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Cablegate: Cold Case: Shari'a and the Migration of Vice

VZCZCXRO4044
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0714/01 1421247
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZDK CCP
R 221247Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3504
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0530

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000714

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y --ADDED SIPDIS CAPTION

SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR AF/W; G/TIP; PASS TO USAID FOR KTOWERS; PARIS FOR
AFRICA WATCHER; ACCRA PASS TO WARP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KWMN SOCI EAID SMIG NG
SUBJECT: COLD CASE: SHARI'A AND THE MIGRATION OF VICE

NIAMEY 00000714 001.2 OF 002


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SUMMARY
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1. Open-source reporting and some academic studies have
suggested that the imposition of Shari'a in northern Nigeria
led to an exodus of prostitutes, petty criminals, and bar
owners to the southern frontier zones of Niger. Nigerien
Hausaland, these reports suggested, saw a considerable
increase in petty crime, promiscuity, and the potential for
HIV/AIDS and STD transmission due to the baleful influences
of its larger neighbor. Poloff tested this thesis during a
recent trip through southern Niger and found that the flow,
perhaps exaggerated to begin with, had quickly ebbed as
Nigerians learned to live with (and around) Shari'a. While
the "big story" was a flop, there is a less dramatic but more
important story to be told. International NGOs in Niger are
rightly concerned about HIV/AIDS transmission, but for more
traditional reasons. Trucking routes and seasonal labor
migration ("exode") toward the coast bring HIV to Nigerien
Hausaland, leading to localized prevalence rates of almost
twenty-five percent, even as Niger's national prevalence rate
remains low, at 0.7 percent. NGO interventions in the
southern part of the region of Tahoua - a key exode zone and
transshipment point - are attempting to contain these pockets
and the poverty induced practices that create them. END
SUMMARY

------------------------------------
PROBLEMS OF PROXIMITY OR POVERTY?:
TRADE, AIDS, AND SHARI'A IN HAUSALAND
------------------------------------

2. In a February 2, 2001 piece for the New York Times,
journalist Norimitsu Onishi argued that the adoption of
Shari'a in nine northern Nigerian states had pushed "hundreds
of prostitutes, gamblers and bar owners" over the border into
quiet Nigerien farming towns. Onishi's piece was cited by
Northeastern University political science professor and Niger
specialist William F. S. Miles in a 2004 "Africa Today"
article entitled "Shari'a as De-Africanization: Evidence from
Hausaland." Miles noted that "state ratification of Shari'a
in Northern Nigeria has'...'led borderline market communities
to peddle goods, services, and pastimes (alcohol,
prostitution, gambling) that have been now criminalized in
nearby Nigeria." And "some border towns and villages in Niger
have become havens for newly criminalized activities in
Nigeria, especially drinking, gambling, and prostitution."
Within the scope of the limited media and academic attention
accorded Niger, the issue of Shari'a and the export of
Nigerian vice to Niger had become a big story.

3. Traveling in Hausaland (specifically the southern
departments of the Nigerien administrative regions of Tahoua,
Maradi, and Zinder) today, Poloff discovered that the
migration of vice suggested by Miles and Onishi was real
enough, but also temporary. As Nigeria's Shari'a states
become more comfortable in their new legal skin, old habits
picked back up, and creative locals found ways around
Shari'a's proscriptions. Boube Souley, the Director of the
National Police in Maradi, confirmed that his border city had
seen an up-tick in prostitution and vice during the early
years of Shari'a, but noted that prostitutes and others had
gone back to Nigeria after "a couple of years," when they
discovered that the application of Shari'a was less intense
in practice than in theory. Souley claimed that Nigerian
Imams thought Shari'a would heighten their power, but in
practice the army and police still held the cards. Secular
authorities, he claimed, allowed some cases to go to the
Shari'a courts, but withheld others. Even the Shari'a courts,
it is widely believed, are thoroughly corruptible. Souley's
perception, from across the border, was that Shari'a's impact
had been vitiated by politics and corruption. Sensing this,
most Nigerian Shari'a refugees" packed up and went home years
ago.

