Interview With Mahamadou Boureima – Expropriation

My name is Mahamadou Boureima Younoussa. I was born on August 27th, 1963 in Niamey. My father was born on January 4th, 1920. [0:29-1:03]

According to you, how old is this your society?
According to historical records, this settlement is over 420 years old. [1:16-1:23]

When did your father acquire the legal rights to this land?
My father acquired this land during the colonial era. When the Whites (colonists) arrived, my father asked them to grant him official custodianship of this area. He received it on April 13, 1959. We’re still in possession of the document nowadays.  [1:40-2:07]

We heard of the possibility that the State (Niger) plans to build a large highway that will cross through this area. Do you know where such highway will terminate?
Yes, we learned that the State is planning to build a road that will penetrate and cross our territory in order to reach the slaughterhouse and continue beyond. [2:28-2:34]
Is the construction of the highway beneficial to you?
The establishment of this road will complicate things for us because it will scramble our way of life.[2:41-2:49]
We’ve settled and been here since there was nothing but water to live from. It is not acceptable for us to be expropriated from this land now that we have established infrastructures, such as electricity and running water; all under the excuse that that highway is being built.  [2:53-3:06]
They want to take us to a place where one can’t even smell the river. This is why were are explicitly protesting the construction of the highway.  [3:09-3:19]

We are very useful where we currently are. Firstly, we cut and gather “bourgou” (hay) which we sell to livestock herders in need. Second, hippopotamuses and manatees often come and feed on our “bourgou” (hay). When the river’s water level rises, fish come to eat and reproduce in areas where our “bourgou” is dense. We later catch a lot of fish there when the water level drops. The construction of this highway will terminate all these activities and opportunities. This is why the construction of the highway is an unpleasant project for anyone living near the river bank. [3:23-4:40]

How many people will be evicted and relocated?
The people needing to move due to the construction of the highway have already been identified and registered, but I don’t know exactly how many are concerned. [4:50-5:00]
If the State demands that we evict our land, we will eventually leave because we don’t challenge power. Although we do demand that the State handles the situating in a just manner, and in complete consideration of our legal rights. [5:06-5:14]

Have you been informed about the location at which you’ll be moved to and the amount you’ll receive as compensation?
We haven’t been told exactly where we will go when we eventually get evicted. [5:30-5:32]
Some people came and told us that we will have to eventually evict the area because the State is planning on building a highway. We were told that we would receive land lots in Saguia. There is no transparency in this entire situation, as we don’t even know who the people who came and talked to us are and what they represented.  [5:41-6:00]
In my  opinion, the people who spoke to us about the eviction should have at least disclosed who they were. Every citizen, should be taken care of, even if he/she lives in a hut. [6:11-6:23]

Every time Caterpillar trucks arrive here to carry on construction work for the highway, we tell them that they need to wait until we have received the compensation we rightfully deserve. [6:28-6:36]
We don’t vividly understand the situation regarding the construction of the highway because we hear many different aspects. On one side is the restoration of the road/highway and on the other one is the backfilling of the river 50 meters in. They have already backfilled more than 50 meters from the river around the edge of the bridge.  [6:40-7:07]
In this situation, with such information, we’re not sure if the State is carrying out construction or a sabotage.  [7:09-7:19]

We have seen the Chinese come with documentation allowing them to backfill the river 30 meters-in on one side of the river, 20 meters-in on another side, and 50 meters-in on yet another side of the river.  [8:17-8:30]
We don’t really know what is going on. We’re not sure if they want to close the river, or have another intention. [8:34-8:53]

It should be understood that water is life; there is no life where there isn’t water. Water is happiness. When the Whites arrived to Niger, they settled in Zinder but had to leave the city due to lack of easy access to water. They later settled in Niamey because the river was in close proximity. This proves that one can only live near a body of water. [8:45-9:14]

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I have a message for the government. We’re not refusing to leave this area, I’m just asking for the State to treat our eviction case with consideration to justice and the respect of our rights. We need to be compensated because we live in a civil society and there are rules and regulations that need to be satisfied when kicking somebody out of their own property.  [10:05-10:33]
Our parents are the founders of Niamey; even the Whites found them there. But we hear people saying that we came here recently and therefore we don’t have the right to challenge the expropriation. [10:34-10:46]
If we truly settled here just recently, we wouldn’t possess official documentation which attest our ownership of the land. [10:49-10:52]
The State should proportionally compensate each and every land owner who has been evicted, and provide them land lots on which they could live. [11:10-11:19]
If we leave this land, we will never forget it because we won’t be able to return. Even our children and grandchildren will struggle as consequence from such circumstance. [11:21-11:34]
In a large society everybody recognizes the value of land and space. Therefore each of the evicted should be compensated based on exact value of the space they were expropriated from so the construction of the highway could take place. [11:51-12:05]

Thank you for your time.

Part 2 – Concerning the Yaurance (River Nomads)

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