NIGER MARCH FOR ARAB EXPULSIONS !
Some 5,000 people have held a demonstration in the eastern Niger town of Diffa, calling on the government to go ahead with its plans to expel Arabs. The protesters accuse members of the 150,000-strong Mahamid Arab community of robbery and say their camels disturb the grazing of cattle and goats. A BBC reporter in the area says the dispute is largely related to competition for land and water.
The government last week reversed its policy of deporting the Arabs to Chad. Many of the Mahamid crossed into Niger more than 30 years ago to escape drought, famine and fighting in Chad. The decision to suspend the expulsions came after a cabinet meeting on Friday.
NIGER'S MAHAMID ARABS
Originally nomads from Chad
150,000 live mainly in Diffa State
Many came after 1974 drought
More fled 1980s Chad fighting
Fought against 1990s Tuareg rebellion
Some say that the Mahamid, many of whom are wealthy and control the much of eastern Niger's economy, are backing a politician who plans to challenge President Mamadou Tandja in elections due in 2008. On Wednesday, Mahamid leaders told reporters they would defend themselves against attack and called on the United Nations to intervene. They insisted they were citizens of Niger and "have no other country to go to", after being given five days to leave the country.
Like the rest of the country, the east of Niger is extremely arid. With the Sahara desert expanding quite quickly, there are growing fears that the scarcity of water could spark future problems in many African countries in the region.
BBC NEWS REPORT.