The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  NIGER HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT  OF STATE

                    NIGER


After adoption of a new Constitution in December 1992, Niger 
conducted in early 1993 its first multiparty presidential and 
legislative elections since independence in 1960.  In the 
presidential elections, which international observers judged to 
be free and fair, eight parties banded together against the 
party created by the former military rulers to elect Mahamane 
Ousmane as President of the Third Republic.  Nine parties won 
representation in the National Assembly elections.  The 
governing coalition, the Alliance of the Forces of Change 
(AFC), led by Prime Minister Mohamadou Issoufou, consists of 
six parties with 50 of the total of 83 Assembly seats.  The 
former ruling party, the National Movement for the Development 
of Society (MNSD-Nassara), won 29 seats in the Assembly and now 
leads the opposition.

The new Government moved quickly to address the Tuareg 
insurgency in the north, and in March reached a 3-month truce 
with the major Tuareg group, the Liberation Front of Air and 
Azawak (FLAA).  The March truce led to an exchange of all 
prisoners and was extended in June for another 3 months.  By 
September, however, the Tuareg rebellion had split into three 
principal factions only one of which, the Front for the 
Liberation of Tamoust (FLT), agreed to renew the truce for 
another 90 days.  Despite the truces, some armed Tuaregs 
continued throughout 1993 to attack convoys and government 
outposts, raiding vehicles and taking food and fuel.  By year's 
end, the Government was continuing efforts to engage the Tuareg 
factions in talks aimed at a comprehensive settlement offering 
greater regional autonomy.

The main security forces consist of the army, the gendarmerie 
(rural paramilitary police), and the national police.  The new 
Government experienced problems in maintaining control over the 
security forces.  In July some of the same elements that 
mutinied in 1992 once again attempted an uprising, demanding 
rejection of the Government's budget austerity measures, 
payment of salary arrears, and implementation of longstanding 
proposals to reorganize the military.  Supporters of the newly 
elected coalition staged large counterdemonstrations, and the 
troops returned peacefully to their barracks.  Following the 
mutiny, the Government initiated disciplinary action, including 
loss of rank, transfer, and removal, of personnel associated 
with the mutiny.

Upwards of 90 percent of the population depend on traditional 
subsistence farming or herding.  Uranium mines produce the 
single most important export.  Persistent drought cycles, low 
literacy rates, the declining demand for uranium, and 
burdensome debt have further weakened an already marginal 
economy.  The Government's 1993 austerity budget cut the single 
largest expenditure--civil service salaries, which comprise 
half the formal wage sector.  The labor unions have been 
critical of the Government's program but at the end of 1993 had 
agreed to the reductions.

Observance of human rights advanced with the introduction of a 
new Constitution, with free elections and the installation of a 
coalition Government, and with efforts to resolve the Tuareg 
rebellion, including delineating electoral districts in the 
National Assembly to ensure minority representation.  
Nevertheless, there continued to be serious human rights 
problems.  In particular, during the fighting early in 1993, 
both government and rebel forces committed human rights abuses, 
causing some civilian deaths and property destruction.  
Moreover, while generally respectful of human rights, the 
transition government, which was in power in the first quarter 
of the year, made numerous attempts to intimidate or otherwise 
restrict its critics in the media.  Some splinter Tuareg groups 
continued throughout 1993 to commit serious abuses, including 
killing noncombatants, but the Government's restrictive 
information policy in the northern security zone made precise 
information difficult to obtain.

