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Cablegate: Niger: Woman of Courage Nominee Hadijatou Mani

VZCZCXRO9750
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN
DE RUEHNM #1062 3041643
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301643Z OCT 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4651
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS NIAMEY 001062

C O R R E C T E D COPY(ADDRESSEE ADDED)

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR G/IWI SPECIAL COORDINATOR ANDREA BOTTNER OR G/IWI
DEPUTY DIRECTOR SANDRA PEDROARIAS FROM AMBASSADOR
BERNADETTE M. ALLEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL KPAO PHUM SOCI SCUL NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: WOMAN OF COURAGE NOMINEE HADIJATOU MANI

REF: STATE 99729

1. Embassy Niamey enthusiastically nominates Ms. Hadijatou
Mani, a 24-year old woman born into caste-based servitude (an
inherited status from her mother), who challenged the
vestiges of a long-standing affront to humanity, the
institution of slavery. On October 27, 2008, she won an
historic, precedent-setting decision in the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice
that condemned her enslavement, a decision that could set off
a chain of events that help to eradicate slavery once and for
all in West Africa. The Court held that the Government of
Niger had not protected her rights by implementing its
anti-slavery laws, and assessed it a fine of 10 million CFA
(approximately 19,800).

2. While Ms. Mani is not a political activist or well-known
leader, her persistence and willingness to serve as a test
case in the ECOWAS Court of Justice to condemn the inhumane
practice demonstrates courage beyond measure. It has been
said that revolutions often arise from the resolute, not
necessarily the reactionary, and Ms. Mani's role mirrors that
of mild-mannered civil rights icon Mrs. Rosas Parks, who
challenged in 1955 an unjust system of inequality. The
instant case not only is a victory for those who have sought
to eradicate the vestiges of slavery in Africa, but bodes
well for the future of African regional institutions, which
remain a pillar of USG strategy for engaging the continent.

3. Ms. Mani's servitude began at the age of 12, when she was
sold for the equivalent of US$500 to her master as a
domestic, used as a sex slave and made to bear her master's
children. She suffered beatings and reported that when she'd
run away to her family she would be returned to the master.
She said she heard in 2003 that Niger had banned slavery, but
her master did not provide her a "liberation certificate"
until 2005. She had no real independence because according
to traditional law, she remained legally married to the
master. After she later married the man of her choice, she
faced a judicial ordeal when she was imprisoned for six
months on charges of bigamy.

4. The local nongovernmental organization (NGO), Timidria,
worked with Ms. Mani to initiate local legal proceedings on
her behalf. NGO Anti-Slavery International helped Ms. Mani
bring the case to the ECOWAS Court. She endured tremendous
social pressures during the local and ECOWAS court
proceedings, i.e., possible interventions (directly or
through family members) to "convince" her to abandon the
lawsuit. With confidence, assertiveness and steadfastness
she played a pivotal role in raising awareness on this
important issue.

5. Ms. Mani was notified of this nomination and expressed
gratitude for the Embassy's interest in nominating her for
the award. She was born in 1984 in Niger and is a Nigerien
citizen. Her contact information is through the NGO
Timidria, with email address: Timidria@intnet.ne and
telephone number: (227) 20-72-41-29. Her mailing addres is:
c/o Timidria, B.P. 430 Niamey, Republic of Niger.

ALLEN

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