Partly Free
PR Political Rights 23 40
CL Civil Liberties 28 60
Last Year's Score & Status
51 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Niger saw its first transfer of power between democratically chosen presidents in the 2020–21 elections, though the polls were impacted by allegations of fraud and sometimes-violent protests.

The struggle to meet security challenges posed by active militant groups has served as an alibi for the government to restrict civil liberties. Security, transparency, and gender equality are limited.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In September, the government and opposition resumed political dialogue in the National Council for Political Dialogue (CNDP), a platform that brings together the majority, the opposition, and nonaffiliated parties to discuss political disputes, including those related to the organization of elections. Over the last two years opposition parties had boycotted the CNDP due to disagreements related to the 2020 general elections.
  • President Mohamed Bazoum in January met with civil society leaders to discuss the fight against terrorism and insecurity. Activists seized the opportunity to denounce the deterioration of civil liberties, notably repeated government infringements on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
  • In May, the government adopted an ordinance enhancing the status of the country’s head of opposition, expanding the office’s mandate and allocating more resources toward it.
  • Militants launched attacks against civilian and military targets throughout the year. Jihadist violence in the regions of Tillabéri, Diffa, and Maradi persisted, though it diminished in intensity in comparison to 2021. In February, President Bazoum announced that his government had opened a dialogue channel with jihadist groups operating in the Tillabéri Region.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The president is directly elected to up to two five-year terms. The first round of elections, held in December 2020, was marked by isolated reports of attempted vote buying and the disqualification of a major opposition candidate, but was largely peaceful.

Mohamed Bazoum, a former interior minister and the candidate of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS–Tarayya), won 55.7 percent of the vote in the February 2021 runoff. His opponent, former president Mahamane Ousmane (1993–96), won 44.3 percent. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) reported a turnout of 62.9 percent. Domestic and international observers deemed the electoral process satisfactory despite irregularities. While Ousmane contested the results, alleging fraud, the Constitutional Court validated Bazoum’s victory that March. Bazoum was sworn in in April to replace term-limited incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou, marking the first transfer of power between elected presidents in Nigerien history.

The postelectoral period was affected by insecurity. Protests were held in Niamey and several other towns after the second-round results were announced, with events in the capital becoming violent. The government reported that two people were killed during the protests on February 25. Internet access was restricted for 10 days beginning on February 24. The government also claimed to foil a coup attempt in late March, days before Bazoum’s inauguration.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

There are 171 seats in the unicameral National Assembly, 158 of which are directly elected from 8 multimember constituencies; 8 which are reserved for minority representatives, who are elected directly from special single-seat constituencies; and 5 that are reserved for Nigeriens living abroad.

Nigeriens abroad were unable to participate in the late December 2020 parliamentary elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but voters within Niger voted to fill the 166 domestic seats concurrently with the first round of the presidential contest. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) observers called the elections relatively free and fair, and lauded the participation of young and female voters. The PNDS–Tarayya won 80 seats, the Nigerien Democratic Movement for an African Federation (MODEN/FA Lumana) won 19, and the Patriotic Movement for the Republic and the National Movement for the Development of Society each won 13. The new parliament took its seats in March 2021.

In October 2022, the CENI began the process of biometric enrollment for Nigeriens living abroad in preparation for elections to the 5 diaspora seats in the parliament. The program involved deploying equipment and training staff for enrollment operations in 15 countries selected for large Nigerian expatriate populations and consular infrastructure, with expected outreach to over 100,000 eligible voters.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 2.002 4.004

The electoral code offers a framework for fair elections. However, the opposition, pointing to reports of widespread irregularities in recent elections, among other issues, has cast doubt over the impartiality of the CENI and the Constitutional Court, which together approve candidate lists and validate election results. In 2017, the government and the opposition disagreed over the appointment of a new commission to organize the 2020 elections; the government unilaterally appointed the new commission after the opposition boycotted the process.

While 41 candidates registered to participate in the 2020 presidential elections, 11 were disqualified by the Constitutional Court that November (most of whom had failed to pay the registration fee). MODEN/FA Lumana leader Hama Amadou was disqualified over a 2017 human-trafficking conviction which he called bogus.

In January 2022, the government recognized Tahirou Seydou, president of Amadou’s MODEN/FA Lumana—the most-represented opposition party in the parliament—as the head of opposition. Niger’s constitution guarantees certain rights to the head of opposition. In May 2022, the government adopted an ordinance enhancing the status of the head of opposition, adding to its mandate and allocating more resources to the office.

In September 2022, majority and opposition leaders met to resume political dialogue in the CNDP, a platform that brings together the majority, the opposition, and nonaffiliated parties to discuss political disputes, including those related to the organization of elections. Opposition parties had boycotted the CNDP for two years due to disagreements related to the 2020 general elections.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 2.002 4.004

By law, political parties may freely organize and conduct their activities. However, the PNDS–Tarayya-led government has employed a variety of tactics to interfere in the operation of opposition parties, including persecution of opposition leaders and the co-option of key opposition figures.