The Tuareg rebellion has been fueled in part by historical 
conflicts and by a centralized political system dominated by 
the more numerous Hausa and Djerma ethnic groups.  Serious 
societal discrimination and domestic violence continue against 
women, who also lack educational and employment opportunities.  
The overloaded court system dispensed justice only very slowly 
with long pretrial confinement.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The newly elected Government did not engage in political or 
extrajudicial killings in 1993.  However, early in the year, 
under the transition government, there were reported instances 
of extrajudicial killing.  In August 1992, military and 
paramilitary forces captured some 180 presumed Tuareg rebels in 
raids.  Some of the 180 have never been accounted for and must 
be considered as having been killed extrajudicially.  
Similarly, Tuareg rebels took an undetermined number of 
captives early in 1993 who have disappeared and are presumed 
dead.  Additionally, the conflict between military forces and 
Tuareg rebels in the north produced human rights violations 
resulting in a number of civilian casualties (see Section 
1.g.).  Early in the year, the local press reported that two 
policemen held by the rebels had died of malnutrition.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of government-instigated disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment 
inflicted by either the army or Tuareg rebels after the truce 
in March was signed.  There were random instances of individual 
law enforcement or prison officers abusing detainees and 
prisoners, although such cases were much reduced from 1992.  
Reports of abuse by police or prison officials involve 
occasional instances of beatings of detainees or prisoners, 
usually those believed guilty of sexual offenses or crimes 
against persons.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The 1992 Constitution prohibits arbitrary detention.  By law an 
arrestee must be either charged or released within 48 hours.  
In special cases the public prosecutor may authorize a 24-hour 
extension.  However, in practice, if a police officer has 
failed to gather sufficient evidence within the detention 
period, the prosecutor gives the case to another officer, and a 
new 48-hour detention period begins.  A case is not dismissed 
if the limits on detention are not respected.

The judicial system is seriously overloaded; individual 
magistrates hear upwards of 400 cases per year.  There are no 
statutory limits on pretrial confinement which frequently lasts 
months or even years.  As many as 80 percent of prisoners in 
Niamey are awaiting trial.  There are only two sessions of 
criminal court per year, lasting 2 to 3 weeks each.  If an 
arrestee is finally judged innocent, compensation for 
unjustified detention may be awarded.


Defendants are allowed to choose their own lawyer, and bail is 
available for crimes carrying a penalty of less than 10 years' 
imprisonment.  Widespread ignorance of the law and lack of 
financial means prevent these rights from being exercised fully.

In January the Government released 81 suspected rebel Tuaregs 
in Agadez for lack of sufficient evidence.  In February the 
police in Zinder released an undetermined small number of 
detainees suspected of being rebels.  Outside its effort to 
combat the rebels, the Government did not arrest people for 
their opinions.

Shortly after national elections in March, the Government and 
rebels signed a 3-month truce which was renewed for a second 
3-month period.  The initial truce was followed by a general 
amnesty.  All prisoners held by the Government and Tuareg 
rebels were released.  In September the Government and the FLT, 
a Tuareg splinter group, extended the truce another 90 days.  
From March to September, the truce accords were largely 
respected by the main Tuareg factions, although attacks by 
splinter groups continued to occur.  Since September only one 
Tuareg faction has agreed to a continued truce, and the 
frequency of reported attacks has increased.  The Government, 
through French and Algerian intermediaries, has attempted to 
arrange talks with all the Tuareg factions aimed at a 
comprehensive settlement of the rebellion based on increased 
local government autonomy and economic development assistance 
to the northern region.

The new Constitution prohibits the use of exile as a means of 
political control, and no instances of exile occurred.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The formal legal system in Niger derives from French law.  
Civil and criminal cases not involving security-related acts 
are tried publicly.  Defendants have the right to be present at 
their trial, to confront witnesses, to examine evidence brought 
against them, and to present evidence of their own.  The new 
Constitution affirms the presumption of innocence.

Nigeriens can have cases involving divorce or inheritance heard 
by either a traditional chief or a customary court.  Customary 
courts, located only in large towns and cities, are headed by a 
legal practictioner with basic legal education who is advised 
by an assessor knowledgeable in the society's traditions.  The 
judicial actions of chiefs and customary courts are not 
regulated by code.  Cases unresolved by chiefs or customary 
courts can be appealed to the formal court system.  There are 
no religious courts.

Minors and defendants charged with crimes carrying a sentence 
of 10 years or more are eligible to be defended by counsel at 
public expense, if they cannot themselves afford a lawyer.  
Lawyers comply with government requests to provide counsel in 
these cases but generally are not paid for their services.

Defendants and prosecutors may appeal a verdict, first to the 
Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.  Both Courts 
are obligated to hear appeals.  The Court of Appeals reviews 
questions of fact and law while the Supreme Court reviews only 
the application of the law.  Nigerien law prohibits execution 
until the executive privilege of pardon is explicitly rejected.

