2.1 Introduction

Areas of limited statehood are not necessarily ungoverned spaces.[21] Instead, many countries of the global south have formal and informal traditional structures that play an important role in social and political organisation – especially in regions where formal state governance is absent. These traditional structures have persisted across colonial and postcolonial periods and continue to organise the lives of many people at local level. Traditional authorities’ activities may range from regulating village life to controlling access to land and settling disputes.[22] Given the direct influence of traditional governance efforts over people’s daily lives, combined with their deep knowledge of local realities and relatively accessible nature, traditional authorities may often be seen as more legitimate governance actors than formal state actors.[23]

Traditional governance actors are sometimes defined as informal or non-state actors,[24] but such a denomination overlooks the fact that in a number of African countries these authorities are, in law, recognised as an integral part of the state and justice system.[25] For the purposes of this report, the term ‘traditional authority’ will therefore be used to describe ‘an institution that derives full or partial legitimacy from the tribal / ethnic / cultural values of a group of people (wherever they are) who share them’.[26] This is not to say that the figure of the traditional authority is static. As all societies inevitably change over time, so do the values, customs and authorities that govern them.[27] Such changes may be driven by dynamics within local communities or by external events that alter the balance of power in a given region.

To understand the ever-changing realities of traditional authorities in contemporary Mali, Niger and Libya, this chapter introduces the ethnicities living within and across these countries. It goes on to trace the historical development of traditional authority structures across the region in more detail to show how they can be traced back in time along a continuous process of renegotiating local governance structures within and across different ethnicities and with central state structures at critical junctures. As later chapters will show, the failure to recognise that traditional authority structures reflect ever-present dividing lines in society means that efforts to work with them risk (unintentionally) activating these prevailing ethnic governance legacies as spoilers of the stabilisation and governance process. The chapter ends with a comparison of the role of traditional authorities in the institutional frameworks on Mali, Niger and Libya.

2.2 An introduction to the region’s main ethnic groups

This study focuses on the geographic region spanning modern-day Mali, Niger and Libya, and specifically the regions of Ménaka and Kidal in Mali, Tahoua and Tillabéri in Niger, and the Fezzan in Libya. This area, though sparsely populated, is inhabited by a diverse range of ethnic and tribal groups, and has a long history of traditional governance. It is known as the Tuareg homeland, given the majority presence of Tuareg confederations throughout.

Figure 2
Geographical spread of different ethnicities across the Sahel in the mid-20th century
Geographical spread of different ethnicities across the Sahel in the mid-20th century

The Tuareg are a nomadic ethnic group that has traditionally occupied territory across the Sahara and Sahel regions. Originally derived from Berber lineage, the Tuareg presence in the region dates back as far as the 5th century, with their ancestral homeland being the modern-day Fezzan area of Libya.[28] Because of their nomadic practices, the Tuareg were influential in the embrace and spread of Islam throughout the region from the 7th century onwards. The concept of a Tuareg homeland is essentially fluid, and their territorial movements have changed over time. From the 17th century onwards, the continuous invasions of north Africa by Arabic tribes drove the Tuareg to the south towards the Sahel region.[29] Today the Tuareg populations span across five states – Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Their nomadic traditions have been curbed by contemporary border lines, land reforms and trade restrictions, but the two million Tuareg maintain a strong cultural and ethnic identity.[30]

Box 1
The Tuareg confederations

The Tuareg have never constituted a cohesive, homogenous entity. Their history is replete with cases of infighting and rivalry between different Tuareg confederations (large groups known as ‘Kels’). Although the Tuareg homeland spans modern-day border delineations and administrative boundaries, Alesbury (2013) advocates a rough geographic distinction of the northern Tuareg (comprising the Kel Ajjer and Kel Ahaggar in modern-day Libya and Algeria), and the southern Tuareg (comprising the Kel Adrar, Kel Air, Kel Gress, Kel Dinnik, Iwillimmidan Kel Ataram and the Kel Tademaket in modern-day Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and parts of Algeria). Confederations are comprised of several ettabal (also known as federations), groups of tribes named after the most dominant entity. The leader of each ettabal is known as the amenokal who holds executive authority over his tribal group.[31]

The region is also host to a range of sedentary and pastoral communities, as well as minority Arab communities, as described below.[32]

Fulani: The Fulani are a widely dispersed, predominantly pastoralist, ethnic group with various subdivisions who inhabit many West African countries including Mali and Niger. They are believed to have first emerged between the 8th and 11th centuries when north African Berbers migrated south towards West Africa and mixed with indigenous populations there to form the Fulani nomadic people. The majority of Fulani converted to Islam in the 18th and 19th centuries.[33] Today the Fulani number 35 million people across 15 West African countries, and their pastoral herding way of life is growing ever more difficult amid modernisation and competition for resources, leading to increased conflict between the Fulani and sedentary populations, most notably in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.[34]

Songhai: The Songhai people are sedentary agriculturalists who inhabit West Africa. They are descendants of the Songhai Empire, a state that spanned the western Sahel during the 15th and 16th centuries until the Moroccans conquered it. The capital of the Songhai Empire was the town of Gao, situated in the region of the same name in modern-day Mali.[35] Today the Songhai continue to practise subsistence farming, mainly in Mali, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso, but communities are also found as far north as Algeria.[36]

Hausa: The Hausa are considered the largest ethnic group in Africa and are based across the Sahel, with their largest population in Niger and Nigeria. The earliest Hausa states emerged in the 10th century, and Islam is believed to have influenced the group from the 11th century onwards as the dominant religion. The Hausa traditionally were merchants along major trans-Saharan trade routes, playing a significant role in the transmission of goods and Islam in the pre-colonial Sahel.[37] The Hausa continue to be influential in the present day, with the Hausa language estimated to be spoken by over 40 million, often functioning as the lingua franca in both Niger and Nigeria.[38]

Tubu: The Tubu are a nomadic Saharan tribe that originated in northern Chad. They are comprised of the Teda and Daza groups, who speak similar languages and share pastoralist lifestyles.[39] The Tubu are predominantly Muslim and their presence in Chad dates back to the 9th century,[40] yet a series of droughts and conflict in the late 20th century displaced sizable populations across neighbouring countries. Today, Tubu populations can be found in Chad, Niger and southern Libya.

