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Diffa Arabs


Diffa Arabs

Diffa Arabs (also known as Mahamid Arabs) is the Nigerien name given to Arab nomadic tribespeople living in eastern Niger, mostly in the Diffa Region. Numbering no more than 150,000 and accounting for less than 1.5% of the Niger's population, the Diffa Arabs are in fact the western most dispersion of Arabic speaking Sudanese nomads, primarily drawn from the Mahamid sub clan of Sudan and Chad.


  • Movement into Niger 1
  • Tensions with neighbors 2
  • Diffa Arabs expulsions, 2006 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Movement into Niger

The Nigerien Arab populations include groups drawn from the Shoa or Baggara Arabs, the first clans of whom are believed to have arrived in what is now Niger sometime in the 19th century. Small groups of the Ouled Sliman, overrunning the Kanem Empire, filtered into the area between the late 19th century and 1923, joining with those Shoa pastoralists who were already centered in Tintouma area. In the 1950s a small number of KanemChadian Arabs moved into the area, but the population remained small. In the mid 1970s there were only around 4000 nomadic Arabs in eastern Niger.[1] But following the 1974 Sahelian Drought a much larger population of Sudan Arab clans began to move into Niger, followed by others fleeing the civil war and the Chadian-Libyan conflict in the 1980s, settling near Diffa.

Tensions with neighbors

Many in the Diffa Arab community fought against 1990s Tuareg rebellion, and in recent years, have come into increased conflict with Hausa, Kanuri, and Tuareg communities.[2] News reports quote Nigerien officials during the 2001 census reporting that Arab communities were in constant conflict with their neighbors over resources, were armed, and that "A relative unanimity prevails among the population who want them to leave the area" [3]

Diffa Arabs expulsions, 2006

In October 2006, Niger announced that it would deport the Arabs living in the Diffa region of eastern Niger to Chad.[4] This population numbered about 150,000.[5] While the government was rounding up Arabs in preparation for the deportation, two girls died, reportedly after fleeing government forces, and three women suffered miscarriages. Niger's government eventually suspended a controversial decision to deport Arabs.[6][7] Arab Nigeriens protested that they were legal citizens of Niger, with no other home to return to, and that the Military of Niger had seized their livestock, their only means of livelihood.[8]


  • James Decalo. Historical Dictionary of Niger. Scarecrow Press/ Metuchen. NJ - London (1979) ISBN 0-8108-1229-0
  1. ^ See Decalo (1979)p. 31 & 179
  2. ^ Niger Country Profile, IRIN News - United Nations, February 2007update.
  3. ^ NIGER: Govt expulsion order will fuel instability, Arabs warn, IRIN News - United Nations, 26 October 2006.
  4. ^ BBC NEWS | Africa |Niger starts mass Arab expulsions
  5. ^ Reuters AlertNet - Niger's Arabs say expulsions will fuel race hate
  6. ^ BBC NEWS | Africa |Niger's Arabs to fight expulsion
  7. ^ UNHCR |Refworld - The Leader in Refugee Decision Support
  8. ^ 'I have nowhere to go', Fiacre Vidjigninou, 24News (South Africa) 31 October 2006.

External links

  • Getty Images photos of Diffa Arab men facing expulsion from Niger, 2006: here and here.
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