The Constitution stipulates an independent judiciary.  In the 
departmental capital of Maradi, a judge dismissed a case 
brought by the Government against members of an opposition 
political party charged with organizing an illegal political 
rally.  The judge ruled the Government had not complied with 
the law in attempting to suppress the rally and, therefore, the 
rally must be considered legal.  The integrity of the courts, 
on the other hand, has been called into question by credible 
reports of judges being influenced by family or business ties.

Official investigations continued into the 1990 and 1991 
incidents in which government security forces killed civilians 
during political demonstrations.  The Government promised that 
those responsible would be prosecuted, but by year's end there 
had been no arrests.

The Government has the legal power to constitute a State 
Security Court to try high crimes against the State, but had no 
cause to call the Court into operation in 1993.  Proceedings 
may be held in secret at the discretion of the Court, and the 
names of judges are not published.  Due process provisions 
apply in the State Security Court.

The newly elected Government launched an effort to combat 
illicit enrichment, corruption, and influence peddling.  The 
Prime Minister instructed all ministers to ensure that their 
staffs were fully aware of the relevant provisions in the Penal 
Code.  Shortly after the Prime Minister publicized the illicit 
enrichment campaign, the first arrests of officials accused of 
corruption were made in Maradi and Agadez.


At the end of 1993, there were no known political detainees 
being held by the Government.  In late 1993, the Government 
detained several persons for questioning for their alleged 
involvement in a plot to destabilize the Government.  According 
to a police source, only one or two suspects remained in 
custody.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

By law the police are required to have a search warrant, 
normally issued by a judge.  The law stipulates that the police 
may enter a home only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., 
unless in hot pursuit.  The police may search without warrants 
when they have strong suspicion that a house shelters criminals 
or stolen property.  Evidence thus gained is fully admissible 
in court.  Human rights organizations report that routine 
searches are often conducted without warrants and at all 
hours.  There were no reports of interference with 
correspondence.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Government security forces and rebel Tuareg groups engaged in 
sporadic skirmishes during the first quarter of 1993, and there 
were credible reports of violations of human rights.  The 
Government established a security zone in the north, and 
journalists and others do not have ready access to the zones or 
to information.  Therefore, the number of civilian casualties 
in the fighting was unknown, but incomplete reports indicated 
that there were several deaths.  For example, in January a 
Tuareg commando killed nine people, including three members of 
the Republican Guard, in Abala.  Also, in February there were 
reports that Arabs of the Tessara region, allegedly supplied 
with arms by government forces during the period of the 
transitional government, killed 13 Tuaregs at Intarikad.

Despite the truce, splinter groups of rebels or bandits 
continued to attack civilian targets to obtain food, fuel, and 
other supplies, often resulting in deaths.  In August a Tuareg 
raid left seven dead, four of whom were infants.  To keep 
supply lines open to the north, the Government organized armed 
convoys.  Although many of the attacks were attributable to 
banditry, others were attributable to armed Tuareg factions 
associated with the rebellion.  The political goal of these 
attacks reportedly was to demonstrate the Government's 
vulnerability and inability to protect civilian populations.

While there were no reports of government forces perpetrating 
acts of violence against noncombatants nor using excessive 
force against rebels after the March truce, human rights groups 
reported that the military used the security zone to obscure 
its activities from public scrutiny.  The press was not 
expressly forbidden from the security zone but in practice 
seldom ventured there.  The Government was reluctant to talk 
openly, much less publish detailed information, on the 
rebellion for fear that it would compromise the truce and stop 
further talks with the rebels.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution explicitly provides for the rights of free 
speech and press and makes permanent the Superior Council of 
Communication (CSC), created by the National Conference in 
1991, to monitor communications policy.  Although members of 
the CSC have been elected, it is not yet operational due to a 
dispute over who should represent the public press.  Deputies 
speak freely in the National Assembly and openly criticize the 
Government.