Box 2
The social organisation of the Fulani, Songhai, Hausa and Tubu

Fulani: The Fulani social structure is divided into clans (of between 1,000 and 5,000 members), lineages (smaller groups with closer historical links and relations), families and Rugas (or households, headed by the strongest male member). The most powerful Fulani members compete with each other to become heads of clans and lineages, with other members paying tribute to the eventual winner.[41]

Songhai: Hierarchical and conflictual, the Songhai are divided into three groups: the Sorko Sonrhai, fishermen who are seen as masters of the seas, the Do or Gabibi, farmers and cattle farmers, considered as masters of the earth, and the Gow, who are hunters.[42]

Hausa: In the past, the Hausa were the only matriarchal Muslim society, governed by warrior queens. Nowadays, domestic authority lies in the male heads of lineage and households.[43]

Tubu: Often described as anarchic or highly fluid, Tubu society is divided in two distinct groups, the Teda and the Daza. They form confederations of clans, often patrilineal, that can include non-Tubu people, due to the practice of exogamy (the custom of marrying outside a community, clan or tribe), but allegiance is highly individual and based on kinship such as matrilineal lineage.[44]

Next to their social organisation in confederations, clans and lineages, and in occupational groups, all these ethnic groups have been organised historically along strict social hierarchies (see Table 2).[45] At the top of each hierarchy stood the ruling nobles and warlords, together with their advisers, officials and wealthy merchants. Their vassals were free people, but required to pay an honorary tribute to the nobles. Next in line were the religious figures, such as the Tuareg’s Ineslemen composed of Islamic judges (Qadis) and religious leaders (imams) and the Songhai’s Marabouts (holders of religious authority). Craftsmen and artisans comprised the lower castes, followed only by slaves and slave descendants.

Table 2
Historical social hierarchies/castes[46]





Ruling nobles and warlords






Imghad (typically herdsmen)

Jaawambe (advisors and assistants)

Zarma (nobility)

Masu-sarauta (officials)

Religious figures

Ineslemen (judges – qadis and religious leaders – imams)

Toroobe (Islamic clerics, elite)

Marabouts (holders of religious authority)

Sultan of Sokoto/ Sarkin Musulmi


Inaden (blacksmiths, jewellers, woodworkers, leather artisans)

Yneebè (caste-based artisans), Wayilbe Baylo (blacksmiths), Lawbe, Labbo (carpenters), Sakkebe, Sakke (cobblers), Mabube, Mabo (griots),[47] Wambabe, Banbado (adulators, musicians, guardians of tradition)

Sorko Fono and Sorko Faran (fishermen)

Talakawa (commoners)

Slaves/domestic servants

Irawellan (former Tuareg prisoners), Iklan (freed slaves) and slaves

Maccube, Maccudo or Kordo

Tyindikata and Gabibi (farming slaves) and Arbi and Aanji, (descendants of slaves)

Talakawa (slave-born)

Power in pre-colonial times was hence structured through horizontal relations between different confederations and vertical relations between different castes within a tribal group. Today, many of these hierarchical relationships still manifest as inequalities in relationships within ethnic groups – with minority groups’ quest for emancipation resulting in attempts to gain control over formal and informal governance structures.

2.3 Historical development of traditional authority structures

Peaceful coexistence between these different ethnicities has not always been a given, which has resulted in persevering legacies of inter- and intra-ethnic strife. Before colonial times, the region saw the rise and fall of various empires under the pressure of foreign invaders (see Box 3).

Box 3
Pre-colonial empires

In the early 15th century, led by Sunni Ali, the Songhai sought to expand west from their prosperous capital, Gao, to incorporate further regions of the Niger Delta. In Timbuktu they clashed with Tuareg confederations who had previously captured the town from the Mali empire in the early 15th century, and they also engaged in a bloody conflict with the Fulani in their conquest of Jeune. The Songhai dominated these confrontations and ultimately wrested control of a vast expanse of territory that they maintained for more than a century. The empire was defeated in 1591 as a result of the Moroccan invasion of West Africa.[48]

The fall of the Songhai empire created space for the Hausa Kingdom – a collection of Hausa city-states – to come into full bloom. Relying on their merchant background, the Hausa penetrated new commercial zones and created complex socio-economic structures within their city-states. Their rule was comparatively stable and peaceful thanks in part to the consolidation of a pyramidal system of allegiances cascading from the Hausa king, the chiefs and heads of allied Tuareg clans, and leaders of Hausa communities.[49]

This great age of city-state dominance ended abruptly during the years 1804-12 when the Fulani, a distinguishably foreign people who had entered Hausaland from the far West African grasslands as cattle herdsmen over the previous four to six centuries, organised and successfully carried out a revolution based on Islamic reformism (jihad) which finally and definitively swept away the cherished local sovereignty of the most important Hausa states.[50] In some regions, the Fulani successfully mobilised lower-caste and slave-caste Tuareg for this jihad.[51]

Heavy resistance from the Tuareg in particular could not prevent the arrival of the French in the late 19th century in the area now known as Mali and Niger. French colonialism largely destabilised and reconfigured local governance structures that were built upon military hegemony, a transitory populace, and societal hierarchy (see Box 4). The French were determined to weaken and dismantle any conceivable threat to their authority, and therefore indigenous rulers were targeted and traditional norms were deliberately subverted. Towards this end, colonial administrators enhanced the internal process of creating and dissolving Tuareg federations.[52] Loyal collaborating clans were promoted to the rank of a federation and put in charge of French-recognised confederations. Federations that posed a threat to French rule were broken down into smaller chieftaincies that would be more susceptible to colonial rule – French-appointed chiefs of lower social status were considered to be more compliant with the colonial regime.[53]

Box 4
Social disruption under colonial order

Colonial rule severely disrupted the social structure of Tuareg society. The noble Imajeghen were no longer perceived as warriors and guardians of their confederations, as the French military performed that function. The hierarchical relationship between nobles and their dependants began to weaken, as the elite had fewer opportunities to exert their dominance – undermined as they were by the colonial administration.[54] The Imajeghen saw the French as rivals in the domination of the country. The French, on the other hand, wanted to make colonial occupation viable by creating a productive economy, a project that relied on the labouring classes of local communities, including, among the Tuareg, the artisan and servile classes, who were despised by the Imajeghen. The Imajeghen were therefore doubly a problem in the eyes of the French, i.e., both militarily and in relation to the economy.[55] The Ineslemen – the caste of religious leaders – were the strata of Tuareg society that benefited most from this power shift. The French championed this particular class, granting them previously unattainable chieftaincies, in an effort to destabilise the previously ruling elite and weaken the standing of the most prominent Tuareg rulers.[56]

French rule in Niger and Mali was detrimental not only to the traditional power structures of the Tuareg. The internal structure and fortunes of many other tribal groups were also fundamentally transformed throughout this period, and the repercussions are still evident. For example, during the colonial redistribution of power, the Fulani were heavily marginalised. In Niger, for example, they were victims of the expansion of cultivation and were forced to relocate from fertile Ader (modern-day Tahoua) to the more austere region around Tchintabaraden. Even today, they are less represented than the Tuareg and the Hausa in the chieftaincy system, and thus have less access to remedies for their grievances.

