Africa Speaks: Trouble 1



Boys at Baleyara market, Niger 1992

Contents: War of Women . . . A Village War . . . Wicked Men . . . Hunting . . .
Conflict . . . Tuareg Attack. . . home page


War of Women

Mahamane Hamadou

There is something that still remains in my mind. An event that happened in my village when I was very young. Was I six or five years old? I don't remember the exact age but I do get all the details of that event up to now.

It was about a punishment mission organized by all the women of my village, which finally turned to the most wonderful fight that have ever been led in that area. That fight was opposing the women of two villages. What caused that war of women which thanks to God didn't cause any victims or damages?

That affair began one day when my sister came from the well suffused with tears, her clothes torn to pieces and her pot broken. She was running as if she had all the devils of hell after her. My grandmother who was known to be a tough person and therefore was feared by all the women of the village, stopped her. She asked her what was wrong, but my sister, too shaken by her weeping, wasn't able to answer. My grandmother slapped her vigorously and she immediately recovered.

She said that the women of the other village gathered to beat her up and pulled out her necklace in gold that Dad had bought for her. A necklace of that kind had been lost by a girl of the other village and they thought that my sister had stolen it.

My grandmother,all shaken by anger, said "What! They dare treat you as a thief! That necklace, your father sold two goats in order to buy it for you. And these witches said it was theirs."

In a minute, she gathered all the women and girls of the village and told them to be prepared, for they would go to the other village and teach good manners to the women.

Unfortunately, at that time the men were on the farms, only women remained in the village. When everybody was ready, the women of my village poured down on their enemies as locusts on a farm.

Meanwhile, I had run to inform the men. But when they arrived, we saw the women of the other village fleeing in all directions crying. The attack had been a surprise for them. The men of my village calmed down these warlike women and took them back home.

This story of necklace was only a gas that had been poured on fire, because the two villages were founded by two brothers who didn't like each other. Nevertheless, they both shared the same well and the same market. But the people of both villages didn't talk to each other.

So the elders of my village put an end to the matter and my father promised that he would buy another golden necklace for my sister.

Now, when I remember that event, I feel laughter shaking me, because for me, it is ridiculous that two ancestors didn't like each other, and that their sons and daughters inherit their hate. They should forget the past and act like relatives.

Copyright © 1998 Mahamane Hamadou

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Village on Niger river at ferry crossing, Niger 1992

A Village War

Halou Souley, 3/17/92

In my childhood an important event happened in my village. The event was a problem between my village and another village. At that time, people were very linked together and thought as one. The problem which brought about the incident was a stream that was situated between the two villages.

One day our shepherds went to water our livestock at the stream, and found other shepherds--our neighbors--who told them not to come near the stream. Our neighbors chased away our livestock by beating the animals. In response, our shepherds beat the neighbors' livestock.

As it was early in the morning, the people of both villages were coming to the stream to look for water. So, a great fight broke out. Many people and animals were injured. Some people were thrown in the stream and remained there forever. Our livestock was reduced because many of our animals were killed and others stolen during that confusion. At that time, I loved animals very much, and among the livestock were several that belonged to me.

Later the same day, late in the evening, our neighbors, armed with weapons, arrows and machetes, came to our village to renew the battle. First of all they came in our compound looking for our shepherd. Fortunately for him he was with us in the big room. The noise of the crowd let us know there was an enemy in the compound. The attackers were cutting the throats of our few animals who had escaped the earlier attack.

People in the compound cried out to warn the village of the presence of evil doers. From every part of the village people were coming toward our compound. There was great confusion. Sometimes people of the same village beat each other. The attackers lost many of their friends, and even those who were still alive were hurt, and others lay unconscious and dying in pools of blood. Many families lost their men.

At that time, everything about the situation seemed funny to me, but when I saw my beloved cows slaughtered, I became very angry. Some people were excited when they saw me crying. At that time I did not think deeply about the event. It was only an incident caused by a misunderstanding between the shepherds.

