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3. Legitimacy of Traditional and Religious Authorities


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    Tillabéri, Abala: "The advantages are that the traditional leader is elected by the people of his community, he lives with them, knows and shares the realities of their daily lives. The traditional chief also feels the burdens of his constituents. It should also be noted that traditional and religious leaders are generally respected and listened to by the population, even though their authority and aura have deteriorated considerably in recent years. Traditional leaders, despite everything, remain quite influential and have many assets that make them key players at the local level."

    Tillabéri, Gotheye: "The main grievance against the traditional authorities is their involvement in politics despite the law's prohibition to do so."

    Tillabéri, Gotheye: “The main grievance of the local population against the traditional authorities is the latter's inaction in the face of the measures banning motorbikes. They did not have the courage to defend the communities. This feeling is not justified because traditional and religious authorities cannot do anything against the state of emergency.”

    Tillabéri, Gotheye: "We accuse the traditional authorities of bias in the distribution of aid and assistance. There are aid workers who come in the name of the vulnerable and the needy but they always find ways to get their share and the share of their loved ones even if they are not concerned."

    Tillabéri, Gotheye:  “As far as the religious are concerned, it is mainly the divisions of the last few years that are criticised by the population. In some villages, this has created divisions, zizanias, and many social problems within the communities. In our area it is especially between the Izala group and the Tidjania group that we see a lot of rivalry and hatred.”

    Ménaka, Tidermène: “The grievance that the local population reproaches the traditional authorities for is the slowness in solving problems and this leads to other more delicate problems.”

    Ménaka, Tidermene: “The main grievances of the population are around the bad management of public affairs or the bad management of the resources of the commune. We have known grievances of the local population towards the traditional authorities occurred at the time of the food distributions, the use of the water points, grazing.”

    Ménaka, Anderamboukane: "The traditional authorities are often accused of diverting food aid and certain development support intended for the population, but what reinforces this idea is that every time there are announcements of what is being sent to this or that community or village, but we see nothing. And at the same time there are traditional authorities who drive around in nice cars and build nice houses or send their children to study in the best schools.”

    Gao, Gabero: "The main complaint is their excessive authoritarianism. On top of that, they think they know the people so well that they don't see the need to consult or involve the people, which is senseless and confrontational. I don't think people are totally wrong, but very often people judge them on lies or hearsay. You have to understand that their importance to people is more important than the mistakes or drifts they may make. 

    Gao, Gabero: "They [religious authorities] are accused of being far from the management and functioning structures of the village. Yet people want them in these structures to make them more reliable. The accusation is well-founded, but these authorities say that it is to preserve their integrity and the success of their mission, which is solely religious.”

    Est, Kantchari: "Customary and religious leaders are above all resource persons. Resource persons because they are in direct contact with the population and are the first interlocutors between the population and the administrative authorities. Even for the conduction of any project, traditional and religious authorities must be taken into account to facilitate its success. In other words, they are influential and listened to in our municipalities."

    Est, Fada: “The main grievance of the local population towards the traditional authorities is the question of succession to the throne. Several lineages claim to the throne, and this divides the population to the extent that there are harmful rivalries.”  

    Est, Gayéri: "The main grievances that is frequent are problems of land. The distribution of arable land often leads to disagreement between the population and the chiefs."

    Est, Fada: "When a chief goes out to fight a campaign and meets a villager from another political party, they become political opponents, so there is no more respect, and their roles are skewed."

    Sahel, Djibo: "The main grievance of the local population towards the traditional authorities is their clear position with politicians. They show themselves a lot with politicians and that bothers people. I think this feeling is justified. They mix politics with tradition and this does not make them too credible in the eyes of some members of the municipality."


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    Tillabéri, Gotheye: "The main grievance we hear most often is that people say that traditional leaders do not behave fairly and equitably among all members of the community. This grievance most often relates to the distribution of food aid. For many people, chiefs think of serving themselves first before they think of serving the population."

    Tillabéri, Bankilare: "The grievance is that the population accuses the chiefs of lacking fairness and equity when distributing food aid. People say that when there is an aid or an opportunity, they think of themselves first before the population."

    Ménaka, Anderamboukane: "The crisis has negatively shaped some traditional authorities who are no longer afraid to divert what is intended for the poor. There is enough embezzlement and theft of aid and support for personal gain."

    Gao, Soni Aliber: "The main grievance of the local population towards these traditional authorities is the selection of beneficiaries for humanitarian aid. In general these authorities always choose their relatives and supporters as beneficiaries."

    Est, Fada: “Money can buy anything. The one that offers the most money gets their support.”

    Est, Bogande: "In my humble opinion, traditional authority does not really have an influence on young people as one might think. In fact, these people are mostly neglected by young people who consider them as feudal."

    Sahel, Djibo: "Even if the religious and traditional authorities have the desire to help the people of the commune and fulfil their roles, they have to eat first in order to get to the end. They don't have good sources of income to at least leave poverty."


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    Tillabéri, Abala: "The influence of traditional and religious authorities is much less strong among young people. When young people return from their various migrations, they develop ideas and behaviours that are contrary to the context of their localities.”

