Discover where Niger is situated in relation to other countries, where Zinder is situated with respect to the Nigerien capital and its resources, and Kara-Kara’s historical position as a marginal district of Zinder.
Niger is a vast country in West Africa, situated between Algeria and Libya (to the north), Chad (to the east), Nigeria and Benin (to the south), and Burkina Faso and Mali (to the west). The capital city is Niamey. It is the sixth largest African nation, with a surface area of 1 267 000 km2. The Sahel and Sahara cover 80% of this territory, with just a small band of more fertile terrain at the south of the country. Global warming has seen the desert expanding at the rate of 200,000 hectares per year. Access to water is thus a major issue for the vast majority of the population, and the government is preoccupied with reforestation initiatives. The economy is centred around subsistence agriculture (40% of the GDP), which makes it highly susceptible to the impacts of global warming, as well as some exportation of raw materials including uranium ore and oil.
Zinder is the second largest city in Niger, situated at a distance of 861km to the east of the capital Niamey and just 125km from the Niger/Nigeria border. Its geographical position at the crossroads of the main east-west route through Niger and the north-south route from Agadez to Kano has made it an established trade point between North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to colonization, Zinder was an important Islamic centre for the Sultanates of Damagaram and Bornu – a place where people of learning gathered – and it was initially designated capital of Niger by the French colonizing forces for a brief time between 1922-1926. Zinder’s close proximity to Nigeria is repeatedly cited by those in the documentary as a source of concern. This perception is echoed by members of the Zinder Brain Trust (Part 3) who point out that Boko Haram forces are already present in the Diffa region, which is much closer to Zinder than the capital (Diffa is just 468km from Zinder). Zinder has significant infrastructure including a thermo-electric power station, a University, and an airport. The city is divided into five main districts (below right). Within the second district, Mirriah, is a town that is extremely poor: Kara Kara.
Kara-Kara was historically the quarter for outcasts. In the 1950s those with leprosy were sent there, ostensibly to be cured so that they could then be reintegrated into their home towns. In practice this did not occur. Those who were sent there remained and were subsequently joined by others who had also been rejected by society – the blind, the poor the handicapped. This population has since been overlooked by the authorities in the development of infrastructure. Access to basics such as running water, electricity, education, health-care have not been provided to this community. This has created a vicious circle, where those who were already outcast have become further marginalized due to illiteracy, poor hygiene and poor health. In the absence of access to education, training or employment opportunities, residents of Kara-Kara have developed their own survival strategies, certain of which contravene laws. This has resulted in high levels of incarceration and further entrenched the community’s isolation by giving it a reputation for crime.