Although all federations surrendered to the French at the start of the 20th century, resistance and revolts continued until 1934.[57] Yet Tuareg resistance ultimately proved ineffective due to historically founded inter- and intra-ethnic rivalries. In the Ader region in Niger, for example, the French encountered the resistance of the noble Imajeghen caste from both the Kel Dinnik and the Kel Gress confederations. Yet the Imajeghen were never able to present a united front against the colonisers. The two confederations had often been in conflict with one another throughout the centuries and never formed a cohesive entity. In the end, the French managed to secure the alliance of the Hausaized Lissawan (a Kel Aïr Tuareg tribe that had moved in the 17th century), the religious Tuareg Ineslemen caste, and the Hausa Azna chiefs. Tuareg confederations such as the Kel Dinnik and the Kel Gress were defeated soon after. By 1920, Ader was under French control, and the local beneficiaries of colonial struggles were the groups who had sided with the occupiers.[58]

The case of Ader is an example of how colonial governance was not completely detrimental to all ethnicities and tribes. Indeed, some Tuareg tribes benefited from the ‘divide and conquer’ approach that the French applied to pacify the most preeminent Tuareg confederations. This was the case as well for the Kel Adagh Tuareg in the modern-day Kidal region. The Kel Adagh gained the status of an independent federation through a series of treaties signed between the French and the Iwillimmidan – the then biggest and most powerful Tuareg confederation.[59] French colonial rule subsequently offered the Kel Adagh a relative degree of autonomy, as the colonial governance system was formalised as a double system of administration in which French commanders ruled in parallel with chieftaincies at local level (see Table 3).[60]

Table 3
French colonial governance system[61]

Governance level

French authorities

Traditional authorities



Cercle (largest administrative unit)





Canton chief

Tribu chief


Village chief

Fraction chief

In Libya, the experience differed considerably, given that it was the Ottomans (1551–1912) who ruled for much of the colonial era and introduced and formalised the foundations of modern tribe-state relations in the country. Unlike in Mali and Niger where the French forces sought to install compliant and weak tribal leaderships to impose their authority, Ottoman rulers depended on influential tribal leaders, particularly in peripheral and rural areas such as the Fezzan, in order to collect taxes, enlist troops, and maintain trade routes.[62] For the Tuareg rulers of Libya this meant an opportunity to both consolidate and expand their area of influence. Ottoman administrators tolerated Tuareg local governance systems and their growing power as long as the tribal elites displayed loyalty to the Sultan in Istanbul and paid regular tribute.[63]

Thus, traditional Tuareg structures continued relatively unaffected in Libya until the latter half of the 19th century, when the Ottomans attempted to modernise structures and centralise governance. A new generation of Ottoman administrators and politicians began to consider local and tribal actors in Libya to be a threat. They sought to weaken not only the tribal structures themselves but also the tribal identities of their members, providing lucrative incentives for Libyans to relocate to urban administrative centres in northern Libya, and commencing a policy of neglect towards the Fezzan and rural communities that would continue for much of the country’s modern history.[64]

When the Italians colonised Libya in 1911, they afforded once again a large degree of tribal autonomy in an effort to undermine Ottoman infrastructure and practices. The Tuareg noble-vassal leadership dynamic, systematically eroded by the French in Mali and Niger, therefore continued in southern Libya throughout the early 20th century. Buoyed by this autonomy, the Kel Ajjer used their relative economic and military weight, as well as their strong relations with the Sanusis, a Sufi brotherhood that had made significant gains in Cyrenaica, to launch attacks on French and Italian colonial stations in modern-day Algeria and Libya respectively. In December 1914 the Italian authorities abandoned Ghat and left it in the control of Sidi Mohammed el-Abed (the Sanussi representative for the Fezzan) and the Kel Ajjer chiefs.[65]

Nevertheless, through a combination of military force and the co-option of rival Tuareg confederations such as the Kel Ahaggar, colonial forces ultimately overpowered the Kel Ajjer.[66] In Libya, although the Italians had initially left tribal councils relatively self-sufficient as the primary vehicle through which to manage and govern, by 1935 the country had been brought under direct Italian rule in accordance with its three modern-day regions – Tripolitania, the Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. From this point onwards the governance structure was highly rigid and closed, dominated by colonial officials to an even greater extent than that of Mali and Niger, and local political participation was actively discouraged. Although Tuareg structures continued to exist, given that the Fezzan remained largely neglected, they were excluded from all aspects of formal governance.[67]

2.4 Modern-day institutional structures

The historical experiences of Mali, Niger and Libya, up to and including colonialism, laid the foundations for the structure and relations of modern-day traditional authorities. In Mali and Niger, colonial rulers’ selective co-optation of traditional authority structures empowered some ethnicities and castes at the expense of others – thereby creating lasting grievances. In Libya, successive colonial emphasis on northern urban populations and centralised rule set the foundations for decades of neglect of the Fezzan and its ethnic groups. Finally, the fragmentation of traditional authorities, particularly Tuareg confederations, and their history of confrontation, made it easier for external forces to impose control and administrative structures on them, without threat of a united backlash. The strategy of identifying compliant traditional authorities and empowering them at the expense of more influential and insubordinate entities is an enduring one that has been replicated in all contexts in the modern era.

2.4.1 Mali

After the Malian confederation gained independence from France in 1960, the Tuareg increasingly resented their integration into a new Malian state dominated by the southern Bambara ethnic group. This was the case in particular for the Kidal-based Kel Adagh,[68] who (as described above) had offered minimal resistance to French colonial rule and had received a relative degree of autonomy in return. At the time of independence, the southern political elite had assured them that their autonomy in the new Malian state was guaranteed. But this promise was not kept. Instead, the new Malian administration, inspired by Marxist ideology, judged the previous tribal socio-political order as outdated and feudal. It set out to free the northern Tuareg population from what was considered to be a servile relationship dominated by traditional chiefs.[69] The resultant Tuareg rebellions that took place in 1963, 1990, 2006 and 2012 will be discussed at length in Chapter 4.

One step that the Malian administration took towards the reconfiguration of the Tuareg socio-political order was the abolishment of the tribu as an administrative layer of governance. The village was established as the basic unit of political and administrative organisation. For nomadic populations, the fraction, the lowest nomad administrative unit under colonial governance, became the administrative equivalent to the village (see Table 4). In practice, this meant a decentralisation of the relationship between the Malian administration and traditional authority structures.[70] In addition, the Malian administration set out to liberate the slave (Bella) and vassal (Imghad) castes from their ruling elites and nobles. It advanced this objective by creating new Bella and Imghad fractions – thereby reinforcing their position vis-à-vis their former overlords.[71] Both developments resulted in the establishment of the formal state structure as an arena where internal tribal conflict over caste hierarchies and clan structures could be fought out.

Table 4
Malian governance system[72]

Colonial era


Post-democratic era

Centrally appointed

Centrally appointed

(Centrally) appointed[73]



Regional level



Regional Council[75]

Cercle level




Cercle Council[76]




Canton/ Tribu



Communal Council and Mayor[78]

Village/ Fraction/ Quartier[79]



Village chief;

Fraction chief;

Quartier chief

The fusion between formal governance and tribal domains was further compounded by the redefinition of the notion of natural resource governance. As Lecocq (2003) describes at length, the nomadic Tuareg conception of territory had historically been defined by ideas of mobility and shared, yet strictly governed, access to natural resources among different ethnicities, clans and castes. Yet colonial and postcolonial administrations had introduced governance structures that were linked to territorially delineated administrative zones. With the creation of the village and fraction as the main local administrative units, the management of territory became intrinsically linked to the tribal structures in those localities. Given the scarce availability of permanent water wells and other natural resources – access to which differed from year to year due to climatic variations – competition over territorial control therefore increased. These conflicts were fought out in a violent manner (including during the various Tuareg rebellions), but also reproduced themselves as struggles over boundary allocation and control of administrative offices.[80]

The democratisation of decentralisation in 1991 resulted in the formalising of procedures for the creation and dissolution of fractions (nomadic communes). This further reaffirmed tribal organisation around caste and clan identities. In the Kidal Cercle alone, the number of fractions quickly rose from 65 in 1974 to 114 in 1996.[81] In addition, democratisation and decentralisation resulted in the introduction of local elected office in the form of communes (districts). The first commune elections were held in June 1999. Control over the communes represented an opportunity to gain the upper hand in competition over resources within the districts, such as pasture and wells. In addition, it provided access to tax revenue, as 40% of taxes collected was now allocated to the commune.[82] Local elections have thereby become key arenas where the dominance of local (tribal) notabilities is strengthened or contested – leading tribal elites to become invested in capturing political office.[83]

Box 5
Rebellions and the creation of regions

Control over administrative structures was a key element in the Tuareg rebellions. There are currently ten regions in the country: Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Segou, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Ménaka and Taoudeni.[84] The region of Kidal was created in the aftermath of the 1991-92 peace talks. Ménaka and Taoudeni were created in the wake of the post-2015 territorial restructuring following the Algiers Agreement ending the 2012 rebellion. These regions have formally existed since January 2016.[85]

Next to the influence of traditional elites in elected office, traditional authority structures also remained relevant in other ways. From early independence onwards, the Malian administration quickly came to the realisation that customary chiefs had to be (informally) preserved in order to effectively administer the region.[86] The decentralisation process formalised this relationship, such as by officially recognising tribal chiefs as governance actors – under the authority of the local mayor, and providing them with a legal mandate for civil and commercial reconciliation. Chiefs were appointed to the state apparatus in accordance with tribal traditions, but the nomination had to be certified by a local state representative.[87] In 2006, this position was formalised by law (see Box 6).

Box 6
Formal recognition of traditional authorities in Mali

In 2006, the Establishment and Administration of Villages, Fractions and Neighborhoods Law outlined specific roles for traditional authorities, describing them as the representative of their community vis-à-vis the state administration. Appointed chiefs were ostensibly tasked with administering villages, fractions and neighbourhoods with the assistance of a local council, and were responsible for basic service provision, mediation, tax collection, a variety of ceremonial roles, and customary reconciliation.[88] In reality, this law has been selectively applied and up to 70% of village chiefs have not received formal state recognition, disqualifying them from official representation and compensation.[89]

In recent years, traditional authorities in Mali have taken on additional responsibilities as a result of a declining state presence, particularly in the north of the country. The 2012 crisis prompted government officials to flee conflict areas, leaving village leaders to become primary service providers in northern Mali.[90] These events proved particularly empowering for the customary ‘qadi’, a highly respected traditional religious figure in reconciliation and justice, administering verdicts on the basis of Islamic sharia law (discussed in further detail in Chapter 4). During the 2012 crisis, qadis and other traditional figures replaced local electives who had abandoned their positions and helped to mediate with extremist groups. As a consequence, the 2015 Peace Accord envisages the ‘reassessment of the role of Qadis’ in administering justice, taking into account ‘cultural, religious and traditional characteristics’.[91]

2.4.2 Niger

In Niger, the immediate postcolonial atmosphere was initially promising for traditional authorities. The early governments of Niger (Sawaba Party, 1957-58, Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), 1958-74) saw the chieftaincy system as a remnant of the colonial past that would dwindle as Niger modernised, yet this never happened. For pragmatic reasons, the RDA regime maintained positive relations with chiefs. The newly independent government created the Ministry of Saharan and Nomadic Affairs in 1960, led by a Tuareg, which enabled the Tuareg to secure financial and administrative status in the newly independent state.[92] The government also installed new water sources in Tuareg territory and granted the community greater access to schools and health centres.[93]

However, when the military regime of General Seyni Kountché took power in 1974, Niger witnessed a new era of fragmenting, politicizing, and selectively empowering traditional authorities. General Kountché initially purged the government of Tuareg representatives following Tuareg involvement in an attempted coup in 1976 and sent many into exile in Libya, and abolished the Ministry for Saharan and Nomadic Affairs.[94] With political parties outlawed, Niger society was structured hierarchically in accordance with socioeconomic groupings, known collectively as the ‘Société de Développement’, from local to state level. Traditional rulers were categorised in the Council of Traditional Chiefs, which had little autonomy but served as a key link between the centralised military regime and rural Niger communities.[95]

In order to maintain control and prevent any given tribal faction from becoming too influential at local level, the military regime also pursued a policy of favouritism. In Tahoua, for example, the regime favoured Imajeghen of the Kel Dinnik confederation. This favouritism was further strengthened by developments in the 1980s, when Gaddafi of Libya called on the Tuareg of Niger and Mali to take up arms and join him in his Islamic Legion – which included plans for annexing sections of Nigerien territory. Many Tuareg men from Abalak left for Libya – a decision that only strengthened the government’s favouritism of certain Tuareg at the expense of other confederations. Years later, the Tuareg rebellion of the 1990s started in Abalak, with many grievances stemming from the fact that the region had been spurned by central government since 1981.[96]

The decline of General Kountché’s military rule in the late 1980s ushered in a National Conference in 1991 resulting in the introduction of a democratic constitution and political parties. In the final years of Kountché’s reign, many tribal chiefs had been co-opted and were now prominent allies of the regime, a power balance that was disrupted by the National Conference and democratic transition that followed. In 1993, tribal chiefs were officially recognised as local-level government officials.[97] They maintain this position to the present day. This means that for every major governance level in Niger there are centrally appointed state officials, elected state officials and traditional state officials (see Table 5).

Table 5
Nigerien governance system








President of Region

Chef de Province

Commune (Canton/




Chef de Canton

Chef de Groupement


Security forces (Gendarmerie, National Guard)

Chef de Village

Chef de Tribu

Chef de Quartier

Chef de Fraction

Niger’s traditional chieftaincy system was last updated in January 2015.[98] The larger chieftaincies generally correspond to entities that existed before colonialism, but many of the smaller ones were established by the colonial administration. It is now a hierarchical organisation of ‘customary communities’, the characteristics of which differ depending on whether the inhabitants are pastoral or semi-nomadic (the Tuareg, Fulani, and Tubu) or sedentary (the Songhay-Zarma, Hausa, Kanuri and so on, in addition to sedentary Fulani and Tuareg populations). The bottom layer is made up of fractions and quartiers; above the fractions are the tribus, and above the quartier, a village or a town. The groupement encompasses tribus, while the canton includes villages. Finally, above the canton is the province, headed by a sultan – hence it is also called a sultanate.[99]

The jurisdictions of traditional authorities are part of the general administration and do not constitute a parallel, separate or informal administration. As such, they can be created or abrogated at will by central government.[100] The procedures for selecting traditional leaders have been standardised by the state. In theory, chiefs can be elected only from the ruling family or clan. The selection is made through a process of nomination and election by an electoral college that comprises various notables and local authorities. The composition of such colleges has been standardised by law and now includes women, who were often excluded from this process in the past. Chiefs take office only after their nomination and election have been validated by the state – the nomination following a morality inquest and the election following a decision from different levels of state authority depending on the position. Elections to positions of sultan and chiefs of canton and groupement are ratified by the minister for territorial administration, while those below are endorsed by the governor (region) and the prefect (département).

Chiefs receive an annual allowance from the national budget, which varies in accordance with the level of the position. They also receive a dividend on taxes levied in their area of jurisdiction. They benefit from free healthcare and family allowances, and their status as an administrative authority entitles them to legal and physical protection from the state. They are also members de jure, albeit with a consultative voice only, of the (elected) regional and municipal councils. In effect, this status means that in the eye of the state, the chiefs are a category of administrators, and although their legitimacy is drawn from a given community, their jurisdiction is not communal, but territorial. This creates an inherent contradiction in the status of the chiefs. Since they are selected from a certain community, their claim for authority derives from that community; yet, the power and mandate they receive from the state cover a territorial district, which generally includes different communities. The contradiction comes from the fact that, like all modern states, Niger seeks to administer populations based on territory, not separate communities with distinct identities and interests.

From the above, it follows that, since independence, Niger has fluctuated between periods of democratic and military rule, with a relatively enduring political elite.[101] Throughout this process traditional authorities have been selectively co-opted, with successive rulers recognising the importance of these entities as a means of connecting with and administering rural Niger. Thus certain traditional authorities have enjoyed protracted periods of influence, bolstered by the fact that much of the country’s influential political class hails from chiefly families.[102] Yet this empowerment of select authorities has come at the expense of other tribal groups that have been actively marginalised or persecuted in the post-independence era, as has been evidenced in many Tuareg rebellions in recent years.

2.4.3 Libya

In Libya, the Tuareg governance structure enjoyed little interference in the early years of independence as the newly installed Sanusi monarchy[103] did not have the administrative infrastructure to centrally govern the country. As a result, tribes and clans would support and implement the king’s policies on the ground in exchange for privileges. Alliances were formed with prominent tribal groups in the Fezzan, and this cooperative relationship stayed in place until King Sanusi’s overthrow in 1969.[104]

Once Libya was under the rule of Gaddafi, the Tuareg grew in prominence while the Fezzan in general suffered from a growing lack of service provision. Gaddafi incorporated the Tuareg from neighbouring Mali and Niger into the Libyan army in the 1970s as part of his ‘Islamic Legion’. The Tuareg were paid to fight in Libya’s incursions into neighbouring states, with Gaddafi promising them salaries and citizenship in return, until the Legion was disbanded in the 1980s. Even though Gaddafi ultimately left many of the promises he made to the Tuareg unfulfilled, such as genuine support for greater autonomy, the Tuareg maintained a positive attitude towards the Libyan leader throughout most of his reign. Gaddafi provided the Tuareg of southern Libya with the closest example of state service provision and governance to date – economic reforms, job opportunities, food, free housing, free education and medical care.[105]

Box 7
The postcolonial experiences of the Tubu

Tubu traditional authorities suffered in the immediate aftermath of colonialism as many were denied citizenship in the newly independent state due to not being able to prove their heritage.[106] Years later, life under the Gaddafi regime was extremely turbulent. In 2007 the government withdrew citizenship from the Tubu, referring to them as ‘migrants from Chad’. Moreover, a 2010 UN report accused the Gaddafi regime of ethnic cleansing in the town of Kufra, after the regime had destroyed Tubu homes and forcibly evicted them without providing alternative accommodation.[107]

However, Gaddafi’s courtship of the Tuareg was not so much the provision of services and opportunities in exchange for military allegiance as it was a deliberate strategy to destabilise traditional leadership structures and undermine Tuareg rule. Gaddafi approached the Tuareg of Libya from the 1980s onwards with subversion in mind – carefully targeting Tuareg leaders and groups that would be particularly susceptible to financial rewards and military equipment. The relationship was asymmetrical – Gaddafi was in control of which Tuareg leaders to empower and reward, and the exchange of money in return for Tuareg recruitment in the Islamic Legion made the Tuareg appear to be mercenaries. This had a degrading effect on Tuareg relations with other groups in Libya, as well as within internal Tuareg hierarchies.

