In remote, rural parts of Niger such as the northern sections of the region of Tillabéri, Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder, much of the region of Diffa, and the entire region of Agadez, the state has a very limited presence, which leaves traditional practices of governance as the only existing ‘rule-of-law’ public services that are available. The traditional chiefs, a cadre of executives who draw their legitimacy from tradition (invented or otherwise), and their decision-making resources from customs (unwritten and uncodified), oversee these services. In northern Tillabéri, northern Tahoua, and southern Diffa the systems they oversee have come under considerable stress from violent conflicts in neighbouring countries (Mali, Nigeria and Libya) and which have spread across the borders into these parts of Niger. These regions have thus become laboratories for studying the resilience of this form of local administration and the supports that build resilience, given the backdrop of violence. Violent conflicts bring into sharp relief contradictions that had been dormant or manageable in quieter times, and this chapter will take advantage of their impact to assess the position of traditional authorities in the context of Niger’s local governance dilemma.
To understand the nature of these dilemmas, it is necessary to look at the political economy of Niger. In this non-industrialised economy, most activities and livelihoods directly depend on natural resources (e.g., trees and water) and seasonal cycles, particularly because the rural economy is large. The negative impact of this dependence on tree cover and aquifers is serious, particularly since there is very little transformative public or private investment in agriculture and herding. Most rural Nigeriens are struggling to preserve plummeting household incomes as natural resources deteriorate. This situation creates a number of problems, including the growth of a large unoccupied or under-occupied youth population in the countryside, and the weakening or collapse of collective rules for the sharing of natural resources and the settlement of disputes over them.
In this context, the government encourages traditional chiefs to support the distribution of development aid, while they also help communities manage and resolve conflicts caused by competition over natural resources. This puts chiefs on the frontline in rural areas beset by many of these difficult issues. These political-economy issues are often more acute in the Sahel-Sahara than elsewhere. Different livelihoods – occupational (farmers versus herders) or communal (with an ethnic dimension often defined as Fulani versus Tuareg) determine the need for natural resources, as well as access to – and competition over – those resources. As resources become more and more scarce, this competition tends more frequently to lead to open conflict. The brittle context that thus emerges is more easily exploited by corrupt or criminal agents, such as illicit traffickers and violent extremists.
Moreover, and importantly, this is happening in a changing context for traditional chieftaincies. After Niger’s early decades of authoritarian governance, when chiefs were accountable to a stable regime of power, democratisation and political liberalisation – starting in 1991 – has brought with it a politization of their position, which is both seriously challenging and also an opportunity for reform and improvement. This chapter outlines these challenges. The first of the four main sections discusses empirical findings that reveal the roles of traditional, or customary, authorities in Niger. It builds on the insights from Chapter 2 that outlined how these roles are well defined within the framework of the country’s territorial (and judicial) administration. The two following sections present the challenges that could affect the work of customary authorities: first, general challenges to their legitimacy; and second, the specific challenges that arise from the security crisis in the areas surveyed. The chapter ends with conclusions and recommendations for (inter)national interventions that aim to foster (formal) local government and stability.
Under previous authoritarian political systems in Niger (the French colony, the single party regime and the military regime that succeeded each other from 1922 to 1991), chieftaincies were conservative institutions that operated in accordance with invented traditions that buttressed the position of ruling lineages and guaranteed stable cooperation with the central administration. Accession, though always subject to gendarmerie investigation, was mainly determined by rules derived from these invented traditions (i.e., invented during the changeover that integrated customary authority with modern administration in the early years of colonial occupation). This means that elite groups in the chieftaincy’s jurisdiction and in the state controlled the process.
In the current arrangement of traditional authority structures in Niger, where chiefs are ultimately members of the administration, legality determines their position. There cannot be chiefs without the legal sanction of the administration – in particular the Ministry of the Interior, which is their tutelary ministry, the Ministry of Finance, which pays their emoluments and other expenditures and which relies on them for tax collection, and the Ministry of Justice, which is another tutelary ministry. Yet the legal process depends on more informal rules for selecting people eligible for the position of chief, or groups eligible for having a chieftaincy, and those are subject to interpretation and contestation.
The general rule is that, unlike any other position in the administration, the position of chief is inherited, even when the chieftaincy is, in fact, a creation of the administration, which is the case for most chieftaincies today. But this rule is interpreted differently by incumbents and by potential claimants. Incumbents tend to interpret it narrowly by asserting that the position is passed on exclusively from father to son, while other members of the larger family (i.e., potential claimants) may claim that it can be assumed by any member of the family. When a new chieftaincy is created – as happened often in the 2000s – the first incumbent is appointed either by agreement of state authorities and higher chiefs, or straightforwardly by a decision of the Council of Ministers. From then on, successors inherit the position, and first incumbents support the doctrine that a successor must be their son. The law of 2015 does not clarify the matter, stipulating vaguely that ‘any Nigerien from a given traditional or customary community can apply to the chiefship of said community if custom gives him the right to do so.’ But custom is interpreted and contested depending on the interests of claimants.
With democratisation, forces from ‘subject’ populations were channelled, via electoral politics, lobbying and community organisation, to challenge established practices (see Figure 3). This has generally affected ways of creating traditional authority structures (see below) rather than of accession – but these, too, have not been left untouched. Thus, for instance, in Ader, the 3rd groupement chief was previously nominated by a college in which the deciding vote was held by two clerics, the imam of Tchintabaraden and the imam of Abalak. But that rule was not applied for the nomination of the first chief of the democratic era (1999), which was decided via election by village and tribu chiefs. The new procedure is, in this way, more formal than the earlier one – and is meant to improve the criteria of transparency and participation defining a democratic process. Thus, villages and tribus that have a right to the nomination vote are the décisionnaires ones (this term means they hold a décision, i.e., a recognition title from the central administration) and the voting is supervised by the governor. For a religious notable in Tchintabaraden, a casualty of the new era, this new mode of accession spells the doom of the chieftaincy. ‘Democracy,’ he explained, ‘gives more freedom to the administrés and strips the chiefs of all the deference due to their rank.’
Things have also changed at village and tribu levels. An outcome of the new rules, which is deplored by established chiefs at this lower level, is the increased role of money and politics in the accession of chiefs. According to the village chief of Bassikouana (Banibangou district), the position of village chief was by inheritance in the past (i.e., since the creation of the chieftaincy in the colonial era). Today, it is a formal process that involves household heads as electors and the canton chief as supervisor. As a result, people with money and influence can accede to the position, trumping the ‘rights’ of inheritance. ‘Everything,’ he concluded, ‘takes places between those with power and the big [i.e., canton] chieftaincies.’ The village chief of Banibangou agrees on the influence of politics now. In the past, he explained, one became a village chief in Banibangou by inheritance, but today, the village has six chiefs ‘who have inherited nothing’. This refers to the fact that the jurisdiction of the village chieftaincy of Banibangou has been divided by the creation of new villages out of quartiers. The quartier chiefs were appointed by the village chief, but thanks to ‘politics’ (i.e., lobbying), now, ‘as soon as they have enough people [in their quartier], they get the support of the administration to become chiefs’, even though, in his view, their families have no right to such a position.
The influence of money is made clear by the fact that the process of accession may be quite costly to the candidate. Thus, although the procedures leading to accession are normally a public service (defrayed by the state), they are actually funded by the candidate, who may expect – according to an official interviewed in Abala – to pay the equivalent of anywhere between 765 and 920 euros to cover them. Among other things, the funds pay for fuel for the canton chief, the gendarmerie (which must travel for the administrative inquest) and the prefect, and the defence and security forces, who will have to attend and protect enthronement ceremonies. Although these expenditures are in fact illegal, supervising authorities in a district – such as the mayor – cannot act without risking derailing the process. According to the official of Abala, interference has led to vacancies in some chieftaincies that has lasted for over three years. The incident previously reported (in the section on administrative governance) of a village chief in the district of Abalak removed by his groupement chief for partisan reasons also highlights the influence of politics (in particular, electoral politics) on the position of chiefs, who often appear in that light as pawns in a rigged chessboard.
The general view – and this is paramount among old-style chiefs, i.e., chiefs who have secured their position under the pre-democratic system – is that these changes are subverting the chieftaincy system as it has been established from time immemorial (actually, from the colonial era). From the contender’s point of view, however, it is the legitimacy of an exclusionary and unrepresentative status quo that is under threat. On a broader level, chiefly positions appear to be vulnerable to money and politics. This affects the legitimacy of the traditional chieftaincy more generally, as it may make them less credible and only able to hold on to derivative power.
The creation of new chieftaincies often undermines the legitimacy of the ones they are breaking away from, creating tension between legitimacy and legality.
In recent regulations, the creation of a new chieftaincy has been streamlined into a semi-formal process whereby a critical number of household heads (for quartier and village/tribu chieftaincies) or of village or tribu chiefs (for canton/groupement chieftaincies) petition for this. In the case of new village or tribu chieftaincies, the application of the petitioners must be recommended by the canton or groupement chief, signed by the mayor, the prefect and the governor, and submitted to the Minister of the Interior. In the case of new canton or groupement chieftaincies, the first incumbent of a new groupement explained that the application must be supported by ten recognised village or tribu chiefs, or alternately by 20 chiefs of villages/tribus that are in the process of being recognised (by the Ministry of the Interior). These particular stipulations perhaps reflect general experience rather than a written, formal regulation.
Once the application has been accepted by the Ministry of the Interior, the creation of the chieftaincy becomes a legal, more formal process. In theory, this process includes two investigations, or enquiries. A socioeconomic investigation is conducted by the planning office of the central administration, and which aims at understanding certain factors such as the real reasons behind the demand for creating a new chieftaincy, the actual number of supporters involved, and the length of time the applicant population has occupied an area. It also studies the question of the naming of the new entity (which will it be, with what meaning). The administrative investigation is conducted by the gendarmerie and verifies and validates the data collected in the first enquiry. The decision about the proposed chieftaincies follows the submission of the reports for these investigations.
The whole process as it exists today is favourable to the creation of new chieftaincies and results from the changed political context brought about by democratisation (the process was more tightly controlled before 1991). It implies that local populations have a much greater say in the creation of chieftaincies than before. And this is where new authorities appear to be challenging the legitimacy of older ones. Indeed, in Ader, the chiefs of groupements that view themselves as long established are critical of the creation of new groupements, blaming the government of President Mamadou Tandja (2000-2010) for its policy of easing this process and praising President Mahamadou Issoufou for the current tightening of conditions for the creation new chieftaincies. Related misgivings are also observed in the districts surveyed in Tillabéri. The ‘proliferation’ of chieftaincies is said to devalue and trivialise the position of a chief.
To protect their position (or their perception of it), some chiefs resort to the law, thus stoking a tension between the question of legality and the problem of legitimacy. Thus, the chief of the long-established 3rd groupement in Tchintabaraden questioned the legitimacy of breakaway groupements, which he described as mere ‘creations in a council of ministers’, while, in his view, ‘the laws regulating traditional chieftaincy in Niger did not provide for the creation of new groupements or cantons’. One reason behind his criticism, however, was that some of the breakaway groupements were created following applications from Black Tuareg tribu, whose members felt they were excluded from consultation, decision making and benefits under groupements headed by light-skinned noble Tuareg, such as the 3rd groupement. The 3rd groupement chief mounted a legal challenge against the new groupements, claiming that in their founding application they had claimed support from groups that did not in fact support them. This challenge led to an administrative census implemented by the prefect and mayor of Tchintabaraden with a view of establishing that some Black Tuareg tribu chiefs still paid allegiance to him.
Another issue for the 3rd groupement is its viability. Since the Tuareg nobility is a minority social status group, if other social status groups are allowed to form their own chieftaincies, they risk moving below the demographic bar for the existence of a groupement (i.e., there is a risk that, with time, the groupement may be liable to be dissolved). Supporters of the creation of new chieftaincies, on the other hand, point out that the process is conducive to peace and stability. One village chief under a recently created groupement stressed that new creations were a good way to assuage the frustration of being governed by remote chiefs born in communities that did not have the same cares and concerns as one’s own, thereby preventing possible destabilising actions.
In sum, the issue of legitimacy is not a straightforward one, mainly because legitimacy derives from a dynamic context, largely prompted by the politics of democratisation. This may mean that what we have observed is very much a situation in flux or a moment of transition, one that is moving people from old-style chieftaincy towards a new (though not totally different) chieftaincy system. In such a moment, the parameters of legitimacy themselves are unstable, with old ones weakening and new ones not yet fully established.
As much of the response data mentioned above suggests, the position of chief in local arenas is challenged or, in the reading of some, even undermined, by democratisation.
The challenge comes from decentralisation and the rise of elected officials, the interventions of vote-seeking politicians, the influence of money, and the ability of groups or individuals to use democratic rules to gain autonomy. This institutional menace appears so grave that some respondents in a focus group in Tchintabaraden claimed that the chieftaincy –with some of its key powers taken away by judges and gendarmes, and with the coup de grace coming from elected local governments, freedom and human rights justice that see some elements of customary justice as violations of human rights that may incur punishment – has become so irrelevant that it could (or should) be abrogated. It bears noting that this was a frustrated response to a question on the capacities of customary chiefs of assisting the administrés: nevertheless it echoes many other negative – if less radical – assessments of the kind heard during fieldwork.
However, and as mentioned before, any evaluation should take into account the fact that the chieftaincy in Niger is not an isolated institution. It is both deeply connected to state administration and embedded in local politics, so that major shifts in these two fields must affect it in ways that could feel more threatening than they actually are. First, negative assessments are made against the background of nostalgic beliefs that in the past things were stable and orderly – which is far from true. Indeed, similar statements are made about the state of Niger itself, which would have been a more functional and stable entity under military rule and is now going to the dogs owing to democracy and its corruptions. Second, the assessment is often contradicted by examples of the usefulness of chiefs, especially when their role is understood not in isolation but in collaboration with other authorities. For instance, in the same Tchintabaraden focus group, respondents concurred that other institutions, either ‘traditional’ – such as religious authorities operating in matters of marriage, inheritance, divorce, death – or ‘modern’ – such as the municipality, the gendarmerie – all need chiefs as a validating or mediating authority.
The key concepts here are proximity and formality. The strengths that make chiefs indispensable despite the apparent crisis documented above are that they are much closer to the people than other governing authorities, and yet at the same time they have a formal status which makes them relevant to the population as an easy entry point into the world of government. Thus, in a post-fieldwork focus group held in Niamey with representatives of community organisations in northern Tillabéri and Tahoua, the crisis was acknowledged but the key recommendation was not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but to convene ‘estates general of the chieftaincy’ (discussed in more detail in this chapter’s conclusion) that would debate all the crisis issues and propose a reform agenda at national level. In sum, the idea was that the chieftaincy needs to be updated.
Traditional or customary chieftaincy in Niger is a powerful asset for local governance, given the political-economic structures/conditions in the country. Contrary to Mali, Niger did not break with the colonial policy of formalising and integrating the chieftaincy into the territorial administration and the justice system. The chieftaincy system has therefore grown into what it is today, through the watershed moments of independence (1960), democratisation (1991) and decentralisation (1998). Since 2015, chieftaincy has been organised by a law that further integrates it into central government.
In this chapter, we have reviewed and analysed some of the roles chieftaincy currently plays in Niger, and under what conditions. The challenges presented by, in particular, the processes of democratisation and decentralisation have often led to a sense of an institutional crisis of the chieftaincy relative to the position it held under the single-party and military regimes. That sense of crisis might be about a process of change in the chieftaincy system, which is not accompanied by any regulatory effort from the state. But in the regions studied, and especially in Tillabéri, that is compounded by the pressures that are bearing down on the system – almost crushingly – from the entangled forces of community and radical extremist armed groups, Nigerien defences forces, and Western military interveners.
Although both northern Tillabéri and northern Tahoua are Sahel-Sahara areas where state governance is limited and fragile, a key difference between them is that the security crisis pertaining to what one might broadly call the radical extremist threat from northern Mali (though we have seen it is a bit more than that), which directly affects northern Tillabéri more than northern Tahoua. Thus the benefit of studying the two regions is that one can compare problems related to the chieftaincy system in districts with roughly the same background, and assess the effect of the radical extremist threat, i.e., high insecurity, versus the effects of the other issues identified in the study. Our conclusion thus has two subsections: general issues and recommendations, and security issues and recommendations.
The chieftaincy in Niger is not directly politicized. It is normally secluded from politics by the fact that chiefs are, to all intents and purposes, administrators – therefore enjoying (in theory) the autonomy that administration normally has with respect to the political class. Yet, if one could sum up the many issues that beset Niger’s chieftaincy today into one world, it would be politization – together with lack of resources in the case of lower-level chiefs. This problem is far from restricted to the chieftaincy. Niger’s entire administration suffers from politization, today even more so than in the past. The problem extends even to local government, especially as the country has not organised local elections since 2011. In effect, Niger’s Seventh Republic is based on shaky constitutional foundations; it is meant to be run by a government elected at national and local levels, which is not the case today. The general issues for the chieftaincy should be considered with this in mind.
In large part, politization is consequent to democratisation. Although elections in Niger are not of the highest quality in terms of freedom and fairness, they are still relatively well run, meaning there is always a risk that the incumbent will lose power and opponents gain ground. To limit those risks, politicians from both the majority and the opposition parties make extensive use of their powers of manipulation. If state administration has, in this way, been turned into a bastion of the ruling party and its allies, the chieftaincy, which is ‘soft’ administration and close to constituencies, is a battleground for the political class. Thus, as mentioned in the subsection on administrative governance and social support, there was the case of a village chief removed from his post for political reasons. However, the reverse situation can also occur, where chiefs are put into post by the government because they are expected to toe its line.
All the functions of chiefs are liable to be politicized. For instance, their administrative work relies on good relationships with mayors, prefects, judges and civil servants in ministries in Niamey. The very diversity of these authorities can help chiefs withstand against undue pressures. Well-established chiefs – at groupement and canton levels particularly – might be well protected by their personal prestige and status, but they could still lose their positions if those in power deem it necessary. A chief’s prestige and status often rests on their ability to provide for their administrés, notably by being seen as prime movers in securing development projects and the building of social services infrastructure (e.g., school, infirmary). That ability is easily dependent on political connections shaped by partisanship. Many more examples could be given, but the upshot is that the legal autonomy of chiefs as arms of the territorial and justice administration, and particularly their invaluable roles in preventing conflicts and in post-conflict peace consolidation efforts, must be protected if their usefulness to the state and society is to be preserved or salvaged. Three key recommendations may be advanced to ensure such protection.
Uphold the law: While the law governing the chieftaincy system is generally perceived to be solid, the underlying problems (mostly related to politics) uncovered in this study impair it to some extent. To ensure that the chieftaincy does not lose its positive governance function, an ‘estates general convention’ could be organised. Such a convention’ (from the historical French process of the états généraux, of revolutionary fame) would convene delegates from all branches of a particular sector across the country to debate problems and recommend solutions. 'Estates general’ should propose solutions and then build consensus around them. Bringing the Ministry of the Interior on board (i.e., a body headed by a member of the political class) would be a key step to push such a convention forwards.
Provide resources: Such resources would be both material and non-material. This recommendation should be nuanced: higher-level (canton and groupement) chiefs generally receive material resources (payments and equipment) but lower-level chiefs do not. If it is a difficult proposition, that such chiefs, who are much the more numerous, be on the payroll of the state, they should at least receive indemnities and compensation in specific cases, and especially when taxes are low. They also must receive training and assistance (non-material resources) for some of their other roles. Such support could markedly improve chiefs’ performance and the faith that administrés have in them, increase chiefs’ confidence in administrative personnel, and possibly improve chiefs understanding of the risks and benefits of democratic governance. With decentralisation, local authorities have been given many additional responsibilities, but these have not been matched with an equal ability to raise taxes locally or receive fiscal transfers from the central government.
Codify customs: The codification of customs – even only on the basis of jurisprudence – and the standardisation of procedure, although delicate processes, could result in significant benefits in the stabilisation of chiefly authority and insulate their position from undue influences, thereby countering politicization. Aside from the transparency and objectivity that could give customary justice the same appeal as modern justice, such reforms might reduce or eliminate the problem of justice by allegiance (to the chief) and the fact that, in a changing world customary justice is becoming increasingly irrelevant or inadequate, while its legitimacy hints it may have an important role to play in Niger today. In order for chiefly authority to retain legitimacy vis-à-vis the outside world, it will be important to understand the extent to which different forms of traditional justice are in line with international human rights principles.
The security threat is specific to the region of Tillabéri – even if Tahoua has not been completely immune to some of its effects. But the recommendations below include some elements that are generalisable even to areas not in the throes of armed conflict.
These recommendations are grouped into four categories: institutional, political, regulatory and de-escalating. The institutional and political recommendations seek to address the issue of the marginalisation of the Fulani who, although they are a sizeable minority in northern Tillabéri, lack the power and influence of the Zarma/Songhay, Hausa (Kurfey), and Tuareg – which largely explains the longstanding state indifference to their plight. The regulatory and de-escalating recommendations seek to address potential sources of conflict that lie beyond the power of chiefs, and which, if developed, could lighten the burden for them.
