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Labor Unions and “Democratic Forces” in Niger

Chapter

Abstract

It is widely accepted that labor unions and student unions played critical roles in Niger’s transition to multiparty democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Both Western and Nigerien social scientists saw them as a key element in the “democratic forces”1 that contributed to the reversal of authoritarian military and plebiscitary regimes and that eventually, after several reversals, led to Niger’s current fragile democracy (Niandou Souley 1996; Wiseman 1996). With the hindsight of more than fifteen years of “democratization” in Africa, a more sober conclusion must be drawn: not only have the role of civil society and labor unions in particular declined in shaping Africa’s newly electoral democracies, there is good reason to conclude that in a country like Niger they never possessed the characteristics or resources to sustain such a critical and leading role in political reform. Given the obvious weakness of these groups and of “civil society” in general in Africa, when compared to contemporary Asian and Latin American societies (van de Walle 2001; White 1995), this retrenchment is hardly surprising. What may be surprising is that this temporary coalition ever had the success it did to begin with.

Keywords

Civil Society Prime Minister International Monetary Fund Labor Union Structural Adjustment 
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© Jon Kraus, ed. 2007

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