During the 2011 revolution, most Tuareg remained loyal to Gaddafi, apart from a minority that sided with the revolutionaries. As a result, they became isolated in the new political landscape that emerged, shunned from various aspects of public life by the revolutionaries. The promise of Libyan citizenship, which had been used extensively by Gaddafi to secure the allegiance of Tuareg fighters, was nullified after the fall of his regime. Furthermore, many fighters who fought on the side of the regime during the revolution were forced to flee to Mali and Niger in the aftermath, in order to avoid reprisals.[108]

After the fall of Gaddafi, Libya witnessed the emergence of institutionalised local governance through the adoption of Law 59, the Law of Local Government. The law largely formed a response to decades of centralised rule under the Gaddafi regime, and greater calls for representation from many groups who were marginalised under such a system. Libya’s division into three separate regions – amplified by colonial rule – has also fostered growing calls for greater local autonomy, or even federalism. The 2012 law enshrines a policy that local governance in Libya will consist of three layers: provinces, municipalities and localities. In reality, as observed by Constantini (2018), this structure is completely reliant on the municipal level, which bears the expectations of and responsibility for local populations and the international community alike.[109]

Box 8
Municipal governance in the Fezzan

Following a restructuring in 2013, there are 14 municipalities in the Fezzan region, and both Ghat and Ubari constitute separate entities.[110] Every municipality in Libya consists of a municipal council of seven to nine members, responsible for decision making, and a municipal administration responsible for implementation. Mayors and deputy mayors are elected from among the council members, while ‘mokhtars’ are then appointed by the mayor and the Ministry of Local Governance (MoLG). The mokhtars operate at neighbourhood level, acting as a facilitating link between the community and the council.[111] Additionally, municipal councils traditionally employ a Shura Council in an advisory role, made up of local experts and notable personalities.

Municipalities are tasked with service delivery but the local governance system in Libya suffers from a highly centralised model, which has been a mainstay of Libyan governance since Italian rule and was further intensified by Gaddafi. State ministries are still responsible for overall policy making, support, and financial management – in a country where an effective central government is largely non-existent. Municipalities are often wholly dependent on funding transfers from central government, but these are only released to cover expenses, and therefore local councillors lack the resources to respond in a timely manner to emergencies or unfolding crises, or to invest in more long-term development and infrastructure projects. As a result, municipal systems typically lack the capacity to meet the needs of their communities, whether in terms of security, the rule of law, or essential services.[112]

Unlike Niger and Mali to an extent, Libya has not attempted to formally acknowledge traditional governance structures or incorporate them into the state apparatus. However, since the institutionalisation of local governance in 2012, traditional governance structures have also attempted to modernise. The most pertinent example of this is the 2017 establishment of the Supreme Social Tuareg Council (see Box 9 for a detailed explanation) as an attempt to organise all Tuareg entities in Libya under one hierarchical institution. Traditional authorities in Libya have sought to institutionalise for two reasons: first, because the introduction of democratically elected local governance affords them an opportunity to gain representation for their tribes and communities at an official level; and second, because the widespread absence of state services and security in recent years has necessitated more formalised traditional structures to fill the governance gap.

Box 9
The Tuareg governance structure

In Ghat and Ubari, towns with sizable Tuareg populations, the local tribal structure constitutes the main governance and security actor.[113] The Supreme Social Tuareg Council (SSTC), rebranded in 2017, is the most senior representation of the Tuareg people at national level in Libya. The SSTC was formed after a series of meetings in Ubari to unite the Supreme Council, the Social Council, and the Advisory Council of the Tuareg, all three of which had been created and operating independently in various capacities in the years following the 2011 revolution. The streamlined SSTC consists of 30 representatives, nominated from among the Tuareg community and voted in by an electorate of around 80 tribal sheikhs.

While the SSTC is mainly active at national level, Tuareg local governance in Ghat and Ubari is provided by two regional divisions: the Majlis El Hukuma (council of elders) and the Majlis El-Ayaan Wal Shouyoukh (council of dignitaries). Both these entities are responsible for addressing local issues and resolving disputes, acting as the implementing bodies of the SSTC. Additionally there is an informal Tuareg ‘youth council’ at local level, which seeks to convey the views of younger tribal members to the elite who dominate senior positions in the council structure.[114]

The legacy and stigma of the Tuareg’s relationship with Gaddafi is still apparent today, and is a root cause of divisions not only within the community itself, but also at local and national levels. In 2015, a Small Arms Survey interview with a Tuareg military commander revealed an estimated 7,000 unemployed Tuareg in Ghat and Ubari[115]. Many had been denied employment on the basis of having no national identity paperwork, in particular those who belong to tribal groups that had migrated to Libya in recent years[116]., Researchers have observed a local division between Tuareg residents who have lived in Ghat municipality for decades and possess national identification documents, and nomadic Tuareg groups who have repeatedly moved across the Algerian border and lack official documentation. The latter group, known as ‘returnee’ Tuareg, feel that their rights and employment opportunities are being actively hindered not only by the state, but also by established Tuareg residents in the municipality.[117] Furthermore, the growing number of idle and ostracised Tuareg in recent years have become susceptible to illicit activities or militarisation. Indeed, when war broke out in Ubari between 2014 and 2016, young Tuareg activists who had opted to remain in Libya took advantage of the large weapons caches they had stockpiled from the Gaddafi era, causing the conflict to escalate rapidly.[118]

2.5 Historical legacies summarised

In summary, the historical legacies of Niger, Mali and Libya have had a profound impact on the ethnic groups living in these territories, and the local governance structures that are now in operation. In all cases, traditional authorities have served as vital conduits throughout history to effectively administer central governance in rural and tribal areas. As a result, these authorities have been held in high regard by colonial and postcolonial rulers, but this does not imply that they have been treated commensurately. Common themes of divide-and-rule and selective co-option of traditional authorities are repeated throughout history, as is the recurring failure of tribal and ethnic groups to unify in defence of their collective interests.

It is also necessary to highlight context-specific differences in contemporary local governance, based on historical experience (see Table 6 for an overview). The post-revolution Libyan model of institutionalised local governance represents a response to decades of centralised rule under colonial rule and Gaddafi, amid the rising discontent of marginalised peripheries and minority groups. Mali’s model of local governance resulted in the fragmentation of tribal authority structures and opened up the state as an arena where inter- and intra-tribal conflicts over access to resources and emancipation of lower-level castes could be played out. Niger’s contemporary model of state-authorised traditional authorities reflects a longstanding cooperative relationship between government leaders and certain customary chiefs, who often share similar tribal heritage.

Table 6
Summary table of different institutional governance dynamics




Pre-colonial legacy

Power structured through horizontal relations/competition between and within ethnicities and tribes, and through vertical relations/competition between different castes within a tribal group

Colonial legacy

French colonial management of tribal federations (divide and conquer) altered horizontal and vertical tribal hierarchies; double system of administration that incorporated chieftaincies at local level

Ottoman and Italian colonial rulers relied on tribal governance in Fezzan; policy of neglect; maintenance of tribal hierarchies

Postcolonial institutionalisation

Decentralisation of relationship between Malian administration and traditional authority structures resulted in the increased importance of territorial control and tribal competition over local elected office; formalisation of traditional authorities as local administrators (selectively implemented)

Tuareg achieved financial and administrative status in the newly independent state; positive relationship between state and traditional authorities but policy of favouritism; formal recognition (and implementation) of traditional authorities as local administrators

Continued governance relationships with central state (Tuareg) but Gaddafi applied a ‘divide and conquer’ policy to Tuareg chieftaincies. Loyalty towards Gaddafi resulted in the Tuareg’s isolation post-2011. New municipal governance structures reproduce Tuareg power relations.