    Tillabéri, Say (woman): "Tradition is a heavy weight on women and as a result it is difficult for a woman to speak in a men's assembly or in the presence of religious and traditional authorities. They often give their opinion, but it is not necessarily taken into account. Moreover, not all women are able to speak out in public, especially in the countryside where the weight of customs is still very heavy."

    Tillabéri, Ayerou (woman): "In rural areas, not every woman can speak in public, let alone in front of a traditional chief. In the larger centres, however, it is different. Many women are used to participating in meetings and gatherings with high-level personalities. It is therefore easy for them to speak in front of a traditional chief, without any problem."

    Tillabéri, Bankilare: "With the involvement of politics and awareness-raising among the population, many actors start to refuse the decisions of customary and religious authorities because they consider them to be very corrupted by the highest bidders (the rich)."

    Tillabéri, Abala: "Justice is for the rich because even at the level of traditional authorities, the system is corrupt."

    Tillabéri, Gotheye: "The main grievance against the village chief is during the rainy season when there are many conflicts to be managed between farmers and herders. He shows a certain laxity with regard to certain rich herders who are suspected of having corrupted him." 

    Ménaka, Ménaka: “The grievances we have are mainly the lightness with which women's rights are treated by these traditional authorities, and this is really a reality. Women are the losers in the majority of court decisions because of the protection of the dignity of some to the detriment of women.”

    Ménaka, Anderamboukane: "They accuse the chiefs, especially the traditional authorities, of taking advantage of their suffering and poverty to enrich themselves. I think that in some ways this is true because there are chiefs and notables who had nothing before the crisis, but now they have everything.”

    Sahel, Sampelga: "Whatever their ideas, women do not have the right to express them whenever and however they want. They can always make themselves heard on certain occasions and by being represented."

    Centre-Nord, Boulsa (vicar):  "We have the chance to interact with all social strata, namely the children, the youth, the adults and the elderly, so as a message we transmit, it is already a message of peace, tolerance and forgiveness."

    Centre-Nord, Mané: “Generally among the Mossi, it is between men that decisions are made, so there are no meetings between women and the customary authorities in a concrete way. It is always indirect: they always go through their husbands to transmit the message. There is what the woman can say and what she cannot say, what she can demand and what she cannot demand.”



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    Tillabéri, Abala: "The traditional and religious authorities participate in the awareness-raising caravans that we organise in the commune, in all the villages. We spend whole days with them in the campaigns to raise awareness of the communities about living together."

    Tillabéri, Bankilare: "For the traditional and religious authorities, the word carries a lot of weight. We intervene in the spaces that are within our reach to raise awareness in our communities. I used to host sessions on the community radio."

    Ménaka, Tidermene: "Over the last five years, we have experienced a conflict between the self-defence groups and the Coordination of the Azawad Movements (CMA), which has been very damaging for our community. As a measure taken, there was the organisation of inter-community meetings bringing together all layers of the commune. The aim of these meetings is to raise awareness, restore security and peace, and promote understanding between the communities of the municipality. The message was to sensitise the population on peace and social cohesion.”

    Est, Bogande: "It must be said that these traditional and religious authorities play a great role in terms of transmitting a message of peace and tolerance to the population. They never stop talking to people about the need to live together. For example, during prayers, the priest calls on the faithful to forgive each other and to live in love with their neighbour. The traditional chiefs, for their part, perform rituals or sacrifices on their altars to implore the help of the ancestors.”

    Est, Kantchari: "The imam also intervenes on the local radio to clarify what Islam really is, especially by drawing the attention of young people not to be taken in by these false doctrines.” 

    Est, Kantchari: ”Very often we organise interactive radio programmes to raise awareness among our youth. Sometimes we organise "tea debates" to discuss the harmful side of terrorism. I think these awareness campaigns are very effective.”

    Sahel, Dori: "They also often go on the radio to call on people to show solidarity and unity in order to avoid falling into the trap of the terrorists.”

    Sahel, Bani: "The big crisis that we ourselves or our household has faced in the last five years, obviously, is the security crisis related to terrorism. On top of that there is the corona virus. Faced with this problem we have no help because everyone is afraid. The Imam has been raising awareness about wearing masks, washing hands and other possible measures to avoid the disease. On the issue of terrorism, he encouraged us to look out for each other, to watch out for and be wary of any stranger and he asked that every parent should know and educate their children on the consequences of terrorism.

    Centre-Nord, Boulsa: "In the face of violence we organise protection rituals, give protection talismans to our Koglweogos and invoke our ancestors to protect our defense and security forces and all the families here in Boulsa.”

    Centre-Nord, Pissila: "The traditional and religious authorities are already contributing through rituals and awareness-raising on social cohesion and tolerance, and they have also contributed to the setting up of self-defence groups through the protection rituals they organise. As for the religious, it is through prayers on Fridays for Muslims and Sundays for Christians, to support their communities and the defence and security forces, preaching to raise awareness on forgiveness, tolerance and above all the fear of God, they also encourage young people to stay away from all criminal acts.”

    Centre-Nord, Kongoussi: "The customary and religious leaders sensitise young people on the harmful effects of terrorism on living together. In addition to these awareness campaigns, the traditional leaders do not hesitate to curse young people who try to join terrorist groups and generally young people are afraid of suffering the fate of their ancestors and put the terrorist option out of their minds.”