The most important medium in reaching the public is the 
government-operated national radio service.  It disseminates 
information in eight languages, including programs to explain 
the meaning and function of democracy.  The national radio 
service covers opposition activities, and there is no 
progovernment bias in its programming.  In addition, the 
Government publishes the daily Le Sahel, as well as a weekend 
edition in French.

Several private newspapers came into existence bringing to 
eight the total number of French and Hausa-language weekly 
papers.  During the transitional government's rule, there were 
numerous attempts to intimidate the media, including a 
recommendation by the Minister of Interior that publications be 
deposited with the Government 48 hours before their 
distribution.  The recommendation was never implemented, 
however.  The newly elected Government made no attempts to 
intimidate or interfere with the media.  In fact, the media 
criticized the Government and even published interviews with 
Tuareg leaders after they were released from incarceration.  
When the official daily failed to cover labor's views, several 
independent weeklies carried full explanations of labor's 
reasons for opposing the Government's economic austerity 
program.

While Niger boasts an active association of editors of private 
newspapers and an association of female communications 
professionals, some journalists did not always substantiate 
their stories.  As a consequence, several government officials, 
including the former Prime Minister, brought suits against 
journalists for defamation or libel.  The courts found several 
journalists guilty of libel and in one case awarded the 
plaintiff $1,000, a large sum for a financially fragile 
independent newspaper.  However, there did not appear to be a 
pattern of high officials routinely bringing suits to 
intimidate the press or inhibit press freedom.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of assembly and association was exercised without 
hindrance.  The Government retains the authority to deny 
permission for demonstrations under tense social conditions or 
if notice is not provided to public authorities at least 48 
hours in advance.  However, permits are routinely granted.  
Demonstrations are free to use loudspeakers, pamphlets, signs, 
and other means of mass communication and openly criticize high 
officials, including the President.

There were several incidents testing the transitional and new 
Governments' commitment to free assembly.  Security forces used 
tear gas to disperse several demonstrations:  in January to 
disperse a demonstration demanding that the Government find the 
finances to save the school year; in April to halt a political 
rally protesting the election of the Prime Minister when 
demonstrators invaded the National Assembly; and in August in 
Maradi to disperse a demonstration against the mayor.  

In the Maradi incident, the authorities made a dozen arrests 
and wounded three after the crowd was sprayed with tear gas.  
The Government claimed that the march organizers did not wait 
the mandatory period and consequently jailed them for 5 days.  
They were released when a judge ruled that the Government had 
acted illegally in banning the demonstration.  The organizers 
have since sued the mayor saying they were illegally arrested 
at night.


Under the Constitution, Nigeriens may form political parties of 
any kind, except those that are based on ethnicity, religion, 
or region.  Eighteen political parties formally registered to 
participate in the 1993 elections.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Niger's population is over 90 percent Muslim.  Despite the 
objection of certain Islamic groups, the new Constitution 
defines Niger as a "nonconfessional" State.

The right to practice other religions is respected.  
Christians--Catholic, Protestant, and Jehovah's Witnesses--as 
well as Baha'i, practice freely and establish houses of worship 
and schools.  Conservative Muslim leaders printed denunciations 
of Baha'is, calling them heretics.  Foreign missionaries live, 
work, and travel freely in Niger but must be members of an 
internationally recognized organization and register as a 
Nigerien association.  Dozens of such organizations operate in 
Niger.  Only a very few have ever been denied permission to 
work.

Violence inspired by religious differences between the 
mainstream Tijaniyya Muslims and the purist Izala sect 
continued to occur.  In August a marabout (Muslim religious 
leader) of the Tijaniyya was killed, and many believed that 
members of the rival Izala sect were responsible.  An Izala 
marabout was detained for questioning but was ultimately 
released.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

In general, freedom of movement is not restricted.  Among the 
Hausa and Fulani people in eastern Niger, however, many women 
are cloistered and can leave their homes only if escorted by a 
male and usually only after dark.  Security forces at 
checkpoints monitored travel of persons and the circulation of 
goods, particularly in and near major population centers.  
Attacks by rebels or bandits on vehicles traveling on major 
routes to the north severely restricted movement.  Neither 
emigration nor repatriation is restricted.