There are two key institutional recommendations. One is to create more Fulani groupement chieftaincies. In the present context, there is only one Fulani groupement chief in northern Tillabéri, and it lacks legitimacy because it is based on the small Woodaabe segment of the Fulani community. Not coincidentally, the chief of this groupement was abducted shortly after we interviewed him. Groupement chieftaincies are important because their leader communicates directly with state authorities and has a voice on the public stage, unlike tribu chiefs who have to go through higher-ranking chiefs and often lack the financial and material resources to tackle problems before they grow too big. Another institutional recommendation is to hold a forum on the role of the chieftaincy. While this harkens back to the ‘estates general’ notion that was mentioned in the previous section, it will also offer a forum to discuss institutional changes that are specifically geared toward strengthening the physical security of the office of chief.
The political recommendations boil down to securing a fairer representation for the Fulani in the political institutions, especially in parliament and perhaps in organisations such as the Haute Autorité à la Consolidation de la Paix (HACP). In the present context, the composition of electoral districts in northern Tillabéri means that while no candidate can hope to win a seat at the national assembly without the vote of nomadic minorities (Fulani, Tuareg, and Arabs), deputies regularly hail from the sedentary groups. Special limitations – reserved for minority voters – have been instituted in Banibangou and Bankillaré, but anyone (i.e., not just a person from a minority group) can run for deputyship in those areas. Our recommendation is that in those areas, an ordinary circumscription (open to candidates from majority groups) be created alongside the special circumscription (reserved for candidates from minority groups). This will effectively create a minority quota that will allow minority representatives from those areas to be elected for the national assembly and will advance the interests of their constituents against state indifference or unresponsiveness.
The HACP was created in the late 1990s – then under the name Haut Commissariat à la Restauration de la Paix – to address the grievances of Tuareg rebels. It has since remained a de facto Tuareg-controlled and Tuareg-focused institution, although its mission is to protect the peace, especially in the Sahel-Sahara where Tuareg coexist with Fulani and sedentary farmers. A solution must be found whereby the institution becomes more open, particularly at decision-making level, to non-Tuareg groups, perhaps via a permanent board.
The regulatory recommendation concerns the regulation of small arms and light weapons. The region is awash with such weapons, which makes deadly conflict more probable – i.e., the kind of conflict that lies beyond the remit of customary chiefs, and which can easily escalate into some sort of war. In the early 2000s, customary chiefs played an important role in the campaign against small arms in the region of Diffa, mainly as ‘agents of sensitisation’ who facilitated state communication with local populations on a sensitive matter.
Finally, what we call here de-escalating recommendations relate to measures that should be taken (1) to end the conflict in northern Tillabéri, and (2) to strengthen inter-community ties via mechanisms of traditional and customary authority. The proposed measures to end conflict are not, in themselves, original, but might be seen as innovative in the context of northern Tillabéri, where they have not been tried previously. In the region of Diffa, a deradicalisation centre has been set up (in the town of Goudoumaria) and a ‘disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration’ process has been set under way, even though militants there have been, on average, much more violent – and seemingly, much less open to dialogue – than those in northern Tillabéri. In fact, when the Fulani militia disbanded in 2011, one of the promises made was that the fighters would be integrated into Niger’s defence and security forces – as had happened with Tuareg and Tubu rebels in the past. That promise was not kept, a fact that helps to explain the Fulani sense of betrayal. Such a process must be promoted in the region, even though the role of chiefs will be limited, in part due to the transborder nature of the issue.
Regarding the strengthening of inter-community ties, it would require further research on the nature of those ties and the mechanisms that could be further developed to aid the process. One example that could be mentioned here is that of the Fulani offices of rugga and garso mentioned in this report, which play key roles as itinerant justices of peace, sometimes involved even in defusing conflicts that have led to violent deaths. At the moment, these offices are mostly (though not exclusively) restricted to Fulani communities but could be extended to Tuareg ones and, indeed, play a defusing role in relationships between Fulani and Tuareg groups. In addition, traditional authorities could play a key role in setting up inclusive inter-community dialogues for different communities to get to know and trust each other, learn from each other, and even work together.