My hope, in my childhood, was to respond to them as they had acted toward us. So every man who was included in the incident had to be killed. I still remember the hurt done to my family and to my village. The event was a memorable event for both villages, but more damage was done to our village.

The worst thing about this event is that it caused a breakdown of friendship between the people of the two villages, and the downfall of our wealth. This event, which seemed funny to me at the time, I can now see is a serious thing because of the distance that has grown between others and us.

copyright © 1998 Halou Souley

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Village on Tillabery road, with granaries, Niger 1992

Wicked Men

Sani Dan Lamso 4/6/92

Of all the villages around, mine, Kadata, was the richest. The villagers were not only good farmers, but also had a lot of animals such as cows, camels, goats, and sheep. As everyone wanted to be richer than the others, there was a kind of competition.

The best year for my family was 1976. We had the best crops in the village, even in all the region. The work was collective; all the members of my family worked together. That year we filled ten barns with millet, sorghum and beans. As was the tradition in our area, only groundnuts, beans, and cotton were sold to get money to buy more animals or to help the young men get married.

Unfortunately for us, some villagers were not happy about our prosperity, mostly those who had not got good crops. They were very jealous of our riches.

On the night of Monday, March 2, 1976, someone set fire to all our barns. This happened around midnight when most of the villagers were sleeping peacefully. A young man and his sweetheart who were conversing outside were the first to see the fire.

They cried out so loud that all the villagers woke up. Everybody --even those who set the fire--came to extinguish it. My family began first to protect some of our houses, which were near the barns. People poured water on the fire, but, because there wasn't enough water in the village, it took all night to put out the fire.

All the members of my family, except the elders, were crying. We had lost all our harvest. It was a sorrowful event. We were suddenly poor.

We investigated with the help of the chief of our village to find out the origin of the fire. It was found that the fire was caused by our neighbors, Didi and Dodo. They admitted having sent five young men to set fire to our barns. We immediately wanted to kill them, but the chief advised us not to do so. He told us he would take them to the city to be put in prison.

At that time we trusted everybody. If it happened today, we would have someone guarding the barns in the night. At that time we didn't think that envy and jealousy could make people become criminals.

Copyright © 1998 Sani Dan Lamso

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Donkey cart, near Hamdallay, Niger 1992

Hunting

Sani Dan-Lamso 5/25/92

When there were still forests in Niger, before the trees were cut for agriculture, villagers used to organize many hunts. In fact, before hunting was prohibited by the Niger government, people went hunting three times a month. The days they chose as lucky days were Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The aim of hunting in our region was not only to catch big and small game, but also to pay off old scores.

Thus, in 1965, one Saturday morning, villages from more than twenty villages around a big forest called "Hurumi" ("full of game") decided to go hunting. They prepared for the hunt many days in advance.

But for us Kadata people, our purpose was not only to catch game, but also to take our revenge on Kadigawa people who had killed Djinzuilma, my own grandfather, at the previous hunt. So our villagers were very well prepared. They had gone to consult "Dogowa" and "Takurabau," the most fearsome spirits of our area. Some hunters got gris-gris from marabouts and charlatans in order to avoid being hit or cut.

As it would be a dangerous hunt, children were not allowed to go, but the men told about it later. They took their knives, big sticks, machetes, and so on, and left our village early in the morning with our hunting dogs. Their strategy was to snatch all the game out of our enemies' hands, not to begin beating them as soon as we met them. When we were in the forest we were keeping an eye on our enemies more than looking for game.

About midday their chief, Klingui, caught an antelope. But when he was about to put it into his game bag, Gogo and Kega, two of our villagers, told him not to do so. They seized the animal, and prevented Klingui from talking. Some of his friends saw the scene and intervened.

My father used a whistle to call all Kadata people, who were eagerly waiting to be called. They came immediately, and found Klingui already lain on the ground. Kega had cut his throat with a machete.

Then the serious battle began. Hunters used everything that they had in their hands. Some other hunters (our relatives) joined the battle and helped us to kill our enemies. And at the same time, our enemies' relatives helped them to fight us. But as we had more fighters than they had, we won the battle easily. Most of our enemies had run away to avoid being killed. Some of them who wanted to show us that they were brave, were killed.

Among our people, nobody was killed this time, and only ten men were injured. Among our enemies, more than fifty hunters were injured. We were not fully satisfied, because we had killed only seven persons.

Hunting was really dangerous. I think that it was the reason why the Niger government decided to forbid it forever.

Copyright © 1998 Sani Dan-Lamso

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Village near escarpment, on road to Filingue, Niger 1992

Conflict

Iyo Ibrahim 2/3/92

That year it rained earlier than usual in my village. Immediately people sowed and a week later, the area was covered with grass and seedlings. As our village is surrounded by herders' camps, good farmers always ask their children to look after the fields in order to stop animals from getting in there.

Our farm is about four kilometers from the village, so my eldest brother was designated to go and look after it on a market day. He took his food and a stick and left.

By two o'clock a group of young Fulani drove their cattle into the field. On seeing it, my brother started chasing the animals. But the young boys threatened to kill him if he did not stop. He was so frightened that he wanted to run away, but they caught him and beat him seriously. After they had left, he ran home and informed my father of what had happened.

On hearing it, people in the village gathered in our compound. Soon it was decided to avenge the village. They said it was not just my brother who was offended but also the whole village. Some of the villagers thought the event had happened because it had been a long time since the Fulani had been punished.

Although my brother had been beaten, I didn't think that fighting was the solution. I could not understand why the wise elders made this decision. Couldn't they solve this problem peacefully? It was then I heard it was a very old problem. In the past many of my people had been killed by the herders, and we had killed many of them.

"Now these Fulani want blood to be poured, and it will soon happen," said an old man. Everybody got ready for the fight. Some people wore charms everywhere on the body, others carried machetes, swords, bows and arrows, and clubs.

They soon drove toward the herder's camps. When they got there, they started beating anyone they met. They killed five of the Fulani before the police constables arrived. Ten of our people and the chief of the village were arrested. Some of them were known to have used their machetes to kill the five dead men. It was not clear which others were guilty, but the chief was blamed for allowing his people to commit such a montrous act.

When I asked my grandfather about the solution of this problem he answered me thus: "As long as this cohabitation of farmers and shepherds exists, there will be no solution for it."

Then, I said, the solution was with them, as wise men, because if they decided something might not happen in the village, it would not. I also told him to forbid such primitive acts.

On hearing that he got angry and said, "Even tomorrow if anyone dares to challenge us he will see us." Then I stopped the conversation and realized that it will take a long time to solve this problem of cohabitation when people have such thoughts.

Copyright © 1998 Iyo Ibrahim

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Editor's note: Cohabitation: Farmers (those who grow crops) and herders (those who keep animals) share the fields around a village. During the growing season, the herders are supposed to keep their animals away from the crops; after harvest, the animals may graze in the fields. This system of shared use often breaks down and causes problems. While I was in Niger in 1992 a village was attacked and burned, with many casualties, because of problems with cohabitation.


Tuareg Attack

Issa Mariama, 1/27/92

One day I witnessed an event in Tchintabaradin, between soldiers and Tuareg attackers. The Tuaregs came to the other side of the police station and began to shoot their guns at the police station. Everybody ran away when the Tuargs began to shoot their guns, but I watched them from an upstairs window. The village became calm.

Suddenly, the soldiers responded to the attack. They shot their guns, but they were less well-armed than the attackers. When the battle was over, the insurgents had savagely killed eight of the soldiers and took many of them hostage.

I could not do anything about this event, because it is a fight of guns and I don't know how to shoot a gun. But, as I watched this, I realized there is no security in Niger. The number of the insurgents has increased more and more in recent days. The most serious problem is that the assailants kill even innocent people.

It is with the era of democracy that murders have become very prevalent in Niger. Most of them currently are happening in the north of Niger, especially near Agadez, which has a large rebel population.

Copyright © 1998 Issa Mariama

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