- Title: NIGER: Age old nomad festival re-reluanched, after years of regional insecurity
- Date: 21st September 2011
- Summary: INGAL, AGADEZ (SEPTEMBER 17, 2011) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WOMEN AND MEN DANCING
- Embargoed: 6th October 2011 13:00
- Location: Niger, Niger
- Country: Niger
- Topics: Arts
- Reuters ID: LVADX0IYOS33O35JMRE2GJDLCHJS
- Story Text: Every year for centuries, thousands of Tuareg and Wodaabe nomads gather in September in the town of Ingall in the Agadez region of northern Niger for "the Festival of the Nomads."
For three days, the sound of drums fill the sky over Agadez for the event, known also as Cure Salee Festival or "Salt Therapy".
Ingall is famous for its oasis of salts flats, rich in minerals for animals nomads bring to drink there. The festival also coincides with the end of the rainy season making it celebration of the beginning of a new start.
The age-old tradition has been cancelled in recent years because of violence by Tuareg insurgents, known for kidnapping westerners.
But last year was reinstated amid hopes that security has improved.
The gathering, which brings together nomads from neighbouring countries like Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria and Nigeria is also an opportunity for the nomads communities to discuss and exchange information on current affairs.
This year's theme centered around peace and security in the region, which was at the forefront in the minds of participants.
"This celebration is of great importance because it allows us to get together to exchange information on difficulties that we face as a community, so that an solution can be found," said Ebankawel Ilitinine, secretary general of the associations of Niger's pastoralists.
While addressing the crowd at the event, Niger's Birgi Raffini assured participants that the country's government will do all it can to secure the country from external threats.
"Security is a public asset to all. It's certainly the most precious asset for all our citizens. We all know that our country is facing a multitude of threats, based on the events that are currently taking place beyond our borders. These threats call on all of you to be more vigilant, to prevent our country from being destabilised by armed groups," Raffini said.
From Libya to northern Nigeria, most nomads are united by the same problems. Every year, their territory decreases as cultivated land springs up, especially near water sources.
Finding pastures to graze on and watering holes for their animals is getting more and more difficult, and often leads to disputes between livestock owners and crop farmers.
But for some, the conflict in Libya was the main topic, with some of the festival goers worried that thousands of refugees who are fleeing the war in Libya into Niger will destabilise the country.
"Everyone knows that today, hundreds of Nigeriens who reside in Libya or work in Libya are now returning empty handed. And all these people are coming back to live with communities that are already vulnerable. This will be a blow to the nomad population in Niger this year," Ilitinine said.
The Cure Salee kicks off with a parade -- in which the nomads show off their most beautiful animals.
Another highlight is the dromedary race. More than 30 candidates compete for the top prize over a distance of 15 kilometers.
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