INiger is a land-locked country in western Africa, covered with desert, except for a band of territory running south of the Niger River. In past centuries, Niger's territory has come under the control of successive empires originating in Mali, Chad, and Nigeria. In the 1800s, Britain and Germany came into the picture as their explorers searched for the source of the Niger River. It was the French, however, who prevailed in Niger which became a French colony in 1922, governed from Senegal. Along with other African French colonial peoples, those of Niger gained French citizenship in 1946 and some measure of self-rule followed. By 1958, Niger had become an autonomous state in the French Overseas Community. Independence was achieved in 1960. Niger's first president was overthrown by a military coup in 1974. It took 15 years for the country to start moving towards democracy. A new constitution was adopted in 1992. President Mahame Ousmane and his prime minister were ousted, again in a military coup, in 1996. Ousmane's successor was assassinated in 1999. A military junta was put in place and has promised both constitutional reform and elections.