Niger president and Nigerien Army General Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara (pictured) came to power in the nation by way of a military coup, ousting the first democratically elected president, Mahamane Ousmane. On this day in 1999, Maïnassara was assassinated by his own presidential security detail while attempting to board a plane.
Maïnassara was born in Niger (then French West Africa) on May 9, 1949, in Dogondoutchi and was part of the Hausa ethnic majority, although there are reports that indicate he was born in Maradi. Not much is reported about Maïnassara’s childhood, but what is known he was raised Muslim like many Hausa people and embraced fundamentalism.
A military man since the early 1970s, Maïnassara quietly rose in the ranks conflict after conflict until President Ousmane made him Nigerien Army’s chief of staff in 1995.
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There was much infighting occurring in President Ousmane’s government, and his Democratic and Social Convention-Rahama (CDS) party and the Alliance of the Forces of Change (AFC) responsible for his election began to lose parliamentary rule gradually. President Ousmane reduced the powers of Prime Minister Mahamadou Issoufou, which led to him and his group (the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS)) leaving parliament.
Before President Ousmane could dissolve the parliament and call new elections to rebuild the government structure, though, the coup was upon him.
The military turned on President Ousmane in 1996, with Colonel Maïnassara saying that the political discord in the country was the reason why the coup occurred. After arresting and casting out President Ousmane, General Maïnassara was elected as the country’s leader. For three years, President Maïnassara was mostly ineffective in his post and growing dissent from opposition parties called for him to resign.
The country was also under crushing debt to the tune of $1 billion, despite the President working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Because of the massive dearth of funds, soldiers, teachers, and other workers went unpaid and began to mildly revolt.
This climate would lead to President Maïnassara’s murder.
While boarding a plane in the capital city of Naimey, the war leader was surrounded by his own guard then later ambushed and killed. Shortly after, a seemingly calculated series of events cut off communication and access to the airport. Two days later, only the President’s family and closest foreign allies attended his funeral.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Assane Mayaki called the assassination a “tragic accident” and tried to dissolve the National Assembly in Niger but was forbidden to do so by several opposition parties. Accusations began to swirl around who ordered the murder of President Maïnassara, and many of the army officials in leadership positions were linked.
Nigerien Army Major Daouda Mallam Wanke was subsequently named president and ruled for nine months before Mamadou Tandja was elected later that year.