Over 150 political parties were registered as of November 2020. The majority has continued to co-opt opposition leaders, further contributing to the weakening of the opposition. In April 2022, a major opposition party, the Nigerien Patriotic Movement (MPN)–Kishin Kassa, joined the majority after its leader, Ibrahim Yacoubou, was nominated minister of energy and renewable energies. With the main opposition leader—Hama Amadou—in exile, and Yacoubou joining the majority, there is little effective opposition present in the Nigerien political landscape.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 2.002 4.004

Opposition parties have been divided into several coalitions and face serious difficulties in challenging the PNDS–Tarayya’s dominance. In addition, a history of government-led repression and co-option has hindered their ability to gain power through elections. A lack of leadership—partly due to the absence of Amadou, who previously served a prison sentence and is currently living in exile—has also contributed to a weak opposition in Niger.

Members of the opposition have expressed concern over the rising insecurity in several regions, particularly in the opposition stronghold of Tillabéri, which has hindered parties’ ability to campaign and disturbed polling operations. Tillabéri voter-enlistment agents have been targeted by militants, who have threatened to attack anyone participating in elections.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Niger has experienced several military coups, most recently in 2010, and the influence of the military still looms over the political sphere. The government claimed to foil a coup attempt in March 2021. In the month that followed, at least one officer and several soldiers were arrested for their alleged involvement. The government also claimed to foil coup attempts in 2015 and 2018.

Nigerien authorities in May 2022 arrested several military officers and expelled others from the army based on accusations of their involvement in the foiled 2021 coup. A former interior minister, Cissé Ousmane Ibrahim, was also arrested in April and detained for several days on allegations of involvement in the coup. Their trials were scheduled for early 2023.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

The law provides for equal opportunity for all Nigeriens to seek political office and participate in political processes. However, women have been underrepresented both in elected and cabinet positions. A parity law adopted in 2020 calls for women to hold 25 percent of parliamentary seats and 30 percent of cabinet positions; 25.9 percent of parliamentary seats were held by women after the December 2020 elections, an improvement over the 14.6 percent figure in the previous parliament. However, the percentage of women in Bazoum’s cabinet stood at about 15 percent. The quota does not guarantee that women will be able to participate equally once elected or appointed to cabinet positions.

While the Hausa and Zarma (or Djerma) ethnic groups have dominated many government positions, ethnic minorities are increasingly visible in politics, particularly Tuareg and Arabs. Nomadic groups, including the Fulani, are underrepresented in elected positions and have difficulty registering to vote.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2.002 4.004

Elected representatives were duly installed into office following the 2020–21 polls. However, harassment of the opposition during presidential and legislative election campaigns, as well as irregularities in the elections themselves, damage the government’s legitimacy.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 2.002 4.004

The High Authority for Combating Corruption and Related Crimes (HALCIA) is the official anticorruption body. The government also operates an anticorruption hotline and has established an anticorruption initiative focused on the judiciary. The HALCIA actively tracks corruption cases and informs the public of its activities. However, the government often has refused to carry through HALCIA recommendations or pursue identified corruption cases in court.

In 2021, the police arrested Ibou Karadjé, a former government official who is accused of embezzling more than 8 billion CFA francs ($14.5 million) between 2012 and 2017. In April 2022, police arrested Communication Minister Mahamadou Zada on allegations of embezzlement.

Bribes are sometimes required to gain access to public services.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

Implementation and enforcement of the 2011 Charter on Access to Public Information and Administrative Documents has been uneven. Government information related to the mining, uranium, and oil sectors, and state-operated companies, is often not disclosed.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

In 2010, Niger adopted a press law eliminating prison terms for media offenses and reducing the threat of libel cases. However, journalists still face difficulties, including occasional police violence while covering protests, and detention or prosecution in response to critical or investigative reporting.

Journalistic investigations have also been prosecuted under the 2019 Cybercrime Law. In September 2021, journalists Moussa Aksar and Samira Sabou appeared before a Niamey court on charges related to violations of that law; the journalists had reported on drug trafficking earlier in the year involving an investigation produced by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. In January 2022, Aksar was given a two-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of dissemination of data likely to disturb public order or undermine human dignity, and defamation by an electronic means of communication. Sabou was given a one-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of defamation by electronic communication.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 2.002 4.004

Freedom of religion is legally guaranteed, but there are some constraints on religious expression and worship in practice. The rise of militant groups has increased the threat of violence against Christians.

In 2019, citing security concerns, the government adopted a law that imposed greater control over religious activities, including building places of worship, preaching, and religious education.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

Academic freedom is generally upheld, but insecurity and heavy-handed responses to campus protests can impede academic freedom.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

Freedom of expression is generally upheld in Niger. However, the government has shown some intolerance of criticism, and prosecuted people over social media comments.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 2.002 4.004

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, but authorities do not always respect this right in practice, and police have at times used force to break up demonstrations. In 2017, the government announced the prohibition of public protests on “business days.”

