Republic of Niger
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The African Republic of Niger is a landlocked country of nearly 1.3 sq km (almost 500,000 sq miles) bordering several nations, beginning in the north and following around the country clockwise: Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria. Two-thirds of the area is part of the Sahara Desert, an irony in that Niger comes from the Tuareg word meaning flowing water. The River Niger actually only transects the country in the extreme southwest corner of this otherwise stony, sandy, northern highland. Niamey, the capital city, lies on the River Niger and it is in this section the preponderance of the population of 10 million live and work.
In the nineteenth century the area was ruled by the Sokoto Empire of the Fulani people. 1922 saw the country become a part of French West Africa. Independence was gained in 1960 but was followed by three decades of dictatorial rule. Military rule was instituted in 1996. The Republic is governed by a single legislative body known as the National Assembly.
Growth of the gross domestic product (less than $250 US per person) has barely matched the growth of the population in recent years, making Niger one of the most impoverished countries on the African continent. Nearly 95% of the people survive on subsistence farming. While once nearly self-sufficient in food stuffs devastating droughts in the last decades have caused a shift and now much of the food is imported. Where there is fertile, arable soil there is grown yams, cassava, maize and sometimes rice. Millet and sorghum are grown near Lake Chad. Tin, tungsten and uranium and among Niger’s chief mineral exports. Some animal life, such a buffalo, antelope, lion, hippopotamus and crocodile remain but this is due more as a matter of chance rather than good management.
Niger is made up of several ethnic groups, the largest being Hausa and Djerma. There is a community of about 4,000 French expatriates. Religiously speaking, 80% of the population is Sunni Muslim with the minority being made up of Christians and indigenous peoples. Animism is the dominant indigenous religion, practiced particularly by women, to whom evil powers are attributed as a natural trait.
At this writing the only known congregation of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Niger is First Christian Church in Niamey, the capitol. Kwame Yaboah-Mantey, a graduate of Ghana Christian College in Accra (see Ghana profile), moved to Naimey in 2004 to begin a church. Since that time he has also made inroads to villages within 50-120 kilometers of Niamey. The congregation has been financially supported by First Church of Christ, Burlington, Kentucky. Late in 2006 Master Provisions, a clothing ministry based in Kentucky, shipped a container of used clothing and shoes from the United States to the congregation in Naimey. This shipment allowed the congregation to open a used clothing shop/ministry, called First Shop, which employs about twenty individuals, many of whom lost jobs and family ties due to conversion from Islam. A second shipment of clothing from the US is expected late in 2007.
The 2003 Edition of Mac Lynn’s Churches of Christ around the World says that only recently has work by Churches of Christ begun in Niger, by the Accra, Ghana church under the financial sponsorship of the North Boulevard Church of Christ, Murfreesboro, Tennessee (US).
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Mac Lynn, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
For additional information on the Naimey congregation contact:Tommy Baker, Involvement Minister
First Church of Christ (instrumental)
6080 Camp Ernst Road
Burlington, KY 41005