|The Tuaregs say they are receiving no benefits from
the nation’s mining industry
For thousands of years, the Tuareg nomads of Niger in West Africa have roamed the Sahara desert, surviving a harsh but relatively unchanging environment.
But now profits flowing from mining uranium and other natural deposits are transforming small towns into booming cities, and the Tuaregs are beginning to demand their share of the land’s mineral weath.
To keep warm in the middle of the Sahara desert, Mohammed Amoman and his family huddle together.
Like most Tuaregs, their life revolves around moving to wherever they can find food and water for their livestock.
They have known no other way.
“We wake up very early in the morning and make tea – if we have it. If we don’t [I wait until] the sun rises then I will go to see the camels which are further away,” Amoman says.
Tuaregs lead a simple nomadic life. But recently they have witnessed the rapid growth and rising prosperity of towns and cities in the nation.
And some now feel they are missing out on the benefits of modern living – running water, electricity and education for their children.
Tuaregs are also demanding a share of the land’s mineral wealth.
They say they are not benefiting from mining which is now the country’s chief export earner.
Their quest for a greater say in the development has the support of some leaders of Niger.
“If we are going to continue with all this mining, some part has to be for the improvement of the living conditions of the people,” says Aoutchiki Kriska, mayor of the Niger town of Gougaram.
|Gougaram’s mayor says living
conditions must improve
“If you tell me that with one gram of refined uranium you can provide energy for seven households for three weeks, how come we can’t use one gram here so that people have water to drink?”
However, Niger’s government insists the Tuaregs must abandon their nomadic lifestyle before they are able to benefit from any investment.
Settling permanently in one place is an idea that is currently far from the minds of Amoman and his fellow tribesmen – at least not while they are in the middle of the desert.
Though proud of their heritage, the Tuaregs now accept that without change their present lifestyle may well be difficult to sustain.