Michael Zumstein: This House is not for Sale, Niger (2011)

Lagos, capital of Nigeria, is now paying the price for the country’s growth. Banks, telecommunications and oil companies try to settle in the city, making the price of land follow the surge of oil – Nigeria becoming world’s second exporter to United States. More attractive than ever, the city of Lagos has now to deal with thousands of migrants, coming from the inland and border countries to gather in squalid shanty towns. One of them, Festac Town, was a symbol of modernity in the 1970s, when it was built. Nowadays, the district no longer provides neither electricity nor running water but only precarious and derelicted housing conditions. As many others, its streets are often flooded because of almost nonexistent water management.The inhabitants of these shantytowns are the perfect target for property developers (and some of Nigerian state members), always trying to win any piece of land. The struggle is unequal, as the people living there have no idea what their rights are. Even if they try to resist estate agents harassment by writing on their houses’ walls “this house is not for sale”, they are still easily evicted. Eviction after eviction, the city of Lagos grows like a cancer, paying no attention to the living conditions of its 13 millions and more inhabitants, and making road traffic to the city center harder everyday.Only a very few get to live in wealthy districts such as Nicon Town, one of the new real estate projects built on the ground of evicted shantytowns, and surrounded with high fences and walls. To balance this anarchic growth, the SERAC (Social Economic Right Action Center) try to help the inhabitants of the unsanitary districts, and put pressure on Nigerian state to find a solution for those thousands of people. But the country itself appears as a victim of an uncontrolled development.

This work was produced within the project « Dignity – Human rights and poverty » of Amnesty International

*I appreciate that the photographer has take the time to capture the spirit of the people…

photo #4:

Makoko shantytown is one of the biggest of Africa. With the population explosion, the grounds of the shantytown are sought after by real estate developers.

photo #8: 

The Nicon Town real estate project on the wealthy Lekki Peninsula of Lagos in Nigeria is designed for the upper middle class.

photo #12: 

Evicted from Makoko shantytown in 1990, the Ilasan Housing Estate inhabitants are once again threatened with eviction. This housing estate which has never been serviced is sought after by real estate developers.

photo #13: 

Mr Melvin P. Daji (second left) is a lawyer. He hired of crew of workers to build wooden bridges for the inhabitants not to walk in the flooded streets of Ilasan Housing Estate. Evicted from Makoko shantytown in 1990, the Ilasan Housing Estate inhabitants are once again threatened with eviction. This housing estate which has never been serviced is sought after by real estate developers.


CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC. August 2014. Elias won the Rémi Ochlik Award for his work in the Central African Republic, where he followed 20 men from the French Foreign Legion. Part 1 of the serie.

Photograph n°1: French Foreign Legion soldiers are waiting for the next patrol on Aug. 24 .

Photograph n°2: French Foreign Legion soldiers are hiding behind sandbags on Aug. 16.

Photograph n°3: French Foreign Legion soldiers wait in the camp of Bria on Aug. 23.

Photograph n°4: A French Foreign Legion soldier is getting his head shaved.

Photograph n°5: French Foreign Legion soldiers are preparing for a long patrol in the east of Central African Republic on Aug. 20.

Elias first went to the Central African Republic in August of 2014, a few months after sectarian violence claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people. He had seen the work of photographers such as William Daniels and Michael Zumstein, who had also covered the conflict, and wanted to cover the tense situation in the country from a new angle. “I thought I would embed with the French army because it hadn’t been done before,” he says. “Randomly, I ended up with the French Foreign Legion. At first, I thought I would look at France’s military engagement in the country but, in the end, my work changed and became about these men. I didn’t expect them to welcome me the way they did. We developed a real relationship to the point that they forgot I was a photographer. I was able to document their lives.”

Photograph: Edouard Elias


Michael Zumstein: Crisis in Central African Republic - part II (2014)

On the 5th of December 2013, Christian anti-Balaka militiamen came to Bangui to take control over the capital and overthrow transitional President Michel Djotodia, who had come to power in March 2013, after the Seleka’s military coup. This attack, and the harsh repression of the Seleka soldiers, predominantly Muslim, against civilians, plunged the country into fear, starting a vicious circle of inter-community violence.

During the month of December, the gap grew wider between those who claim to “have been living well together, before”.
Day after day, rumours exaggerate the exactions from both camps, urging both Christian and Muslim extremists to looting, revenge and reprisals. Then, public beatings started to occur. Every day. In front of French soldiers of the Sangaris Operation.

Every morning of December, terrorized Bangui inhabitants looked at the Red Cross employees removing the corps of those who had been killed during the night.

Today, almost one million of Central African have left their homes to take a refuge in schools, churches or on the tarmac of the Bangui airport, which is under the protection of the French Army. A very deep humanitarian crisis adds to a political and security one.
The International Community hesitates to get involved, afraid by a country where political life is governed by coups and politicians are not well known.

France, who intervened too late and with not enough soldiers, can’t rely on the African forces of the MISCA (International Support Mission to the Central African Republic) which is too disorganized. The former colonial country is now stuck in the middle of the Central African quagmire, in spite of itself.

Central African Republic is going through the most important crisis of its history. Everyday, hate, resentment and despair guide its inhabitants towards a dark future.

*For both ethical and empathetic reasons I haven’t posted some of the more violent or explicit photos. There is an on-going ethical dilemma about taking pictures of the deceased, but I will concede that it’s important for others to know exactly what’s at stake when they browse through daily headlines.This is really happening. This is really happening now. and 99% of news media outlets are reporting very little on it. View the full series here.