The Yearning for Relief

A History of the Sawaba Movement in Niger

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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.
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Biographical Note

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: 10.1017/asr.2014.106]
" 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

CONTENTS
Preface and Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xix
List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxiii
Prologue: Historicising Sawaba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

PART I
DELIVERANCE, CONQUERED AND LOST
1. The Rise of the UDN, 1946–1957 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Niger’s First Political Party . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Djibo Bakary and the PPN-RDA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
The Righter of Wrongs: Towards the Union Démocratique Nigérienne . . . . . . . . 63
Agitation and Manoeuvres, 1954–1956 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
The Triumph of the Camel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
2. To Revolutionary Supremacy, March 1957–May 1958 . . . . . . . . 93
Sawaba as Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
Tam-Tam: Canvassing in the Late 1950s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Riot in April . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Bar Rivoli: Consummating Victory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
3. The Challenge of the Fifth Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
The Love for All Peoples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
The Blackmail of Isolation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
Ali Amadou and de Gaulle on the Place Protêt . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
The Hour of Sputnik . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
4. A Referendum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
A Corsican Coup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195
Defections and Regrouping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
Campaigning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212
Polling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
5. Declining Fortunes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
Deceit and Dissolution: The Break-Up of the Assembly . . . . . 246
Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
Pistols and Polling Booths: Campaigning under Harassment 262
Fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272

PART II
PREPARING FOR RELIEF
6. Going Underground, 1958–1961 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
A French Colony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 292
Government Architecture and Party Mobilisation . . . . . . . . . . 297
We Celebrated Independence in Our Cell: Patterns and
Themes of Emerging Opposition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 307
7. Building to Undermine, 1959–1962 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321
Noms de Plume and Lorry Drivers: Early Communication,
Funding and Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
Shock Troops: Early Agitation, Meetings and Missions . . . . . 341
The Bars of Zinder: Towns and Agitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350
8. Repression, Dissension, and the Road to Arms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361
Siberia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 362
I Forgot To Tell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 366
Discord . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373
Nobody Can Overthrow the Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 379
The Sole Grounds for My Existence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391
9. Training Cadres and Commandos, 1958–1969 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397
To More Forgiving Heavens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 398
Recruitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413
From Sabongari to Villa Lotus: Building a Pan-African
Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421
Living offf the Cold War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 440
‘Sawaba Educated Us’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 447
Cut offf from Niger: Militants for the Cause . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 464
Dining with Chou En-lai . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 476
To Mount a Rebellion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495

PART III
FIGHTING FOR DELIVERANCE
10. Infijiltrations, 1960–1964 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511
Awaken the People: The Southern Network and the Nigerian Hinterland . . . . 521
He Flew over Agadez: Infijiltrations in the North and the Algerian Connection ...534
Infijiltrations in Western Niger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 549
Camouflage Your Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 561
Infrastructure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 569
11. Regime Responses, 1962–1964 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 573
The Bedroom of the Ambassador . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 574
The State of the Regime . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 585
Foreign Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 588
Espionage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 593
Death in the Courtyard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 596
The People of the Coast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 604
1964 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 611
12. Guerrilla War, July–December 1964 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 620
The Battle Begins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 622
Attack—If Need Be With Sticks! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 630
Organisation, Strategy and Tactics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 641
October . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 661
The Presidential Gardens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 685
New Assaults, Fresh Reprisals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 691
13. Guerrilla War, 1965–1966 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 704
The Counterofffensive of the Franco-RDA Combine . . . . . . . . . 708
Enemy Territory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 719
The Scorpion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 728
One Has to Strike . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 732
The Man of 13 April . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 740
The Last Military Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 751
Concluding Observations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 761
14. The Road of Honour: The Destruction of a Social Movement,
1965–1974 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 771
Torture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 772
Persecution and the Loss of Asylum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 780
The Years of Darkness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800
The Voice of a Woman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 814
The Tears of Our Mothers and Sisters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 824
Epilogue: Aftermath and Memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 835
The Return to the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 850
The Rebellion in the History of Niger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 857
A Social Movement on the Battlefijield . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 863
Our Problem was a Problem with France . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 869
Sawaba in the Era of Democratisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 875
Trauma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 899
Annexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 907
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 953
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 961

All interested in the history of Niger. Also of interest to specialists of decolonisation, the history of French West Africa, militant social movements, nationalism and rebellions.