Land Grabbing at Gountou Yena
In 2015, the ancestral residents of Gountou Yena, an agricultural valley in the heart of the Nigerien capital of Niamey, were expelled forcibly from their land without any compensation or due process, in order to make way for a luxury hotel developed by a company from Nigeria called Summerset Continental. When faced with the undeniable fact that the residents had customary title to the land that had been recognized by the state, the city of Niamey simply revoked all their land rights and proceeded with the eviction. The residents even went to court to stop the eviction and obtained a stop-work order, but the company – together with police and soldiers – entered the land anyway, destroyed their crops and buildings, and threw them out. As a result, the people of Gountou Yena lost their livelihoods – their crops and farmlands – and the source of their cultural heritage.
The residents went to the ECOWAS Court of Justice to file a lawsuit against the state of Niger, but the ECOWAS Court ruled against them in July 2020. In October 2020, the community petitioned the Court to review its judgment on the basis of new information.
Meanwhile, Summerset Continental has pulled out of the deal, leaving behind a half-constructed hotel and a swath of fertile, abandoned farmland. Most recently, the government has announced the construction of a giant, state-of-the-art national Cultural Center in the Gountou Yena valley, which will be built by famed Nigerien architect Mariam Kamara. It is unclear whether the Center will be built on the wrongfully confiscated land or just adjacent to it, but it is clear that the original inhabitants of the valley will be completely ignored and their history buried if nothing changes.
ON FEBRUARY 6, 2020, THE ECOWAS COURT OF JUSTICE HELD HEARINGS IN CASES AGAINST GUINEA AND NIGER STATES FOR SERIOUS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS. The legal actions are the first that the PILIWA Network has supported before the ECOWAS Court. Two NGOs - les Mêmes Droits...