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Lutz, G. and Linder, W. 2004. Traditional authorities and local governance, University of Berne.
Ursu, A.-E. 2018. Under the gun, CRU Report, The Hague, Clingendael; Logan, C. 2013. ‘The roots of resilience. Exploring popular support for African traditional authorities’, African Affairs, 112(448), 353-376.
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This is the case in Niger, for example.
Cheka, C. 2008. ‘Traditional authority at the crossroads of governance in Republican Cameroon’, Africa Development, 33(2), 72.
Lutz, G. and Linder, W. 2004. Traditional authorities and local governance, University of Berne.
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Malian Arabs are made up of the Kounta, the Barabich, the Gouanin, the Shamba and the Rguiba (Moors). In the Libyan Fezzan, the relevant Arab communities are the Awlad Suleiman, Qadhadfa and Warfalla. In Niger, they are comprised of the Choa (or Baggara), Mahamid and Awlad Suleiman.
Database for Indigenous Cultural Evolution (DICE). 2015. Fulani data sheet, link (accessed 6 September 2019).
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Tubiana, J. and Gramizzi, C. 2017. Tubu trouble: state and statelessness in the Chad-Sudan-Libya triangle, HSBA Working Paper, 43, Geneva, Small Arms Survey.
Hrbek, I., Fasi, M.E. 1992. UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. III, Abridged Edition: Africa from the seventh to the eleventh century, University of California Press, 153.
Database for Indigenous Cultural Evolution (DICE). 2015. Fulani data sheet, link (accessed 6 September 2019).
Sidibé, K. 2012. ‘Criminal networks and conflict-resolution mechanisms in northern Mali’, IDS Bulletin, 43(4), 74-88.
Smith, M.G. 1959. ‘The Hausa system of social status’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 29(3), pp. 239–52.
Scheele, J. 2015, ‘The values of “anarchy”: moral autonomy among Tubu-speakers in northern Chad’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 21(1), 41-43; Tubiana, J. and Gramizzi, C. 2017. Tubu trouble: state and statelessness in the Chad-Sudan-Libya triangle, HSBA Working Paper, 43, Geneva, Small Arms Survey.
The one exception is the Tubu, whose strongly individualistic nature of social organisation and the general absence of social hierarchy renders social cohesion fragile and temporary at best, as mentioned in Gondeu, L. 2013. Notes sur la sociologie politique du Tchad, Sahel Research Group Working Paper, 006, Gainesville, University of Florida. 24.
Alesbury, A. 2013. ‘A society in motion: the Tuareg from the pre-colonial era to today’, Nomadic Peoples, 17(1), 106-125; Sidibé, K. 2012. ‘Criminal networks and conflict-resolution mechanisms in northern Mali”, IDS Bulletin, 43(4), 74-88; Durand, B. 1982. Histoire Comparative des Institutions, Nouvelles Éditions Africaines, Dakar; Smith, M.G. 1959. ‘The Hausa system of social status’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 29(3), 239-252.
A griot is a repository of oral tradition.
Ki-Zerbo, J. and Niane, D.T. (eds) 1997. Africa from The Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century, UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. IV, Abridged Edition, James Currey Publishers.
Rossi, B. 2002. The Keita Project: An anthropological study of international development discourses and practices in Niger, PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Griffeth, R. 2002. ‘The Hausa City-States from 1450 to 1804’, in: Hansen, M.H. A comparative study of six city-state cultures. Copenhagen, Reitzel, 483-506.
Loftsdottir, K. 2002. ‘The place of birth: Wodaabe changing histories of origin’, in: Africa in History, 29, 283-307
At the same time, it should be noted that the Tuareg generally obtained a privileged position within French colonial relations vis-à-vis other ethnicities. Lecocq, B. and Klute, G. 2019. ‘Tuareg Separatism in Mali and Niger’, in: de Vries, L., Englebert, P. and Schomerus, M (eds.). 2018. Secessionism in African Politics: aspiration, grievance, performance, disenchantment, Springer International Publishing, 23–57.
Bernus, E. 1990. ‘Dates, dromedaries, and drought: diversification in Tuareg pastoral systems’, in: Galaty, J.G. and Johnson D.L. (eds.) The World of Pastoralism: Herding systems in comparative perspective, The Guilford Press, New York, 149–176.
Loftsdottir, K. 2002. ‘The place of birth: Wodaabe changing histories of origin’, in: Africa in History, 29, 283-307.
Bernus, E. 1966. ‘Les Touareg du Sahël nigérien’, Les Cahiers d’Outre-Mer, 19(73), 13.
Lecocq, B. and Klute, G. op. cit.: 25.
When the French reorganised the chieftaincies, they favoured certain groups and deliberately undermined Imajeghen authority by abolishing the system of rule they had established, and appointing new chiefs in different areas. This process created lasting resentment among the Imajeghen, which was further exacerbated by the disruption of social order that took place under French colonialism. K. Loftsdottir, K. 2002. op. cit.: 296.
Lecocq, B. 2010, op. cit.: 87; also see Lecocq, B. 2003. ‘This country is your country: territory, borders, and decentralization in Tuareg politics’, Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History, 27(1): 61.
In practice, this system only structured the Tuareg’s dealings with the French administration – meaning that they continued to make use of their own political structures (defined by kinship ties and clan structures) for internal matters. Lecocq, B. 2010, op. cit.: 12-13; Lecocq, B. 2003, op. cit.: 61.
Lecocq, B. 2010, op. cit.: 12.
Al-Shadeedi, A.-H. and Ezzeddine, N. 2019, Libyan tribes in the shadows of war and peace, CRU Policy Brief. The Hague: Clingendael Institute.
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Keenan, J. 2005. Ibid.
Al-Shadeedi, H. and Ezzeddine, N. 2019. op. cit.
The main Tuareg confederation in the Kidal region, grouping together tribes such as the Ifoghas and Imghad.
Lecocq, B. 2010. op. cit.: 13-14, 89-91.
Lecocq, B. 2010. op. cit.: 13-14.
Lecocq, B. 2003. op. cit.: 68.
These organisational levels were formalised with the 1993 law on Conditions of the Administrative Freedom of Local Authorities. See: République du Mali. 1993. Loi n°93-008 du 11 février 1993 modifiée, déterminant les conditions de la libre administration des Collectivités territoriales.
The central government, through the Ministry of Territorial Administration, appoints officials at every territorial level. At regional level there is a governor, at cercle level a prefect, and at commune level a sub-prefect. See: République du Mali. 2017. Loi n°2017-051 du 02 octobre 2017 portant code des collectivités territoriales. Since 2018, regional interim authorities in Kidal and Ménaka have been selected through a consensus between government officials and the signatories of the area.
In Kidal the current posts are held by Sidi Mohamed Ag Ichrach (governor) and Haminy Belco Maiga (regional council president). In Ménaka the officials are Daouda Maiga (governor) and Sidi Alassane Toure (regional council president).
The Regional Council is composed of a president and 33 to 45 advisers.
The Cercle Council is composed of a president and 27 to 41 advisers.
Created in 1993. See: République du Mali. 1993. Loi n°93-008 du 11 février 1993 modifiée, déterminant les conditions de la libre administration des Collectivités territoriales, which decentralised governance to communal level.
Their tasks are to provide basic governance for economic, cultural and social development of the municipality, including fundamental education, health, public transport and resources management. The communal council is elected for five years. République du Mali. 2017 Loi n°2017-051 du 02 octobre 2017 portant code des collectivités territoriales.
A village is a rural settlement, a fraction is a nomadic settlement and a quartier is an urban settlement. See: République du Mali. 2006. Loi n°06023 du 28 Juin 2006 relative à la création et à l’administration des villages, fractions et quartiers.
Lecocq, B. 2003. op. cit.: Also see Lecocq, B. 2010. op. cit.
Lecocq, B. 2010. op. cit.: 13-14.
Lecocq, B. 2003. op. cit.: 75.
The proposed law to push forward decentralisation by creating a further ten new regions in the near future, for a total of 19 regions, has further complicated the local governance structure. See: Gouvernement du Mali. 2011. Conseil des Ministres du 14 décembre 2011.
République du Mali. 2012. Loi N°2012-018 portant création des Cercles et Arrondissements des Régions de Tombouctou, Taoudénit, Gao, Ménaka et Kidal.
Lecocq, B. 2010. op. cit.: 13-14, 89-91.
Many tribal chiefs felt marginalised by such decentralisation, however, believing they were only performing a consultative role within the official governance hierarchy. The jurisdiction of chiefs was curbed at village level, and decisions could only be implemented with the approval of the mayor. See: Ursu, A.-E. 2018. op. cit.
République du Mali. 2006. Loi n°06023 du 28 Juin 2006 relative à la création et à l’administration des villages, fractions et quartiers.
Ursu , A.-E. 2018. op. cit.; Doumbia, Y. 2018. ‘Autorités traditionnelles: 70% des chefs de village sans décision de nomination’, Niarela.net, link (accessed 9 September 2019).
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Mohamadou, A. 2005. ‘Les pouvoirs locaux dans la commune d’Abalak’, LASDEL | Etudes et Travaux, 34.
For that law, see: République du Niger. 2015. Loi n° 2008-42 du 31 juillet 2008, relative à l’organisation et l’administration du territoire de la République du Niger, modifiée et complétée par l’ordonnance n° 2010-53 du 17 septembre 2010; Many works discuss the evolution of Niger’s customary chieftaincy system, including a 2009 study by Tidjani Alou, M. 2009. ‘La chefferie au Niger et ses transformations’, LASDEL | Etudes et Travaux, 76.
In Niger five sultanates have their seat and enjoy formal state authority, Damagaram (Zinder); Aïr (Agadez); Dosso; Maradi; and Diffa.
While a simple ministerial order (arrêté) can revoke the chieftaincy of a village, a tribu, or a quartier, higher levels – groupements, cantons and provinces – can be abrogated only by a law, leaving final decision to the National Assembly in such cases.
Lund, C. 2001. op. cit.
Lund, C. 2001. op. cit.
Following independence in 1951, post-war Europe’s Great Powers installed Idris Sanusi as king – the country’s first monarch – of the short-lived United Kingdom of Libya. The Sanusi family had been powerful Libyan allies to the Ottomans in the early 20th century, then influential opponents of Italian colonialism, and finally supporters of the Allies during World War II.
Al-Shadeedi, H. and Ezzeddine, N. 2019. op. cit.
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Telephone interview with SSTC member, 24 March 2019
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