVRs dans le Monde. Ministère des affaires étrangères et européennes, France (2008)
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Cinquantenaire de l'aviation militaire du Niger : un demi siècle de professionnalisme et d'excellence au service de la Nation. Zabeirou Moussa, Le Sahel (Niamey) 2011-08-02.
  26. http://secret-difa3.blogspot.fr/2013/02/exclusif-le-niger-achete-deux-su25.html
  27. http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31304&Itemid=107
  28. Escadrille Nationale du Niger (Niger National Squadron) (Niger), Military census. Jane's Helicopter Markets and Systems, Jun 17, 2005.
  29. Dossier Niger:La nouvelle armée de l'air, France Diplomatique, 2003.
  30. Contact information for The General Directorate of National Police
  31. Déplacement du Directeur au Niger, Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France). Framework partnership document France - Niger (2006-2010), Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France), 2006. Dossier Niger: Les forces armées nigériennes (FAN), Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France), 2003.
  32. Nigerien army, security officers get new status. APA. 2009-02-05
  33. Dossier Niger: Les forces armées nigériennes (FAN), Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France), 2003.

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