The Sawaba movement and its rebellion in Niger are a totally neglected subject. Klaas van Walraven traces this story from a social history perspective, placing an entire generation of activists, removed from the official record, back into mainstream Nigérien history. Representing a genuine social movement, Sawaba formed Niger’s first autonomous government under French suzerainty. Overthrown by the Gaullists and persecuted, it attempted a comeback with a guerrilla campaign (1960-1966), which ended in failure and led to the movement’s destruction.
The Yearning for Relief – based on numerous interviews with survivors and a vast range of archival sources, including France’s secret service – is essential reading for the reappraisal of Niger’s history and the role of militant nationalist movements in the decolonisation of French West Africa.
Klaas van Walraven, Ph.D. (1997), researcher at the African Studies Centre, Leiden, is an historian and political scientist working on West Africa, in particular Niger. He has also written on international relations and is co-editor of the
Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara.
"An excellent book, well written, based on exceptional sources ... The author plunges the reader into a turbulent and rich political history that makes Niger such a remarkable country in the politics of francophone West Africa ... Klaas van Walraven restores to history reminiscences, which are omnipresent but which were silenced. He returns to Nigériens a hidden aspect of their past ... The photographs of the actors and symbolic sites give this book a unique significance." – Prof. Dr. Mahaman Tidjani Alou,
Université Abdou Moumouni, Niamey "This book will be of great importance for the reevaluation of the history of Niger and of militant nationalist movements in Africa." – Dr. Piet Konings, formerly
African Studies Centre, Leiden "....a path-breaking and seminal study that will be widely read by historians and political scientists on West Africa and specifically Niger … Van Walraven convincingly (re)writes a much-neglected part of West African history, translating oral history into a fascinating written record ... Had it not been for van Walraven’s book, Sawaba’s historical achievements would have soon passed from living memory and thus have been lost forever." – Sebastian Elischer,
GIGA, Hamburg, in:
Journal of African History 54/3
"The Yearning for Relief is a monumental achievement. It is difficult to imagine a more thoroughly researched and multifaceted study
of one of West Africa’s more underresearched “first-generation” nationalist parties." – Jeffrey S. Ahlman, in:
African Studies Review 57 (2014), pp 212-213 [DOI:
The Yearning for Relief is a meticulously researched book. The author draws on an impressive variety of different sources. However, it is the 100 interviews within the Sawaba community that make the book unique. The testimonies and life histories of the Sawabists give life to the story of the movement and to an important part of Niger’s modern political history." – Gabriella Körling, in:
Africa Spectrum 2/2015, pp. 140–142