Niger celebrates its Independence Day on 3 August to remember the day in 1960 when it officially gained its freedom from the French colonial empire. Beginning in 1975, 3 August was also proclaimed to be Niger’s Arbor Day, a day on which trees are planted all over the nation to help fight the expansion of the Sahara into Niger’s grasslands.
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Niger had gained some degree of autonomy within the French Empire in December of 1958, but they were not satisfied with half measures. Niger was one of the last areas of former French Africa to be conquered.
Resistance was stubborn, forcing France to revise its strategy for subjugation and move its colonial capital of Niger several times. Ultimately, France prevailed, but its success was short-lived, for independence was right around the corner!
What do people do in Niger on Independence Day? First of all, they get the day off so they have time to celebrate. Thus, many businesses and government offices will be closed. There are some official ceremonies, and the president and others will give stirring speeches. The presidential Independence Day speech has been broadcast since 1975 and is a central tradition.
It is also traditional for every citizen in the country to plant a tree on Independence Day, which is also now “The Festival of Tree”, or Arbor Day. Thus, Niger grows greener with every passing year!