I was in Niger these last couple of days. Stayed at the Hotel Gaweye in Niamey.
Staying with us at the Gaweye, was a largish contingent of French Military Troops and a sizable number of foreign correspondents tracing the unfolding hostage scenario there.
Suspected to be behind the abduction of Seven hostages including five French nationals is the Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghrim (AQIM) headed by Abu Zaid. France of course has a rathe large contingent of Expats staying and working with Niger which has large uranium reserves currenty being exploited by Areva Inc. some of the hostages are indeed working for this French Nuclear Energy Firm.
Not too far back in the past there was a bloodless (IIRC) military coup that unseated the former President and placed him under house arrest, leaving the governemnt to be run by top bureaucrats and Military Junta, from my reading of the ground there, it seems a quite peaceful and seamless transition to democracy will happen by sometime next June (2011).
Met one such top bureaucrat along with a business partner over Dinner at the rather fancy "Le Pilier" (even though the restaurant was choc full and we had to make do with sitting outside in the open air section on a rather sultry evening). The man was a real charmer and explained over a rather excellent Italian dinner, how despite the Miltary coup, Niger was amongst the most democratised and peaceful societies in Africa with a track record of policy continuity despite government shifts.
Here's hoping he's right, coz IMHO Niger seems to be a really excitng place to do business.