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In the 1950s, as part of the general decolonisation process, Niger underwent its own pro-independence movement that was led by Hamani Diori, who in 1960 became the nation´s president.
This Nigerian politician was born on 06 June 1916 in Sourdouré (Niger) and died on 23 April 1989 in Rabat (Morocco).
In 1946, he was one of the founders of the Nigeria Progressive Party (NPP), a local branch of the Rassemblement démcoratque africain (RDA), and he represented Niger in the French National Assembly. During the transition period prior to independence, the French government prohibited all political parties except for the NPP and appointed Diori as the prime minister (1958-60).
In 1960, the first constitution was approved and Niger became an independent State. On November 11th of that same year, in the new republic´s first elections, Hamani Diori, the Progressive Party candidate, was elected president, defeating the Sawala (liberation) of Djibo Bakarí.
When Niger broke its colonial ties, it was the poorest nation in French Western Africa, with 80% of its population living in rural areas, prolonged droughts, eroded soil, and a demographic explosion that continues to threaten agriculture and the environment.
The new government maintained close ties with France, to the point of tolerating the presence of French troops in the nation. In his first years as president, Diori banned Sawala and forced Bakari into exile. Diori´s government was accused of corruption and of repressing the growing political opposition.
At the beginning of the 1970s, the drought that affected the entire Sahel region led the army to distribute food among peasants and to witness first-hand the population´s needs. Diori´s administration was accused of having been unable to carry out the reforms necessary to face the hunger caused by years of drought.
During the 1970s, the nation experienced an economic growth due to increased international uranium prices, of which Niger is the fourth leading producer in the world.
On 13 April 1974, a Supreme Military Committee took power and Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché assumed the presidency. The first steps were centred on setting the prices of agricultural products, increasing wages, reducing nepotism, refocusing investments, and planning educational and healthcare services.
Diori was jailed for six years in Zinder, and afterwards he was on parole in Niamey between 1980 and 1987. In 1987, he was freed by Kountché´s successor, Ali Seibou. Diori left his country and moved to Morocco, where he died two years later.
Profile in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
Obituary in The New York Times