4. Souley's impressions were confirmed elsewhere in
Hausaland. The Prefect of Magaria, a border town 130km north
of Kano, noted that his department had seen a brief increase
in prostitution and vice, followed by a rapid decline. To the
north, the Zinder police chief said the same. In Birni
N'Konni, three kilometers north of the border, Judge Hamza
Assoumana Bayere denied that Shari'a had any impact on local
vice. He noted that Konni, a prominent border crossing and
transshipment point, had always had a problem with
prostitution but the problem had not worsened over time.
Mayors, police officers, public administrators, and
traditional chiefs in cities (Zinder, Maradi, Birni N'Konni)
and villages (Sassoumbroum, Kantche) were quick to highlight
the differences between them and their southern neighbors.
None considered Nigeria origin vice to be a problem.

NIAMEY 00000714 002.2 OF 002

5. The NGO Cooperation for American Relief Everywhere
(CARE), is concerned about prostitution and HIV/AIDS
transmission along the border, but for a different and more
traditional set of reasons. Southern Tahoua region, of which
Konni is the principal city, has long been famous for "exode"
or seasonal economic migration toward coastal West Africa.
Returnees are often HIV positive. Konni is also one of the
largest entry points for long-distance trucks traversing
Niger, and the trucking corridor extends north through Tahoua
region for 300km on the way to Agadez and the Mahgreb. CARE
is starting a new project targeting "exodants" in both Niger
and Cote D'Ivoire. In Niger, the focus is on Bouza, Illela,
Tahoua city, and Birni N'Konni. This large triangle takes up
most of southern Tahoua Region. Prevalence rates among target
populations within the zone are estimated to be as high as
23.1%, compared to a national rate of only 0.7% - the lowest
in Africa - and a Tahoua regional rate of 1.0%. CARE's
project will encourage testing, and include an
anti-discrimination and anti-stigmatization campaign for HIV
positive prostitutes, truck drivers, and exodants and their
families. Victims' medical needs will also be met.

6. CARE workers in Konni expressed two concerns to Poloff
during a May 7 visit. While they agreed that Nigerian
prostitutes had both come and gone in the early years of
Shari'a they noted that a new phenomenon had appeared at
around the time of the initial influx. Nigerien girls in
Konni had begun to engage in occasional prostitution, often
with just one partner who was usually a truck driver. CARE
workers noted that this group was harder to access than
career prostitutes, as they "live hidden." Demographic
information was likewise difficult to come by, though the
team noted that they were studying this problem more closely.
The eastern Nigerien Region of Diffa was likewise a cause for
concern. CARE staff claimed that Diffa is emerging as a new
high-risk area for HIV/AIDS. They suggested several possible
causes for this, including the movement of persons and drugs
by traffickers, who exploit Diffa's thinly-populated, poorly
policed tracks to head north from Chad or Nigeria to Libya.
They also cited instability along the Chadian border and the
cross-border movement of persons, particularly nomadic
"Mahamid" Arabs in search of pasture. NOTE: The current
estimate for HIV prevalence in Diffa is 1.7% of the overall
population. END NOTE

---------------------------
COMMENT: THE "LITTLE" STORY
TRUMPS THE "BIG" ONE
---------------------------

7. The concerns of today's NGO workers and government
authorities have little to do with what appears to have been
a temporary and abnormal influx of Nigerian vice into Niger
after the adoption of Shari'a. Rather, the focus is on
fundamentals related to poverty and the dangerous practices
that it sometimes encourages. Exode by single men; occasional
prostitution by young girls; human trafficking and
immigration toward Europe and the Mahgreb; and, nomads
searching for scarce pasture pose the real risks to public
health and stability in Niger. All are poverty induced
practices. While the limited media attention Niger receives
often draws attention to the dramatic and exceptional "big
story," one can say the country's real challenges have more
pedestrian origins.
ALLEN

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