There are currently 3,605 Chadians (mostly women and children) 
in eastern Niger being supplied food, medical assistance, and 
educational fees by the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR).  In addition to Chadians, Niger is host to 
some 4,000 Malian Tuaregs who, according to the UNHCR, will 
soon gain refugee status in order to be repatriated to Mali 
with international assistance.  Niger also hosts a small number 
of Togolese, Rwandese, Burundian, and Zairian refugees.  There 
were no reports of forced repatriation of refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised this right in early 1993 in parliamentary 
and two rounds of presidential elections.  Citizens aged 18 
years and over enjoy the franchise.  Just prior to the 
elections, in December 1992, citizens voted overwhelmingly (by 
nearly 90 percent) to accept the new Constitution establishing 
the Third Republic.  It sets forth a system of checks and 
balances, with a strong Presidency, an 83-seat National 
Assembly, and an independent judiciary and enumerates 30 
specific civil liberties.  A close working relationship has 
been established between the Presidency and the Prime Minister, 
and the coalition Government has functioned well, despite a 
deteriorating economic situation.

Women do not traditionally take part in political 
decisionmaking.  Nevertheless, the new coalition Government 
appointed 5 women to ministerial positions in a 28-member 
Cabinet.  Women's organizations and other human rights groups 
conduct educational campaigns aimed at increasing the 
participation of women in the political process.

The traditional practice of husbands voting their wives' 
proxies was widely used during the National Assembly elections 
and the first round of presidential elections.  The attempt by 
some men to vote for as many as four wives caused the Electoral 
Commission to tighten up on the use of the proxy before the 
second round of presidential elections.  Human rights groups 
seek to eliminate the practice of men voting the proxy of their 
wives.

The Electoral Commission (made up of officials and private 
citizens appointed by the Government) drew electoral districts 
to ensure that minority ethnic groups (Toubou, Fulani, Tuareg, 
and Arabs) would be fairly represented.  Citizens elected 
members of each group to the National Assembly.


Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Independent human rights groups and associations addressed 
human rights concerns without governmental hindrance.  Several 
organizations are active:  the Nigerien Association for the 
Defense of Human Rights; Democracy, Liberty, and Development; 
the National League for Defense of Human Rights; and Adalci 
("Dignity" in Hausa).  In addition, there are women's groups 
and the Network for the Integration and Diffusion of Rights in 
the Rural Milieu (known as "Ridd-Fitila").

Human rights organizations acted mainly through public 
declarations, private demarches, and articles and appeals in 
the press to try to raise public awareness of human rights 
issues.  The International Committee of the Red Cross is active 
in Niger and had access to Tuareg detainees and rebel-held 
hostages during the transition period.  Amnesty International 
has visited without government hindrance to examine human 
rights practices.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, social 
origin, race, ethnicity, or religion.

     Women

Despite the Constitution, the deep-seated traditional belief in 
the submission of women to men results in discrimination 
against females in many areas, including in the political 
process (see Section 3), in education (see below), and in 
employment and property rights.  The situation is particularly 
discriminatory in rural areas where women do much of the 
subsistence farming as well as the child-rearing.  For example, 
when the transitional government appointed the first female 
prefect (governor), the local citizens objected so strenuously 
that the appointment had to be rescinded.  

Women do not enjoy equal legal status with men.  For example, 
while the head of household has certain legal rights, divorced 
or widowed women, even with children, are not considered the 
head of their household.  With the draft family and rural codes 
now under consideration by the National Assembly, women's 
rights groups are attempting to strengthen women's rights in 
inheritance, land tenure, and child custody, and in particular 
to end the practice of repudiation.  This latter practice 
permits the husband to obtain an immediate divorce without 
having further responsibility for the wife or children.

While tradition strongly inclines employers to favor men as 
employees, there is a small, but increasing, number of women 
professionals.  About one-third of the doctors, perhaps 10 
percent of magistrates, and 24 percent of the civil service are 
women serving mostly at the lower ranks.  The first female 
police officers and soldiers were widely publicized in the 
popular press.  Still, even in urban areas, women remain 
severely underrepresented in middle and high-ranking positions, 
in both the public sector and the formal private sector.

