The former French colony in the Sahel region of Africa, Niger, is looking to rid its national anthem of any remnants of French colonisation.

The lyrics of the anthem La Nigerienne were written by French Maurice Albert Thiriet in 1961 following Niger’s independence. Currently, many passages of the song have been criticised for their polemic discourses

The lyrics appear to express gratitude to the country’s former colonial power France and its rulers for the country’s freedom.  

Assoumana Malam Issa, the Minister of Cultural Renaissance, told state television late on Thursday: “Parts of the anthem are unanimously subject to criticism. An anthem needs to galvanise the population, like a sort of war cry to touch our patriotic fibre."

The minister announced the decision to alter the anthem following a meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou and a committee was tasked with working on a new anthem.

Nigeriens particularly take issue with a passage that says: "Let us be proud and grateful / For our new freedom!" referring to France. 

Many Nigeriens have mentioned these lines and said that it hints at feudal deference to France. 

The committee said that its priority is to make corrections, however, if possible they will try to find a new anthem which reflects Niger’s current context. Officials and Nigeriens believe that at the very least a modification of the national anthem is crucial. 

The minister said: "Citizens can contribute, make proposals. This is not a competition that will launch where there will be a prize for the best work, but it will be a contest where everyone can contribute."

During these meetings, they also proposed changing the melody of the anthem. 

So far, there is no specific deadline for the public consultations and people from all seven regions of Niger will be invited to contribute. The committee in charge will have the last word on whether the anthem will be changed completely or just altering specific passages. 

Several African countries will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of their independence next year. Fourteen West African countries decolonised from France in 1960 in addition to the Belgian colonies of Democratic Republic of Congo, and the British colonies of Somalia and Nigeria.

France began colonising Niger in the late 1890s and by 1902 had built a military fort in Niamey - a small fishing village at that time. In 1926, France moved its colonial capital from Zinder to Niamey to facilitate trade by using the Niger River to connect to other colonised territories in West Africa. 

During this process, Niamey served as an important point in overland trade of agricultural goods which were grown in Niger’s surrounding areas and transported to domestic and international markets. 

After World War II, the city’s population increased and Niamey emerged as the centre of government. When Niger won its independence from France in 1960, Niamey became Niger’s capital. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies