Semi Arid Tropics
VISITORS' GUIDE TO NIGER
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Prrsiidrnce Cabinet C2
Prrsi;nce Palais C2
Pre(nier Ministre Cabinet D2
Sifgn SociWt6 de Developpement F3
Air Afrique E3
Air Alg6rie F3
Air Mali E3
Arts et Metiers E3
Bnlinex City Bank Nigerian Airways Transcap'
Voyages (El Nasr) F3
BORN (Si6ge) Assurance Leyma E3
BDRN (Nouveau March6) H4
B[RN (GrandlMarchB) F4 BICI (BNP) E3
BIPN (BIAO) F3
Coisse Centrale de Cooperation Economique E3
C'hambre de Commerce F3
CELTHO IRSH E3
Centre Culturel Franco-Nig6rien E3
Centre Culturel AmBricain F4
Clinique GamkalB 12
Clinique Kaba F2
Club Nautique 12
CimetiBre Chretien G3
Cin6ma Soni Ali Ber F5
Cin6mas Studio et Vox E3
Cin6ma Zabarkan 15
Colis Postaux F3
Commissariat Central F3
Comissariatdu2Arrnd R B
35. Credit du Niger D2'
36. Croix-Rouge F3
37. Disp. Central (CM) F3
38. Disp. Nouveau'MarchB H4
39. Disp. Kalley (CM) F4
40. Douanes (Direction) E2
41. Etat-Major C2
42. FED F3
43. Grand Hotel F2
44. H6pital F2
45. H6tel Gaweye E2
7. HOtel Rovoli F3
8. HOtel Maourey E3
46. HOtel Terminus G2
47. HOtel Sahel 2
148. H6tel Moustache 65-
49. HOtel Sabkaa Laahiyaa 15
50. HOtel TUndr6 G3
51. Intendance 12
52. Mairie E3
53. Maternity Centrale F3
54. Met6o F3
55. Mission Catholique E3
S;5657. Monuments E3-F3
S58: Nouveau Marche H4
Office National du Tourisms F2 '
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ONU OMS FAO i CEA D3 1
OPT H6tel des Postes) F3 .
Palais des Congr6s E2
Palais de Justice D3
Pharmacie Nouvelle E3
Pharmacie Centrale E3
Pharmacie Maourey E4
Pharmacie Soni Ali Ber F5
Port de p.che 12
Petit MarchB E3
Poste Balafon F4
Poste Plateau 03
Radio-Clubs CNAV INDRAP
Sapeurs Pompiers H3
SNTN (Gare routibre) 02
Sfret6 Nationale F3
Temple Protestant 64
Tombola Nationale E3
Tr6sor National E3
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Niger is a landlocked country in the heart of west Africa. It has common
borders with Mali to the west and Chad to the east, Algeria and Libya to
the north, and Upper Volta, Benin, and Nioeria to the south. It is about
twice the size of France, but has a population of only a little more-than
More than half the area is in the Sahara-a region that includes the
sandy desert of the Tenere to the east and the rocky massif of the ATr to
to the west (a southern continuation of the Algerian Hoggar mountains).
The landscape is one of very low relief, apart from the ATr. The
peneplain surface, often covered by laterite, is broken only by wide sandy
valleys, the beds of fossil rivers that once brought water into the Niger
river and now contain shallow lakes during the rains. These sandy valleys
are the most important agricultural areas of Niger. Flat-topped hills,
capped by laterite, are a feature of southern Niger. They are covered by
stunted bushes separated by bare stony ground.
The Niger river flows through the extreme southwest of the country
and has a markedly seasonal rhythm, rising from July to January and
becoming lowest in June. Consequently it is used only for local river
traffic. The only other permanent water of consequence is Lake Chad.
This is a huge shallow stretch of water fluctuating greatly in area
according to the season.
This is markedly continental, with four well-marked seasons.
From June to September. The rainy season, characterized by violent
showers and high humidity. The mean temperature is 33'C (range 23-350).
The rains die away in September.
From October to mid-November. Hot and humid, with a mean temperature of
350C (range 23-380).
Late November to late February. The cool season with cooler nights and
low humidity (range 14-34C). The harmattan, the dusty wind from the
Sahara, may cause reduced visibility from January to March.
March to late May. Very hot, with burning dusty winds (range 25-46'C).
The mean maximum in Niamey is 410C. The heat is relieved only by the
advent of rain.-
The word Sahel comes from Arabic and means "shore". So one-has to think
of this region as being the farther shore of the Sahara. And in fact
there has always been trade across the Sahara from classical times on-
wards. The savanna zone of west Africa, with its predictable seasonal
climate and its relatively short cropping season, has been the most
organized zone politically in historical times. Rapid and easy travel
by horse was possible in this tsetse-free area. The empire of Ghana,
in what is now Mali, was followed by the Songhai empire centered on Gao,
including the Niamey region of Niger. That fell to Tuareg invaders from
the north in the 17th century. Meanwhile, to the east, the Hausa king-
doms were expanding,based on trade in salt and dates from the desert,
and ivory, slaves, and gold from the south. They in turn were subjugated
by the nomadic Fulani who roamed over the whole region from Senegal and
Guinea in the west to Chad in the east. They waged war in Nigeria in the
early 19th century, and established the Sultanate of Sokoto. From there
they were political masters of the Hausa. Farther east, near Lake Chad,
was the kingdom of Bornu from which 19th century European travellers
brought back tales of mailed horsemen.
By the end of the 19th century what is now Niger was being claimed
by the French, who were intent on limiting British expansion northwards
from Nigeria. In 1901 Niger became a French military zone and, in 1922,
a colony. Niamey was established as the capital in 1926, having pre-
viously been only a small fishing settlement.
The country became independent in 1960. President Kountche came
to power in 1974 after a coup d'etat, and government is in the hands
of the President and a governing council who appoint ministers.
The way of life of most people in Niger has changed very little over the
years. They have evolved farming systems that have enabled them to sur-
vive in a very difficult environment. Away from the main roads, transport
is almost entirely by camel, horse, or donkey. The local market is the
main means of commerce and, outside Niamey, there are few shops. The
people's mode of dress, too, is traditional, and it is possible to distin-
guish some of the major groups by their costume.
According to official figures the population of 5+million is increas-
ing at a rate of 2.7%/year. As is to be expected, most people live in the
very south of the country, in the main zone of cultivation. There the
average population density is 16/km2, whereas over the whole country it
The major groups are the Hausa (2.9 million, the Djerma (1.2
million), the Fulani or Peul (about I million), the Tuareg (about
million), and the Kanouri (200,000+). Most people live by agriculture,
stock-rearing, and crafts.
The major towns are the capital Niamey (population 225,000+),
Zinde, Maradi, Tahoua, and Agades.
French is the official language but Hausa is the most widely
spoken. It is either spoken or understood by 80% of the population.
Islam is the main religion and has been for centuries. Christians,
mainly expatriates, comprise a very small minority group. There are a
Catholic cathedral and Protestant churches in Niamey. But there are
mosques in every village and several in every town. In addition,
places for prayer are set aside even by the main thoroughfares in
Niamey, and it is not uncommon to see a group of men praying amidst
the noise and bustle of everyday life. Major Islamic festivals are
public holidays (e.g., Tabaski, otherwise known as Id el Kabir).
WHERE TO STAY IN NIAMEY
(in descending order of price)
Hotel Gaweye. New, prestigious, and expensive: on the river beside the
Grand Hotel Less expensive.
Les Roniers. Pleasant accommodation in "cabanes". It is out of town,
5 km on the Goudel road.
Sahel. Cheaper. It has a good Pizzeria.
Rivoli. Right in town. Cheaper, but noisy, with a reasonable standard
of cleanliness.and cuisine.
THINGS TO DO IN NIAMEY
La Flotille (Russian food) La Cascade (French)
Lotus Bleu I Les Roniers (French)
Vietnam (Vietnamese) Terminus Hotel (French)
Hotel Gaweye: The Sunday evening dinner with barbecue and cold buffet
The Sonara restaurant is a good place from which to watch the sunset
over the river and the camels laden with fuel coming into town.
Places of interest in Niamey
Musee National. A collection of permanent exhibits, a small zoo, and
a "living crafts" area with weavers, leather-workers, and metal-workers
at work. The museum shop offers goods at reasonable prices and guaranteed
Centre d'Artisanat de Cuir (near the Museum). High-class leather goods
(handbags, belts, wallets leather-covered boxes) of very good quality.
Franco-Nigerienne Centre de Culture (opposite Museum). Has a large
library and reading room. There are films, lectures, and plays in an open-
air theatre, and frequent exhibitions. A catalogue of events is issued
every 2 months.
Grand mosquee. A large building in traditional Islamic style.
Market stalls. There is a concentration of stalls selling tie-and-die
dresses and shirts, other embroidered robes, trousers, and shirts, hats,
brass-ware and leather goods near the Petit March&. Remember to bargain!
Cheaper and better brass figures can be bought in Upper Volta and Mali.
EXCURSIONS FROM NIAMEY
For a day or weekend
Boubon market. This is held every Wednesday in the riverside village
about 20 km upstream from Niamey. The village is renowned for its
Ayorou. About 180 km upstream from Niamey, near the frontier with Mali.
The Sunday market is noted for the colorful mixture of Tuareg, Fulani
(Peul), and Djerma traders selling livestock and other wares. There is
accommodation at Hotel Amenokal. Reservations can be made through Transcap
Voyages, El Nasr, Niamey. Trips can be made by pirogue (canoe) to see
hippos some way upstream, and also around the island opposite the
Park W. Open from 1 December to 1 June. Accommodation at Tapoa Hotel.
Baleyara. This village is situated 100 km along the Filingue road on
the edge of the Dallol Bosso, one of the big fossil river valleys
originally flowing from the north. The Sunday market is very colorful
and has a good variety of local products.
The Ai'r Mountains. Scenically these mountains are the most interesting
part of Niger. Tours by vehicle or camel can be arranged through Temet
Voyages in Agades.
The erg du Tener6. A sand-sea in northeast Niger, containing the Buma
oasis from which dates are still exported. Temet Voyages can also
arrange safari excursions.
SOME HINTS FOR LIVING IN NIAMEY
Shopping. Be prepared to bargain! Whether the vendors are stall-holders
in the market selling fruit and vegetables, or street hawkers selling
leather-covered boxes or swords, divide their asking price by 3 and work
up from that figure. Pay no more than half! Be careful the price does
not increase when the goods are in your shopping basket.
Dress. Bare legs on women are frowned on. So avoid wearing shorts in
Beggars. There are very many unfortunates to be seen. It is up to you
whether to give or not, but be prepared for a large crowd demanding
"cadeaux" if you make it too obvious.
Photography. A permit (easily obtained from the Ministry of the Interior
on presentation of a letter of request and your passport) is theoretically
necessary. Do not take photos from aircraft coming into Niamey.
Driving. An International Driving Licence is necessary. Taxis are easily
available and there is a standard 100 FCFA* (100 cfa) fare around the
center of the town.
Currency-. The currency is tied to the French franc (at 50 FCFA to 1 FF)
and is used throughout francophone Africa, except for Mali.
Health. Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are necessary for entry.
Precautions against malaria must be taken. Gastro-intestinal upsets are
common. It is best to travel with basic medicines because medicines are
frequently difficult to obtain, or are available only under unfamiliar
brand names. Water for drinking should be filtered, and sometimes also
*FCFA = Franc de la Communaut6 Frangaise Africaine.
MUSEE NATIONALE-A museum and zoo located on several hectares in the center of
Niamey. Museum buildings are in Hausa motif. Village replicas on the grounds
include a fishing village, Hausa and Djerma villages. A craft shop sells tradi-
tional crafts from all of Niger and by artists located on the premises. Open
year round. Closed during sieste. FREE.
FRANCO-NIGERIEN CULTURE CENTER-located near the Musee Nationale. Entertainment
includes movies in French, traditional and contemporary theatre and music,
frequently. Classes are held in languages and exercise. A craft shop and leather
shop sell locally made goods.
AMERICAN RECREATION CENTER-membership required, short-term membership available.
Has a pool and tennis court, snack bar serving American style food, movies in
English. Sunday mornings there is a brunch serving eggs and waffles. Friday
nights there is a Happy Hour Barbeque which is open to the public.
SAHEL POOL-olympic pool located next to the Sahel Hotel. Costs 200 F CFA/day
or 2000 F CFA/month. A bar serves cold drinks and sometimes salad and brochettes.
Open 10:00-6:00 Tuesday-Sunday, March-December.
ZARBAKAN-the nicest of the open air movie theatres. Movies are in French or
with French subtitles. Some seats are under an awning. Costs between 100 F CFA
to 300 F CFA, depending on where you sit. Features two movies per night.
STUDIO-the only :indoor movie theatre. It is air conditioned and the seats are
comfortable. Two movies are shown per night, a matinee on Saturdays and Sundays.
Costs 500 F CFA.
HORSERACES-at the Hippodrome located just past the 'Bien Venue' sign on the road
to the airport. Races are infrequent-they are announced on the radio or in the
daily newspaper, Le Sahel. Not like US races, they are confusing as to whats
exactly going on, but it is fun and FREE. On weekends, when there are no races,
you can go watch the horses being exercised.
AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER-located across the street from the Grand Marche.
Has a small library, an exhibit room and a film section. The center sponsors
English classes and cultural presentations.
PETIT MARCHE-mostly food stuffs-fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat-
but there is some cloth and alot of souvenirs. Prices on food stuffs from the
women are usually reasonable. Prices on souvenirs are usually high, one must
bargain. Across the street are tables of wares ranging from dresses to baskets
to art work. Prices here start high, venders are aggressive. The best time
to go to the market for food is before noon.
GRAND MARCHE-Anything under the sun is found here from traditional to modern.
Some food stuffs, though not the variety. Prices on food are usually lower
than the petite march. Grains in bulk are found here.
BOUKOUKI-the wood market. Lumber, tools, cement, building materials are found
here. located behind Lycee Kassai.
NOUVEAU MARCHE- a neighborhood market located in one of the newer parts of
town. Food stuffs are available, as well as good street food.
SCORE-a European style grocery store located across the street from the petit
march. Imported foods from France include meat, cheeses, canned goods, fresh
fruits and vegetables.
JACQUES PRETE-also a European grocery store. One can find more speciality items
here-spices, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, etc.
There are other European grocery stores located in town also, carrying the same
or similar items, usually at higher prices. Lebonaise shops are prevalent
throughout the town. The prices at these shops are usually lower.
PEYRISSAC-European hardware/dry goods store located across the street from the
petit march. Sells tools, housewares, electrical supplies, etc.
CEAO-bulk items are found here-canned goods, liquor, etc. No fresh food,
some housewares. Generally, if you can find something at CEAO, the price is
lower than the French boutiques. Located across the street from the petit march.
There are several beauty parlors/hair stylists in town. Among them are Christines,
located up the street from the Studio. A hair cut, wash, blow dry is 2500 F CFA,
a trim 1000 F CFA. Mona Lisa is located near the Grand Marche'. A cut, wash,
blow dry costs 2600 F CFA. In many shops, you must specifically ask them to use
a conditioner after the wash.
Also located in town near the petit march, is a dry cleaners, two photo shops
where one can buy film, cameras, and have film developed, an optician, and
several French clothes stores.
CATHOLIC CHURCH-located three blocks north of the petit march, has several
services, of which at least one is in French.
AMERICAN PROTESTANT CHURCH-located several blocks east of the Grand Marche'.
Has services in French as well as a small Sunday school for children and one
LES CASCADES-good Italian food. Moderate to expensive.
LE VIETNAM-good Vietnamese food. Moderate.
L'ORIENTAL-good Lebonase food. Moderate.
SAFARI-French food with a pizzaria. Moderate to expensive.
LA FLOTILLE-a Russian restaurant. Prices are high but you are served alot of
food, well prepared. The owner is a Russian woman who is always urging her
customers to drink vodka.
MARAHABA-means welcome in Arabic. Located near the Grand Marche and the American
Cultural Center. Serves steak, chicken, fish. Outdoor dining, loud African
music, alot of fun.
CHEZ CHRISTINES-Togolese food (pounded yams with great fish and chicken sauces)-
is actually a table at someones house (street food), located behind the BP station
up the road from the Grand Marche'.
French restaurants include: Les Roniers, which is also a hotel. It is located
several kimometers out of town past the American Embassy. There is a pool and
tennis courts. Moderate. The gazpacho and steak au poivre are excellent.
Chez Nous-in the center of town. Expensive.
Rivoli-also a hotel. Serves good grilled meat.
Moderately priced. Located in the center of town.
DEMPSI-overlooking the Kennedy Bridge and the
Niger River. Terrace and lawn for drinks, a beautiful place to watch the sunset.
Food is served inside and is moderately priced.
Hotel Sahel-moderate, wide variety. Terrace overlook-
ing the river, a nice place for breakfast or evening drinks.
Le Gaweye-also a hotel, the newest in town. Located
on the river. Has two restaurants, one only for evening, which is more expensive.
Le Grand Hotel-Moderate. Terrace overlooking the
LE CROISSANT D'OR-a bakery with great flaky croissants and other pastries.
More costly than other bakeries but well worth the price. Also has ice cream.
There are several other bakeries in town, most selling just bread.
Night clubs include: Zed-catering mostly to the Europeans
Hi-fi-around the corner from the Rivoli
Fo-fo-located at the Hotel Sahel
BOUBON-about 25 kilometers west of Niamey on the road to Tillabery. The road
is paved until the turn off of the road. Market day is Wednesdays. A hotel/
restaurant located on a small island several meters off the shore serves couscous,
steaks, chicken, drinks, etc in 'traditional' setting outdoors,.moderately
priced. A small pool is located next to the restaurant. During the dry season,
a boat goes up the river from Niamey to Boubon. The excursion costs about
1500 F CFA and takes about 2-3 hours each way. Contact the tourist bureau for
AYROU-about 150 km west of Niamey past Tillabery. The road is paved to Tillabery.
Ayrou is located on the river. Market day is Sunday. It is a large animal
market and alot of nomadic people come to the market, as well as people from
the other side of the river and islands on the river, arriving in boats with
their wares. A hotel/restaurant has air conditioned rooms, french food (one
special/meal), and a swimming pool. Make reservations at Hotel Te'nere'in Niamey.
Driving to Ayrou, watch for giraffes.
BALLEYARA-about 100 km north of Niamey on the Filingue' road, an unpaved road.
Market is on Sundays and often carries on to Monday because of the vast amount
of animals and wares for sale. Street food is available at cheap prices.
FILINGUE-about 200 km north of Niamey. The countryside is beautiful past Balleyara-
plateaus, buttes, generally more hilly. Market is on Sundays. Alot of Fulani
come to this market. There is a government Campement for lodging and drinking,
maybe food. Good street food is available in the market.
PARK W-about 150 km south of Niamey. This is the game reserve in Niger which
also extends into Upper Volta and Benin. Animals include elephants, lions,
antelopes, wart hogs, alligators. Camping is possible outside of the park
but there are no facilities. A European style hotel was under construction
in 1981. The park is closed during the rainy season.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
Almost anything, or a reasonable substitute, can be purchased in Niamey but
usually at an inflated price. However, with the very favorable exchange rate
your buying power in Niger has increased.
You are expected to dress neatly and cleanly. The Nigeriens do not understand
when a person with obvious means dresses in clothes that are tattered and torn
and dirty. As the day time temperatures range from warm to hot, bring clothing
that is cool and comfortable and can withstand frequent washings. Except for
participation in sporting events, it is socially unacceptable to wear shorts
out in public. In the winter, night time temperatures get down to 50'F (or
lower), which in contrast with day time temperatures of about 90'F is quite
cool. Therefore, you will need a sweater or jacket. Be sure to bring at least
one suit/dress (length for women dresses is below the knee or longer) for
formal occasions or meeting high government officials and several nice sets
of clothes for social functions, meeting lesser government officials. Nice
material and good tailors are available for having clothes made. Be sure and
bring under garments as not all sizes and styles are available. A wide variety
of shoes is available. The cheaper ones fall apart quickly and the expensive
ones are at least two times the price of what you would pay in the US.
Household Items-bring with you what you use of the following:
towels-it is hard to find absorbant towels in Niamey
shampoo and conditioner
face and body creams
radio/tape player-220 voltage, 50 cycles
I camera and film
American Embassy Health Unit- located at the American Embassy, staffed by a
State Department nurse. The nurse is required to treat 'official Americans'
but will usually consult, give shots, write prescriptions to all Americans, on
the approval of the US Ambassador.
Peace Corps Health Unit-located on the Rue de Charles de Gaulle across from
NIGELEC,. the electric company. Staffed by a Peace Corps Doctor and a nurse,
they are required to treat Peace Corps Volunteers but will usually consult all
Gamkallee-located on the river road in the Gamkallee Quarter. It is a private
clinic and hospital staffed with French (usually) doctors and nurses. They
will treat anyone who pays. It is possible to subscribe to their plan and thus
get a sizable discount for an annual fee.
GON Hospital-located near the Presidental Palace and the ministries. It is
GON run, staffed with Nigeriens and expatriates. Quality of the health care
- Shots-while only cholera is necessary to enter Niger, it is advisable to have
tetnus and diptheria shots up to date as well as gamma globulin, for protection
against hepatitus. A malaria suppressent should be started prior to departure
to infected areas.
- Niamey does have a water treatment plant, though the quality of the water is
not very good. Water should be treated, either by boiling it for 15 minutes
(3 minutes in a pressure cooker) or with water purifying tablets.
- Vegetables, if eaten raw, should either be soaked in an iodine solution for
20 minutes or peeled. If cooked, they do not need to be soaked. Particularly
known for its hazard to the traveler is lettuce.
- Meat should be cooked thoroughly to kill any parasites. The French prepare
meat very rare, therefore specify "bien cuit" (well-done) when ordering meat
not from Europe. Steak tartare is a dish of ground beef served raw with a raw
egg and spices.
Niger has two major ethnic groups and several minor ones. Hausa
is the largest of the two major negro tribes. Djerma is the second largest.
The 'white' Nigeriens are the Peul (Fulani), the Berber Tuareg, and the
Toubou (in the Djado, Kouar, and N'Guigmi regions). The Buzu are a dark
skinned tribe who were Tuareg slaves. Bozos are a small tribe of fisher-
men on the Niger River, numbering about 20,000. The BeriBeri are the
Kanuri of East Niger.
In the Hausa society, agriculture is the main economic activity,
though gathering is also important-wood and grasses for thatch and mats,
locust bean, baobab, tamarind, shea-nut, horseradish tree, delab palm,
gutta percha and raffia-for food, building materials, oils or commodities.
Hunting of game is unimportant, though hunting of fowl and birds is
prevalent. Fishing is an organized activity. The District Head or
Chief is responsible for the allocation of vacant land and is bound
to assign a portion without charge, to any member of the local community
who seeks to farm.
Pologamy is common. On the Hausa wedding day, the bride moves
to her husbands home (in the case of divorcees, they move one week after).
The head of the household is responsible for feeding and clothing, at
least to a minimum amount, the members of his family. He is also responsible
for the conduct of members of his household, must act as intermediary
in all important social and legal negotiations, artibrate differences
and assist any member in difficulties. Competition of wives for a share
in their husbands income (unless extremely wealthy) is a main source of
quarrel. A woman with her own income will buy her own clothing and ornaments
beyond what her husband provides; is responsible for purchasing household
utensils; provides the major part of her daughters outfit for marriage;
usually provides clothing for her babies, and will clothe and adorn her
daughters; and may assist her husband with payment of their own sons
marriage. A man never appears in public with his wife; at social
events, the sexes are segregated. It is taboo between spouses to use
each others name. There are four different norms of behavior with kin:
discipline-respect, between parent and children, senior and junior
siblings of the same six; avoidance-shame (kunya); foundness (zumunta);
, and joking (wasa), relatives and other ethnic tribes.
Seven days after the birth of a child is the name giving ceremony
(suna). A barber is called to shave the child's head and the name is
given. A Maalam recites his prayers in Arabic while the men silently
listen. After each of the three prayers, the men wipe their faces with
both hands. The prayers are: May Allah grant the child health;
May Allah cause the child to respond when
Allah calls (related to the Muslim belief that the name given at the
naming ceremony will be the name He uses to call a person at the last
judgement. Those who have not learned of their names-all non-Muslims-
will not be able to respond to Allah's summons and are thus consigned
May Allah give the child's mother much
Next a goat or sheep is slaughtered and the meat either distributed to
those present and to neighbors or cooked and eaten there.
A Hausa boy is allowed to play at will up to about age seven to
nine. He is then circumcised, given his own hut and field. This marks
his entry into the community as a functioning member and is important
as a prerequisite to marriage or any sexual activity.
When a Hausa's hair is predominantly grey, he is considered old.
Both men and women are masters of their domain when they reach old age,
command the labor of their juniors, and do very little work. They frolic
with their grandchildren and attend ceremonies such as a suna. Older
men and women converse and joke freely with one another as they are considered
In Moslem Hausa society, when a man dies, two Maalams wash the body,
if a woman dies, two old women wash it. Prayers are recited inside the
compound and the body taken to the grave. Only men are present with
the Maalams when they recite prayers; the women wail in their part
of the compound.
About one-seventh of the Nigerien population (about 500,000) are
members of the Djerma tribe. They are often confused with their neighbors,
the Songhai. Disputes as to their origin have occurred, with two major
schools of thought: being originally from Mali, having migrated during
the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and,having been chased away by
the Songhai and returned many years later. Djermas are essentially rural
and cover the entire arrondissements of Ouallam, Niamey and Dosso, and
Partially those of Filingue, Loga, Say and Gaya, an area of 60,000 km2
Average size of their rural village is 200 inhabitants. Housing is round
cases, often of vegetable matter.
The Djerma constitute one of the most mobile of the ethnic groups
in Niger because of their weak economic resources and their emigration
(to the coast, Niamey). Traditional Djerma family no longer exists in
a pure state. Islamization, modernization of the economy, urbanization
and the attractive growth of the towns have overturnedand sometimes
destroyed the equalibrium of the ancient systems.
The old traditional religion gave women a very important place in
Djerma society, in certain ways. In myths, the woman transmits in her
milk, magical powers of which certain beings can be visible or invisible.
It is difficult to not ascertain that islamization started for the women
the loss of vertain preogatives and contributed to the sheding of an
image disparaging to being a woman. A woman attains complete autonomy
only after the birth of her first child. During pregnancy, the Djerma
woman continues to pound millet, make cowee and prepare food. She does
not look for wood, sit on a morter, walk in the bush in the sun (during
the hours when she is susceptible to being accosted by evil spirits), adn
not eat bitter foods. After the seventh month, she goes to her parents,
accompanied by her sister-in law, where she remains until after the birth
of the child.
FULANI-what Hausa people call the tribe-also called Peul, Felata, and
Bororo-are mostly Moslem. In contemporary Niger, there about 450,000
(10.7% of the population.) Traditionally cattle owners, many have become
totally sedentary, have picked up local languages and practice in the
bori cult. Their language is fulfulde.
The Tuaregs are the Berber people of North Africa. They had considerable
contact with the Romans (use Roman words for months, etc). Via Fezzan,
they came to the ATr Massif from Egypt, establishing themselves in
about the llth century. According to one theory, the word Tuareg means
"the abandoners", implying abandoned religion, given to them by Arab
invaders of North Africa in the Middle Ages because they were practices
of their traditional religion. Tamachek is their language. Tuareg
society is feudal in character. Tuareg women are free and equal, inherit
property, marry whom they choose, and do not cover their faces with veils.
TUBU are desert nomads with a segmentary political system, a mode of
social organization which is suited to their opposing needs for dispersal
, in search of pasture and unification in the face of an outside threat.
URBANIZATION IN NIGER
Urbanization in Niger occurred under apparently adverse conditions-extreme
economic underdevelopment, persistent poverty of natural and technical resources,
and low population pressure. An estimated 250,000 people live in centers of
2,500 and an estimated 85,000 people live in centers of 10,000. In perspective,
in 1896, there was one city of size, Zinder with a population of about 10,000
and half a dozen settlements of 800-1,000 inhabitants. Now, there are over
300 settlements containing 1,000-35,000 people.
Working for money and wage labor was foreign to the tribesman of the late
19th century. He had his own resources and little interest in the trade goods
money was able to buy and thus had little desire to earn cash. This caused a
shortage of labor for modern enterprise. The alteration of the social structure,
from rural to urban was the European partition. Their capital interests required
urban facilities and workers were needed to provide labor and services. With
the introduction of money, the traditional situation was altered. Previous to
colonialization, money in the European form was virtually unknown. It became
an exchange for European goods and to pay local producers in cash which extended
its use as a standard value and gradually became employed by more people and
a special commodity needed to exchange for certain goods not made in the village.
(clothing, blankets, househole utensils, bicycles, guns)
Migration in some societies was traditional, but was now altered; taxes
had to be paid in money and the purpose for migration became to earn money.
It became established as a voluntary procedure, especially as cash became acceptable
in place of the customary marriage payments and the preferred form of gift.
Money needed was most readily earned in the industrialized areas, thus people
migrated to the urban areas.
Migration to urban areas was encouraged by the diversification of the economy
which stimulated the increase of cash crops, giving monetary value to the land.
Older men were no longer prepared to relinquish the land in favor of the younger
generation as was the tradition (in some peoples), thus, the younger people would
move to look for other opportunities. Another factor was the increased pressure
of the population on land resources. Improved health facilities and child care
caused an increase in the population often without any increase in food production.
The decreased soil fertility caused a decline in the margin of subsistence,
people were hungry and sought to improve their situation. The largest propor-
tion of absent migrants is from the most impoverished areas with poor land and
no export crops.
Yet another reason for migration was education. There were few secondary
schools and places for technical training out of the main towns, and the govern-
ment offices and businesses where the educated worked were in towns. People
began to realize the worth of education, that it increased their social standing.
Migration to urban areas has caused many problems. The large numbers
of people arriving in these areas has created an overcrowded situation.
Housing and jobs are inadequate. People are forced to sleep in the
market, in alleys, wherever possible, and are forced to beg or steal in
order to eat. (petty theft is not a chronic problem as yet) It has also
caused problems in rural areas. Young boys and men are attracted to the
cities diversifications and leave their villages, thus there is a lack of
manpower in the rural areas, areas which are depended on to produce the food
for the rest of the country. This is one of the more serious developmental/
economic problems Niger is faced with and is struggling to overcome.
Radio-There is a national radio station, Radio Niger, ORTN that broadcasts daily
on four channels, medium and shortwave. It is mandatory for government officials,
school teachers, nurses, etc to listen to the news program broadcasted at 1:00pm
and 6:00pm-they are help responsible for whatever is reported. It is during
these broadcasts that transfers, promotions, holidays, etc are announced.
VOA and BBC reception is good, as w;l as other European broadcasts.
Television-There is a national television station which also broadcasts (in color)
daily. Programming is Nigerien and consists of news, local and world current
events, programs on development, health, nutrition, agriculture, etc, in French
as well as local languages. The government has stated that it will place a
TV in each Samaria across the country as it sees TV as an educational media.
Educated manpower is scarce and TV is able to reach more people. In areas where
there is no electricity, TV's are powered by solar battery packs. In Niamey,
many of the hotel bars have TV as well as the Samarias. Programs are announced
in the Sahel, the daily newspaper.
Newspapers, Magazines-The local daily (Monday-Saturday) newspaper is called
Le Sahel. It covers local and world current events and contains notices of
transfers, promotions that were broadcast the previous day on Radio Niger.
The paper costs 60 F CFA. Other periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, Le Monde,
International Herald Tribune, Cosmopolitan, etc are available at news stands
in downtown Niamey.
Telephone-extends to all the governor state seats as well as most deputy governor
seats. For best results, place long distance calls first thing in the morning-
calls are placed, first come first serve. Dialing direct is possible to Maradi
and Zinder. It is also possible to call to Europe and the States, though there
is often a long wait between placing and receiving the call.
Telegraph-Telegraph lines extend to most administrative posts. Telegrams are
sent through the post office.
Taxis-are found in Niamey as well as a few in Maradi and Zinder. Prices are
government regulated. In Niamey, cost is 100 F CFA per person per destination.
(1000 F CFA to the airport) When going long distances in town, for example,
to the American Embassy, the price is 200 FCFA. More than one person can hail
a taxi, with a limit of five people per cab, therefore you may be driven to
various localities before being taken to your destination. There is a law that
states if a cab stops, he must take'you wherever you want to go. However, if
the taximan is going in an opposite direction, you might prefer to hail another.
Cabs are not allowed to drive past the Presidential Palace after 8:00 pm and
not at all after midnight (except on commission to go to the airport).
Buses-There is a bus line that covers most of Niamey. Cost is 40 F CFA. Stops
are marked by an orange and green sign with SNTN written on them. There are
also buses which go from Niamey to each of the governor seats one time per week.
Airports-located in Niamey, Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder, Agadez and Arlit. Flights
from Niamey-Paris are almost daily on either Air Afrique, UTA, or Air Algerie.
Flights are also available to Mali, Dakar, Senegal and Togo.
Roads-Though most of the roads linking the different Departments are now paved,
there continues to be a real need for upgrading the road system. Paved roads
are Niamey-Tillabery, Niamey-Dosso-Gaya (border of Benin), Niamey-Agadez, which
passes through Dosso and Tahoua, Niamey-Dosso-Maradi-Zinder and past Zinder
part way to Diffa, Maradi to the Nigerien border. Plans are made to complete
the Zinder-Diffa road and to pave Niamey-Filingue'by 1983. Unpaved roads during
the rainy season often wash out. Road blocks are placed at town entrances to
stop large vehicles from driving on the very wet, unpaved roads for a few
hours after a rain. Most passenger vehicles are allowed to pass.
African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)-is a pathological state caused when
either Trypanosoma gabiense or T. rhodesiense invade the human blood stream
and later the cerebrospinal fluid. Humans are the chief resevoir, though wild
and domestic anumals are also affected. Transmission is through the tsetse
fly (Glossina spp.) which feeds on infected blood. The parasite develops in
the fly which bites another and thus spreads the infection. Sleeping sickness
is usually fatal if left untreated. T. rhodisiense can kill in a few months.
As there are many different varieties of tsetse, this is an ecologically complex
disease. The flies have differing preferences of habitats, feeding havits.
Other trypanosomes exist which severely affect the livelihood of people by infecting
their animals. Tsetse inhabits 4-5 million square miles in tropical Africa.
Control-population evacuation, kill in large numbers wild animals that serve
as tsetse food supply, selective brush clearance, areal defoliation, poison
with DDT and Dieldren. Close to impossible.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness)-chronic, non-fatal disease in which the female
worms (Onchocerca volvulus, a nematode) inhabits the fibrous nodules in the
skin and discharge microfilariae (small worms) that migrate through the skin,
frequently reaching the eye, where they can produce blindness. The migration
process takes up to twenty years and many worms to cause blindness. The worm
travels across the eye, scarring it; each worm scars it worse, and so forth.
The resevoir is the infected human. Transmission is via the bite of an infected
black fly, especially Simulium damnosun and S. neavei. Extrinsic stage of
development is in the body of the insect vector. Picked up by the fly during
its blood meal, they become infective larvae and migrate to the flys salivary
glands from where they are transmitted to the skin of another human. The female
black fly lays eggs in swiftly flowing water. Maximum range of the adult fly
is seldom more that 12 miles from such water. River blindness is endemic in the
vicinity of running water in the entire savannah belt south of the Sahara.
Shistosomiasis (bilharzia)-is a disease caused by the blood flukes Schistosoma
haematobium (more common) and S. mansoni. S. haematobium eventually lodges
in the pelvic veins and causes urinary problems. S. mansoni lodges in the veins
of the intestinal wall. Both produce eggs that exit the body in the urine and
feces, respectively. Eggs, if deposited in water, hatch and liberated larvae
enter a suitable snail who is its intermediate host. After several weeks,
free swimming larvae reenter the water and can penetrate human skin while the
host is bathing, wading, playing, drawing water. From here, they enter the
blood stream and develop to maturity in the liver from where they migrate to
the urinary or intestinal veins where they become parasitic, produce eggs and
the cycle continues. It is highly endemic in Africa.
Control-improved sanitation, controlled water management.
Malaria-endemic in virtually all of Africa-is water related, insect vectored,
communicable disease involving four protozoans, Plasmodium vivax, P. malariae,
P. falciparum, and P. ovale. The anohpholes sp. mosquito is the arthropost
vector. Humans are the only important resevoir. Transmission is via the blood
meals of infected mosquitoes. Developmental cycle varies from parasite to
parasite and is very complex. Malaria must be eradicated through well timed
Tuberculosis-caused by the bacillus Mycobaterium tuberculosis. Infection is
through inhalation of air borne bacilli and drinking raw milk (improperly treated)
from infected cows.
Control-isolate and treat infectious people, vaccination of people and cows.
Street food is not only very inexpensive but a fun cross-cultural
experience. It is food sold by women who either prepare it at home and bring
it to the market or a roadside table, or it is prepared on the spot. Men
cook and sell meat and chicken on the street. Each person has their own
location, vicinity. If served hot, it is relatively safe to eat.
Typical street food is rice and sauce, cowpeas, couscous and sauce,
macaroni and sauce, tuwo*-traditional food of the Nigeriens made from millet,
sorghum or corn flour-yams, salad (seasonal). It is sold by the portion,
usually for 25 or 50 F CFA. Often there are young boys with push carts
selling sodas nearby. (50-60 F CFA) Beggars usually hang out at tables
and it is customary to leave a little food in your bowl to give them.
On the roadside, you can find: fried yams, kosais*, beignets-fried
wheat cakes much like donuts, millet cakes, brochettes, and chicken.
There are also coffee tables (men run these) which serve coffee, tea,
sometimes hot chocolate and bread. The coffee water is heated over wood
in a large metal container (25 gallon drum, 5 gallon oil cans, etc) and
has a small amount of tea added to it. A coffee, costing about 50 F CFA,
consists of instant coffee, several cubes of sugar, sweetened condensed milk
and the tea water. You must specify no sugar or milk, unless you want it-
and be prepared for strange reactions. Bread, if available, is locally
prepared and might be served with real butter (if in Niamey or another
large town) or canned margarine. Some coffee tables expand their fare in
the evenings to include brochettes.
*see traditional African food
TRADITIONAL NIGERIEN FOOD
Fura-the typical midday food in many Nigerien households. Preparation is time
consuming. Flour (hand pounded) is made from millet and is then mixed with
a little water and formed into loosely compacted balls which are boiled in water.
