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The Republic of the Niger is a West Africa country named for the Niger River, which flows through the southwestern portion of the country. Niger is a landlocked country bounded by Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

Approximately two-thirds of the country is desert and mountains, and the rest is savanna. Niger is one of the hottest and driest countries in the world, and just over ten percent of its land is arable. Much of the non-desert parts of the country are plagued by frequent drought in increasing desertification. These problems are exacerbated by regional wars and an influx of displaced people from Libya and Mali.

A belt of land along the southern border of Niger is its most fertile area. Not only does it include the Niger River, but it receives more rain than the rest of the country. As one moves north in Niger, the land becomes increasingly hotter and arid, finally turning into the fierce heat of the Sahara Desert in the north and northeastern part of the country. The terrain also changes, from the tropical forests of the south to treeless grasslands, the desert, and mountains of the north-central region, and finally the plateaus of the far northeast.

The Talek Region of eastern Niger is part of the Sahara Desert, but slightly better watered than the rest of the desert and includes some streams. The Tamesna and Azawad areas are in this region.

The high plateaus of Djado, Mangueni, and Tchigai, in the northeast, connect the Ahaggar Mountains of Algeria with the Tibesti Mountains of Chad. The Djado Plateau has been an area of ethnic tension, as the Toubou people of Niger and Chad are seeking more autonomy or independence. The Mangueni Plateau makes up part of Niger's border with Libya, while the Tchigai Plateau is along part of its border with Chad. These plateaus are more livable than the surrounding desert because they include oases.

The region between the Sahara Desert and the savannas further south are known as the Sahel, an area that has definable seasons, consisting of a brief rainy season and a much longer dry season. Niger's uranium zones are in this region.

The Niger River Basin covers the western-southwestern portion of the country, although the Niger River and its basin winds through nine African countries, with Niger in the middle zone of the river. This is the only reliably watered area in Niger. There are two flood seasons, one in September, the other in December. The Niger is the country's only navigable river.

The Air Mountains are in north-central Niger, running along a north-south axis. The high altitudes of the mountains provide for water in an area where it is badly needed. There are uranium mines here, and the belief that the profits from these mines are split between the French operators of the mines and the political elite in Niger has been a source of contention for its Tuareg population who inhabit the region, leading to Tuareg rebellions.

The Tenere Desert, part of the Sahara, is an area slightly smaller than Texas, and is nearly devoid of plants or human habitation, although small communities of Kanouri Manga and Toubou live on the fringes, and the Tuaregs operate trade routes through the desert, which include gunrunning operations. The only significant settlement in the Tenere is Agadez.

One a battleground for powerful African empires, Niger was the French colony of French Niger from 1900 to 1958, when Niger became an autonomous state, achieving full independence in 1960.

For the first fourteen years, Niger was a single-party regime, which was overthrown in a coup in 1974, which was not its last coup. Currently, Niger is a multi-party democratic republic.

Although Niger is made up of several ethnic groups, although they have shared a common history since the colonial era, and are bound together by Islam, which has the adherence of about eighty percent of the country, followed by Christianity, Baha'i, and traditional African religions.

Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, reported as under thirty percent. School attendance rates are low, particularly among girls, who rarely attend for more than a few years.

According to international monitors, nearly eight percent of Niger's population is enslaved, a practice that has been in place for hundreds of years, particularly young girls who are sold into slavery. Niger passed its first laws against slavery in 2003. Although slavery is rare in Niger's urban areas, there exists a caste system that separates people even where slavery does not exist.

Islamic terrorist groups are known to operate in Niger and along its borders. Additionally, rebellions in neighboring countries often spill over into Niger due to ethnic communities sharing border regions. Niger also has a history of military coups, which create internal tensions.


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