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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK


World: Africa

President Mainassara: A profile

A military man overthrown by elements within the military

President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara was a colonel in Niger's army when he seized power in a coup in 1996, overthrowing the country's first democratically-elected government.

He was elected president later that same year, but enjoyed little stability in office.


Barnaby Phillips: The president lost the support of a crucial part of the military
He was a career soldier who played a part in an earlier coup.

However, he was also a quiet, withdrawn leader, who appeared untainted by the corruption charges often laid against African military leaders.

When he took power in January 1996, he launched a law and order campaign.

A Muslim from Niger's majority Hausa tribe, he went along with a rise in fundamentalism, effectively banning short skirts and clamping down on the sale of contraceptives.

Legitimacy questioned

President Mainassara's government introduced economic reforms, signing a deal with the International Monetary Fund.

However, the poor West African country struggled and its external debt rose to $1.4bn.

Civil servants and teachers have been frequently on strike in recent months over pay arrears and job losses, and soldiers came close to mutiny in February 1998 when they were not paid.

Opposition parties continued to question the president's legitimacy and there was violence during local elections in February 1999 that the opposition looked to be winning.

The opposition mounted protests calling on President Mainassara to resign.

Rising through the ranks

Born on 9 May 1949 in the southern town of Maradi, he first became known after a 1974 coup that overthrew Niger's first president, Diori Hamani.

He became an aide to military leader Seyni Kountche.

Then in 1992, during a Tuareg rebellion, he became a defence adviser to the prime minister.

After elections in 1993, President Mahamane Ousmane made him army commander at the presidency. He then became army chief of staff in March 1995.

The government then ran into trouble maintaining a majority in parliament setting off a political crisis that led to the 1996 coup, in which Ibrahim Mainassara came to the fore.



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