The cooked balls are pounded with some of the cooking water and spices until
smooth. To eat, the ball is mixed with sour milk to make,a liquid consistency.
Koko-millet flour is ground, mixed with water and allowed to slightly ferment
and form a thick sediment of paste. When mixed with hot water and spices it
makes a somewhat thick, glutinous drink. It is a common breakfast food. This
drink is most often found during Ramadan.
Tuwo-typical evening meal among Nigeriens. It is a stiff porrige made of flour
(millet, sorghum, or corn) and water and is eaten with a stew.
Kosai-made from cowpeas. Dried cowpeas are cracked, soaked and washed to remove
the outer skin and then ground twice with a grinding stone. The very fine paste
is mixed with peppers and onions and water and fried in peanut oil. It is
served with a hot pepper sauce.
Alele-cowpeas are prepared as above. To the paste is added a small amount of
oil and water and then put into small tins and steamed until solid in a tightly
fitting container. Before eating, it is coated with oil and spices. Kosais
and alele are primairly breakfast foods.
Kuli kuli-fried edible presscake of groundnuts. Groundnuts are shelled, skinned
and heated the afternoon before grinding. They are ground into a paste, placed
in a mortar and pounded gently until oil begins to surface. It takes about
25 minutes to one hour of pounding to get the oil out. The oil is then heated
and the raw presscake is rolled into long pieces or pinched off into small balls.
These are then fried for 10-20 minutes, making kuli kuli. The oil is clarified
by frying and sweetened by adding a little onion at the very end. Kuli kuli
is normally a snack food or used as a condiment, powdered and sprinkled on
foods, used in sauces, etc. It is also an essential ingredient for barbecued
Kilishi-thin strips of meat which are dried in the sun and redried and cooked
after sprinkling with kuli kuli or pounded groundnuts.
Daddawa-strong smelling black 'cakes' made from fermented seeds of the locust
bean tree used for flavoring soup and sauces. Seeds are cooked in water for
six hours or more, pounded (they are still hard and maintain shape), are cooked
over water, placed on a mat and fermented under a calabash for 3-4 days, uncover
and dried for one day. The cakes are then pounded until a powder is made.
The powder is added to pounded and sieved leaves of gwandar daji. Water is
added and this is formed into a big ball. Smaller balls are formed by dipping
ones hands in groundnut oil first and then forming the balls.
All these foods are sold in various markets or areas of town.
RELIGION IN NIGER'
In 1980, the religious breakdown of Nigeriens was: .5% Christian
85. % Muslim
14.5% African Traditional
To serve the Christian faith, there is a Catholic mission and an American
Protestant Church in Niamey. The SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) has its head-
quarters in Tibiri (near Maradi) and works in Dogondoutchi and Gamli. The
African Christian Mission is represented in the Niamey, Gaya, and Dosso regions.
They attempt to convert the Djerma and Gourmantche"peoples.
Islam was brought to Niger by the Songhai of Gao in the northwest, and
the Peul in the east. The main source of inspiration now is from Northern
Nigeria. The Peul group YAN KOBIE, numbering about 5000 in the Zinder and
Goure circles, are extremists; they believe in a puratanical fundamentalism
and keep their women strickly cloistered and live apart from their co-religionists.
The Toureg, Peul, Kanori and urban Hausa practice a form of Islam which is
austere, intolerant and archaic, seemingly little influenced by the reformist
trends in the Arab world. The Djerma-Songhai, Maouri, Beriberi, and rural
Hausa practice magical and traditional rites but consider themselves good Muslims
as they fast and pray five times per day. Their marabouts are uneducated and
are mainly concerned with selling amulets and charms profitably to their credulous
followers. Islam, in their society, appears to be a social veneer comfortably
super imposed on basic traditional concepts.
Islam is the infinitive of the verb 'aslama which means "to submit totally
[to God]." Muslim is the participle of the verb, meaning one who submits completely
to God; the followers of Islam are called Muslims. Referring to Islam as Mohamme-
.danism and its followers as Mohammedans is somewhat offensive to Islamic doctrine.
The religion is founded on then Koran, the Holy Book of Islam, as being
the scripture revealed to the Prophet Mohammed through the intermediary of
Angel Gabriel; it is considered to be verbatim, the uncreated "speech of God"
(kalam Allah). Formal religious law of Islam is based on the Koran and the
Sunna (actions and words of the Prophet).
Though Islam is widespread, being the predominant religion throughout
North Africa, the Near and Middle East, the Sudan, Iran, parts of Africa and
the Far East, there is no centrally organized religious authority or magisterium,
thus the character of the religion sometimes varies widely from traditional
norms, especially in Africa and the Far East where it has recently taken root
and mixtures of traditional and Islamic practice still mingle.
The primary religious obligations, or "pillars (arkan) of Islam" are:
1. to pronounce the SHAHADA or testimony, "There is no God but God and
Mohammed is the Apostle of God"-to say this before a witness is sufficient
to make one legally a muslim;
2. to perform the ritual prayer SALAT five times each day-at dawn, noon,
afternoon, sundown, and evening-facing Mecca. In some towns, the times for
prayer are announced by a muezzin. Praying is an individual obligation, done
anywhere except Fridays at noon when the faithful are obligated, if possible,
to attend the public service in the mosque;
3. to give alms (ZAKAT of SADAQA)-zakat is a tax given to the community
for community use;
4. to fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the nineth month of
the year in the Islamic Calendar. According to Muslim tradition, it was in
the latter part of Ramadan that the Koran was revealed to Mohammed. Every
S- Muslim who is physically able (pregnant and nursing women are exempt) must
refrain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk throughout the month, which
on the strictly lunar calendar, may fall in any season of the year. Travelers
may be excused but must make up the days omitted at the end of their journey;
5. to make the pilgrimage (HAJI) to Mecca at leastone time, to those
To contribute to the spread of Islam has been considered by some to be a sixth
During prayer, all Muslims make the ritual declaration of faith, "God is
one". Most Muslims know and recite the other articles: that God (Allah) is
the creator and disposer of the universe; that Mohammed, though human, was
a prophet of God; that Mohammed's Koran is a Holy Book; that angels are messengers
of God; and, that there is a Day of Resurrection and Day of Judgement with
punishment and rewards for sinners and the faithful respectively.
Islam recognizes the basic validity of Judaism and Christianity and conceives
that Mohammed was sent with essentially the same message as that of Abraham,
Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus, (held to be a prophet) and other prophets,
to reaffirm the message and bring it to its final and perfected form.