Domestic violence against women and children is widespread,  
though neither the Government nor women's rights groups have 
firm statistics on its extent.  Women's groups report that wife 
beating is common even in upper social strata.  Families often 
intervene to prevent the worst abuses, and women may (and do) 
divorce for physical abuse.  While women have the right to seek 
redress in the customary or modern courts, few do so out of 
fear of the stigma of being labeled a bad wife.  Furthermore, 
the majority of women are economically dependent, and to speak 
out is to risk immediate divorce by repudiation.  Women's 
rights organizations report that prostitution is often the only 
economic alternative for a woman who wants to leave her husband.

There were isolated incidents of violence against women 
attributed to religious motivation.  Some extremists physically 
abused African women wearing Western clothing because a 
religious leader had blamed the failure of the rains on immoral 
women.

     Children

The Government's responsibility to children is reflected in the 
Constitution which provides that the State's public services 
must be directed to promote the physical and moral health of 
the family, particularly the mother and children.  The 
Government focuses its limited resources on programs which 
support women and children.  In addition, public education 
through grade six is mandatory and free.  Child labor is 
strictly limited by law.

Cultural discrimination against females starts early.  The vast 
majority of young girls are kept home to work.  Only about 25 
percent of children of primary school age actually attend 
school and about 60 percent of those finishing primary school 
are male.  Young girls rarely get more than a few years of 
formal schooling.  As a result, the male literacy rate is 18 
percent; for females it is 7 percent.  Families of young girls 
enter marriage agreements on the basis of which girls are sent 
at the age of 10 or 12 to join their husband's family under the 
tutelage of their mother-in-law.

Female genital mutilation (circumcision) has been condemned by 
international health experts as dangerous to both physical and 
mental health.  In Niger it is limited to one small ethnic 
group.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities--Tuareg, Fulani, Toubou, Kounouri, and Arab--
assert that the far more numerous Hausa and Djerma ethnic 
groups discriminate against them.  The new Government has 
attempted to address this issue by providing for greater 
representation in the National Assembly (see Section 3) and by 
other measures, such as providing schools and clinics in the 
remote parts of the country.  Still, nomadic peoples--Tuaregs 
and many Fulani--continue to have less access to government 
services, largely due to their nomadic way of life.  The Hausa 
with about 50 percent of the population, and the Djerma with 
about 21 percent are sedentary, mostly urbanized, peoples who 
have historically dominated commerce, the professions, and the 
civil service.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution charges the State with responsibility for the 
handicapped.  In the formal economy, the handicapped (except 
occasionally those crippled by polio) are rarely employed.  The 
education of those with special needs is beyond the means of an 
underfunded educational system.  There is neither legislation 
mandating accessibility for the disabled nor the financial 
means to implement such regulations. 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of workers to establish and join trade unions has 
been practiced since the 1940's and is codified in the new 1992 
Constitution and in the Labor Code of 1962.  However, 90 percent

of Niger's work force is employed in the largely subsistence 
agricultural sector, which is not unionized.

In the industrial sector, the labor federation, the National 
Union of Nigerien Workers (USTN), comprises 42 unions 
representing about 70 percent of the 60,000 salary and wage 
earners in Niger.  The vast majority of its membership is made 
up of government employees, i.e., civil servants, teachers, and 
employees in state-owned corporations like the national 
electrical utility.  The USTN and the Teachers Union (SNEN) 
have stated policies of political autonomy, but all unions have 
informal ties to political parties.  Labor challenged the 
Government on a wide range of issues, notably in 1993 on the 
reductions in the government budget.