Sometimes-violent protests took place after Mohamed Bazoum was named the winner of the presidential election in February 2021. The home of a Radio France International (RFI) journalist was damaged during the protests, as were other publicly and privately owned buildings. In late February 2021, the government reported that 2 people died in the unrest while another 468 were arrested. Hama Amadou was arrested that March for his alleged role in postelectoral violence, though he was allowed to travel to France for medical treatment that April.

The government banned some rallies during 2022. A rally organized by M62, a coalition of civil society groups, against rising prices and the presence of foreign troops was banned in August, but the group was allowed to hold a rally in September.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

The government occasionally restricts the operations of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and a lack of security in certain regions also impedes their functioning. The government has restricted the movement of UN personnel and aid workers without military escort in some areas, impacting the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In 2020, staff members of NGO ACTED were among eight people killed by armed assailants at a wildlife reserve.

In January 2022, President Bazoum met with civil society leaders in an effort to ease the social and political climate and encourage cooperation among key national actors in the effort to combat terrorism and insecurity. Activists seized the opportunity to denounce the deterioration of civil liberties, notably repeated government infringements on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The president pledged to respect these freedoms and to be more forthcoming in the fight against corruption.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

While the constitution and other laws guarantee workers the right to join unions and bargain for wages, a large portion of the workforce is employed informally and lacks access to formal union representation. The legal definition of “essential” workers not permitted to strike is broad, and mandatory arbitration processes can be invoked to settle strikes.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 1.001 4.004

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and courts have shown some level of independence, though the judicial system is subject to executive interference. Rulings against opposition leaders and civil society activists have decreased trust in the judiciary.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2.002 4.004

Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments are frequent. Many people accused of crimes are held in pretrial detention for extended periods of time, sometimes in the same population as convicted individuals.

States of emergency declared in several regions allow the army to engage in mass arrests and detain those suspected of links with terrorist organizations.

In November 2021, during a protest in the town of Tera against a convoy of French troops, 3 civilians were killed and 17 were injured. The Nigerien government and French army opened an investigation only to conclude in May 2022 that the probe had not yielded clear results about what had happened; they also announced that they would compensate the victims. The investigation report was not made public, and some civil society activists expressed doubts that any investigation had been conducted.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

Nigeriens face insecurity due to ongoing militant activity. Several militant groups, including Boko Haram, are active within Nigerien territory and are known to attack civilians and military personnel.

The government has imposed states of emergency within the regions of Diffa, Tillabéri, and Tahoua over ongoing insecurity. Jihadist violence around Tillabéri and Diffa persisted in 2022, though it has diminished in intensity in comparison to an especially violent 2021. In February 2022, President Bazoum announced that his government had opened a dialogue channel with jihadist groups operating in the Tillabéri Region. The kidnapping of civilians for ransom persists, particularly in Maradi and Diffa Regions. A reliance on nonstate armed groups to conduct counterterrorism operations has inflamed intercommunal tensions near the Niger-Mali border, leading to instances of violence.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2.002 4.004

The rights of ethnic minority groups are protected by law, but discrimination persists in some respects in practice. Same-sex sexual activity is not illegal in Niger, but same-sex relationships are highly stigmatized, and there is no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although the 2010 constitution prohibits gender discrimination, women suffer widespread discrimination in practice. The application of the law by customary courts often discriminates against women.

While two ethnic groups, Hausa and Zarma (or Djerma), have dominated economic leadership positions, Tuareg and Arabs are increasingly represented.

Nigerien authorities have made efforts to accommodate Malian and Nigerian refugees as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs). In July 2021, the Bazoum administration committed to repatriating 100,000 IDPs to their home villages by that December. The government also promised to take extra measures to guarantee the security of IDPs and refugees.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 2.002 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of movement, but this is hampered by militant activity and bribery by security officials who guard checkpoints.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

Several complications undermine legal guarantees of the right to own property. Few people hold formal ownership documents for their land, though customary law provides some protection. The enforcement of both state and customary law often gives way to tension and confusion. Women have less access to land ownership than men due to inheritance practices and inferior status in property disputes.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

Family law gives women inferior status in divorce proceedings. Female genital mutilation (FGM) was criminalized in 2003 and has declined, but it continues among a small percentage of the population. Penalties for rape are heavy, but societal attitudes and victims’ fears of retribution discourage reporting, and when rape is reported it is often poorly investigated. Domestic violence is not explicitly criminalized, though women may lodge criminal allegations of battery against partners. Some cases have resulted in convictions, but reporting is similarly discouraged in practice.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Although slavery was criminalized in 2003 and banned in the 2010 constitution, it remains a problem in Niger. Estimates of the number of enslaved people vary widely but is generally counted in the tens of thousands. Niger remains a source, transit point, and destination for human trafficking. There has been a worrying in the number of youth being forced to work as beggars in major cities in recent years.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    51 100 partly free