Islam holds that all men before their creation were made to testify to
Gods lordship. Each person is examined in his tomb by two angels, Munkar and
Nakir, concerning the basic articles of faith. On a day known only to God and
after the coming of Mahdi (likened to the coming of Jesus) there will be a resur-
rection when the deeds of all men will be judged and weighed in the balance.
They will then be divided into two main groups, the right condemned to eternal
fire, and the left sent into the Garden. Most orthodox authorities affirm that
all Muslims not guilty of outright apostasy or idolatry will enter paradise.
For those condemned to eternal fire, after a time of chastisement, the believers
will be released into blessedness, according to some authorities. Others claim
the fire is eternal.
The Koran is the central and predominent element in the religion. It -
consists of 114 chapters, ranging from three to 286 verses. Deriving law from
the Koran, Islamic law states: that gambling and the drinking of wine (jAMR)
are forbidden (three of the four schools of law have extended this to include
all intoxicants); unless constrained by the necessity to do so, a Moslim cannot
eat pork, anything sacrificed to an idol, or the flesh of carnivorous animals
(neither mammals nor birds), blood or carrion (MAYTA-any animal not slaughtered
or taken in hunting); the faithful are not to eat the food of pagans and it
is preferred that they not eat the food prepared by Christians or Jewish; a
man is allowed four wives and as many slave women as he can afford (recognized
children of slaves have equal status as children of the legal wives; their
inheritance is equal);and, divorce is recognized, as well as temporary marriages.
A woman may remarry after a three month period following her divorce.
ISLAM IN WEST AFRICA
The ideas and teachings of Islam reached West Africa in the 8th and 9th
centuries by means of traders from the Muslim states of North Africa. Reasons
for accepting the faith were numerous: to overcome disunity, to improve the
relations with the Berber traders from the north; to improve the government and
increase trade, as Islamic teachings are concerned with more than spiritual
matters, it also teaches new laws and ways of life; to create a world religion
by linking all its members in a great community (UMMA, the 'Family of Islam');
and, to gain literacy in Arabic.
Though the key doctrine of Islam 'There is but one God' ran counter to
the beliefs of traditional religions in West Africa where religion was a complete
way of life, its rituals were recognizable as worship to traditional cults and
could be interpreted in terms of local cult practices by the uninitiated.
(prayer ritual, fasting, construction of mosques) Procedures of slaughter,
prayer in times of danger and for dead souls, the sale of Koranic amulets for
protection were "equated" with sacrifices, consulting the oracles, ancestor
worship, and using local 'medicines.' Also, in the spread of Islam, the "mission-
aires" did not discredit the existing customs; they would infiltrate them and
change their nature. Muslims were associated with the wealth of the Trans-
Sarahan trade. Their mode of dress, architecture and possessions added to
the prestige of their religion. Thus, Islam spread quickly and was adopted by
Important holidays are: New Year (Al Muharram)
Ramadan (Id-al-Fitr) the feast that breaks the
month long fast. (During the month of Ramadan, young boys disguise themselves
'as rabbits, a traditional Ramadan disguise, by dabbing withe paint on their
faces and bodies and putting cotton on their faces and a streamer for a tail.
They roam the streets looking for a 'prospect', when found, they chant "tobaje,
tobaje, tobaje" (rabbit, rabbit, rabbit). One of the group pounds a staff on
the ground in time to the chant and this continues until a gift or coin is
given to them. They then continue their hunt.)
Tabaski (Aid-el-Kebir) "The feast of the sheep,"
which celebrates the memory of Sidna Ibrahim who was asked by God to sacrifice
his eldest son. Moslem families sacrifice a male sheep, if they can afford
it. This holiday is about two months after Ramadan.
Mouloud, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.
THE BORI CULT
Borz is spiritual possession revealed in hysterical or cataleptic fits
and in trance states, when the affected person is believed to speak with the
voice and behave like a spirit. It involves auto-suggestion and hysterical
abandonnement or ecstacies and the acceptance of new premises (detailed spirit
universe). The states occur either spontaneously or are artificially induced
(especially by music). When spontaneous, they are regarded as spirit caused
mental disorders, while when induced, are regarded as therapeutic measures and
as a means of spirit control in general.
The theory of the Borf is that there exists a wide variety of spirits,
some benevolent, others evil, each having a special name and personality, revealing
itself with particular gestures, gait and voice which are exhibited by the
one who is possessed. Each spirit has a tune and dance step peculiar to it
and it is believed that by playing the tune and dancing the step will evoke
the spirit in normal people and placate and control it in those possessed.
Anyone exhibiting the spirit caused disorders is placed under observation by
a cult member who identifies the spirit, soothes and exorcises it. (not final
departure, the aim is to bring visits under control so they materialize only
when evoked in the bori dances and do not otherwise threaten the host) One
therefore, becomes a member of the bor2 cult. Many people try to join the cult,
seeking the occasional trance induced in the bori dances. The cult therefore
has its own loosly organized society, always growing in numbers. One may attain
membership in the bor! cult in either of two ways: by inheritance, when spirits
that possessed a parent come to one of the children, or, when illness, determined
to have been caused by a spirit, indicates that the victim has been chosen
by one of these beings. Cure is only effected by an initiation rite lasting
fourteen days, during which the initiate is taught how to behave under possession
and learns the medicines to cure the diseases caused by the spirit.
The cult is not secret; dances are staged at frequent intervals in public
The political party in Niger before the coup of 1974 was the PPN-Parti
Progressiste Nigerien-which had always been an extremely small and tightly
controlled elite party, totally moribund insofar as internal party life was con-
cerned, under a stable politburo whose make-up hardly changed in 18 years and
which did not include a single Hausa or Fulani. Non-Songhai-Djerma members
were freely integrated into the cabinet preventing the growth of clear-cut
regional resentments. The real power of the party revolved around President
Hamani Diori, Diamballa Yansambou Maiga and Boubou Hama, the National Assembly
President and author. PPN cabinet shuffles were extremely infrequent and for
years it was cited as the paragon of stability, as a model of fusion of tradi-
tional and modern authority. The National Assembly was stable in incumbent
membership and was made up of most of the traditional leaders of various ethnic
groups. In the 1970's, the PPN started losing control rapidly.
Widespread revulsion with the Sahel drought famine relief fiascoes brought
about the coup of April 15, 1974 which put Lt. Colonel Seyni Kountchi in power.
The coup met with a great degree of spontaneous rejoicing in urban circles and
surprising apathy in the Djerma-Songhai circles. The new regime included Hausa
ethnicity in its new cabinet and administration. The CMS-Conseil Militaire
Superieure has ruled Niger since the coup.