Several unions representing professionals and high-level civil 
servants remain unaffiliated with the USTN.  In addition, there 
are a hundred or more trade associations which are required, 
like unions, to file their bylaws with the State and must 
refrain from overt affiliation with any political party.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike.  A minimum 
3-day notice is required, and the motives for the strike must 
be listed.  The security forces and police are prohibited from 
striking.  In 1993 the USTN called a series of strikes by 
public sector employees over back pay of up to 4 months.  There 
were general strikes for 2 days in June, 3 days in July, and 5 
days in September.  In the July and September strikes, the USTN 
also protested the Government's austerity budget and its 
planned deep cuts in civil service salaries.  In the 5-day 
September strike, the USTN demanded smaller salary cuts and a 
reduction in the number of ministerial portfolios.  Late in the 
year, doctors and medical workers (all state employees) and the 
national electrical utility went on strike, each for a few 
days.  All these strikes were legal, and the Government did not 
attempt to suppress the strikes or punish strikers.  Employer 
retribution against strikers is prohibited.

By the end of 1993, the National Assembly delayed further 
consideration of a new labor code, including new provisions 
regarding civil servants' right to strike, until March 1994.  
Features of the draft law include:  mandatory conciliation 
before a strike could be legal, 7 days' notice before a strike 
could begin, and docking pay for the days civil servants are on 
strike.  Private sector workers already have their pay reduced 
for days out on strike.


The USTN is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity and abides by that organization's policy of having no 
formal affiliations outside the African continent.  However, it 
enjoys assistance from some international unions, and 
individual unions, such as the Teacher's Union, are affiliated 
with international trade secretariats.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

In addition to the Constitution and the Labor Code, there is a 
Basic Framework Agreement, negotiated by the USTN's 
predecessor, employers, and the Government, which has been in 
force since 1972.  The Agreement defines all classes and 
categories of work, establishes basic conditions of work, and 
union activities.  In the private, public, and state-owned 
enterprise sectors, unions widely used their right to bargain 
collectively with management without government interference 
for wages over and above the statutory minimums as well as for 
more favorable work conditions.  Collective bargaining exists 
in the public sector.  However, since most organized workers 
are government employees, the Government is actually involved 
in most bargaining agreements.  The USTN represents all workers 
in the bargaining, and labor/management agreements are applied 
uniformly to all employees.

The Labor Code is based on International Labor Organization 
(ILO) principles and protects the right to organize and 
prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers.  Labor unions 
reported no such discrimination in 1993.  A Ministry of Labor 
official acts as a binding arbitrator in certain circumstances 
defined by law, such as reductions in force or firing of a 
union delegate.  In addition, the Government is involved in 
negotiations to resolve strikes. 

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, except for 
legally prosecuted prisoners.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Child labor in nonindustrial enterprises is permitted by law 
under certain conditions.  Children under 14 must obtain 
special authorization to work, and those aged 14 to 18 years 
are subject to limitation on hours (a maximum of 4.5 hours per 
day) and types of employment (no industrial work) so that 
schooling may continue.  Employers are required by law to 
ensure minimum sanitary conditions for working children (and 
women).

Law and practice prohibit child labor in industrial work.  
Child labor laws are enforced by the labor inspections of the 
Ministry of Labor.  In practice, child labor is practically 
nonexistent in the formal (wage) sector.  Instead, economic 
necessity forces children to work in the unregulated 
agricultural, commercial, and artisanal sectors, usually for an 
immediate relative.  Often the only alternative for urban 
children to working under Niger's difficult economic conditions 
is begging in the streets.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A minimum wage for salaried workers of each class and category 
is established by law.  The lowest minimum is about $70 (18,000 
CFA Francs) per month.  Additional salary is granted for each 
family member and for such conditions of work as night shifts 
and required travel.  The minimum wages are not sufficient to 
provide a decent living for workers and their families.  Most 
households have multiple earners (largely informal commerce) 
and rely on the extended family for support.

The legal workweek is 40 hours.  However, certain occupations 
involving irregular hours are authorized longer workweeks, with 
a maximum of 72 hours.  The Labor Code also establishes 
occupational safety and health standards enforced by the 
Ministry of Labor inspectors.  Because of staff shortages, 
however, inspectors focus on safety violations in the mining, 
building, and industrial sectors.  Although generally satisfied 
with the safety equipment provided by employers, citing in 
particular adequate protection from radiation in the uranium 
mines, unions say workers should be better informed on the 
risks posed by their jobs.  Workers who remove themselves from 
dangerous work are likely to be fired, with no legal right to 
be reinstated.


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.