National Geographic : 1975 Aug
to return to their homeland, but that the Niger Government prevented their return. In Niger I heard that the Tuareg refused to leave, fearing discrimination in Mali be cause of their clashes with the government in the 1960's. All my attempts to talk with the displaced tribesmen failed. Since then, most of the refugees have returned home. Canadian Conqueror Comes by Tug In December 1972 I had attended Republic Day festivities in Niger, where I heard a strange pronouncement: "Cordeau is at the gates of Gaya." A young Tuareg uttered this remark from atop his camel, which he had maneuvered into the crowd of spectators at the day's camel races. His comment seemed to announce the coming of a conqueror. But who was Cordeau? A conqueror he indeed turned out to be. I learned that Francois Cordeau, a Canadian shipping expert, was approaching Gaya, near the republic's border with Nigeria, in com mand of three specially designed barges and a tug. Shipyards in Quebec had built the ves sels under a Canadian loan to the republic. Making his way up from the Atlantic delta, Cordeau was attempting to open a route from the sea; landlocked Niger had never known the full benefits of river commerce. Bertrand Dejean, deputy director-general of Niger's River and Maritime Transporta tion Company, explained: "River transport will cut shipping costs on imports of fuel oil and exports of peanuts, cotton, and cattle. Our livestock will no longer lose half their body weight walking to foreign markets." Before the turn of the century, when the French were colonizing West Africa, they envisioned the Niger as le Nil frangais. But the "French Nile" remained only rhetoric. Grandiose agricultural projects failed, and cultural differences between the French colo nies and British Nigeria cut the river in two. In fact, only a rough track today follows the river from Niger into Nigeria. To reach the Kainji Dam, I flew from Niamey to Lagos, Nigeria's capital, then doubled back by car for 350 miles. A five-mile-long barrier of concrete and rock fill built mainly for power production, Kainji Dam forms a reservoir covering nearly 500 square miles. Eventually using as many as 12 turbines, Nigeria will export power upriver to the Republic of Niger, further bridging the gap between the two nations. The Niger: River of Sorrow, River of Hope IM ODERNITY rears a high-rise profile in Niamey, Niger, as car and camel share the street below. Youngsters splash in a pool at the National Museum (facing page), where craft shops, a zoo, and displays of regional architecture acquaint citizens with all sectors of Niger.