Niger set to change post-colonial anthem, six decades later

By Agence France-Presse

Niger, a landlocked former French colony in the Sahel, plans to change its national anthem, six decades after the country became independent.

Minister of cultural rebirth Assoumana Malam Issa (AFP) Minister of cultural rebirth Assoumana Malam Issa (AFP)

The decision follows criticism that some of the lyrics appear to express gratitude to the country's former French rulers for their freedom.

"Parts of the anthem are unanimously subject to criticism. An anthem needs to galvanize the population, like a sort of war cry to touch our patriotic fibre," the minister of cultural rebirth,  Assoumana Malam Issa, told state television late Thursday.

The minister made the announcement after a meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou and a committee tasked with working on the new anthem -- music as well as lyrics.

On social media, many Nigeriens have challenged lines 3 and 4 -- "Let us be proud and grateful for our newfound freedom" -- saying it insinuates a feudal deference to their former colonial ruler.

The words to "La Nigerienne" were written by  Maurice Albert Thiriet, a French movie composer, in 1961, a year after Niger gained its independence. The anthem's music was written by Robert Jacquet and Nicolas Abel Francois Frionnet.

The committee preparing the new anthem said it would study the lyrics and make corrections and "if possible find a new anthem which corresponds to Niger's current context."

The committee called on Nigeriens to suggest contributions towards a "work in the national languages.

French and Hausa are the most common official languages.

Next year will be a bumper year for African countries celebrating their 60th anniversary of independence.

In 1960, 14 states were decolonized in the former French West Africa, in addition to the Belgian colony of Congo, Somalia and Nigeria.

Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, faces jihadist and criminal gangs on six of its seven frontiers, especially from the Nigeria's Boko Haram militants and other Islamist fighters to the west.

Its military is part of the so-called G5 Sahel, which also pools troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania, aimed at combatting jihadist violence in the Sahel.