Banjul, 8 May 2019: The “Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa” (IHRDA) and Niger-based partner “Timidria” on 7 May 2019 filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Niger before the ECOWAS Court of Justice, on behalf of 260 families living in Danki village in Niger, in a matter pertaining to slavery.

The said families had been living in slavery for a long time during which they were offering gifts to their masters who were at the same time occupying the post of customary chiefs. In 2007 when Danki became established as an administrative unit with an appointed village chief, and having been severed from the tutelage of their former masters, the families felt they no longer had any obligation to continue offering them gifts. The said masters then seized the Nigerien courts to claim the right of ownership over the lands occupied by the 260 families. Basing on Djerma customs by virtue of which former slaves cannot acquire ownership of land by inheritance, the Nigerien courts ruled in favour of the former masters of the slaves.

The plaintiffs request the ECOWAS Court of Justice to rule that by legalizing a discriminatory custom, Niger has failed to protect the people of Danki against serfdom and discrimination, thus undermining their right to development. The complainants further allege the violation of the right to a fair trial and pray the Court to order Niger to pay a moral compensation amounting to Two Billion, Six Hundred Million CFA Francs ((2,600,000,000 FCFA – about USD 4,450,000).

It should be noted that Niger in 2003 passed a law prohibiting slavery.