Democracy to Africa has two sides? Just look at Niger

Saturday August 12 2023
cnsp supporter

A supporter of Niger's National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) wears a hat with a Russian and a Niger flag as he demonstrates in Niamey on August 6, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Could it be time have that long-overdue meeting to define what democracy really is in an African way?

The late British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, is on record to have said many things about whiskey. Perhaps his best-known whiskey comment was when asked about his thoughts on whiskey, to which he replied: “If you mean whiskey, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.”

“However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean good cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; that drink which enables man to magnify his joy and to forget life’s great tragedies, heartbreaks, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of pounds each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation... then, my friend, I am absolutely and unequivocally in favour of it. This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle.”

Read: OBBO: How Tanzania, Kenya escaped coups

Glaring imbalance

Like Churchill, many Africans are able to argue both sides and are undecided when it comes to matters continent.


We say it is time for Africa to rise, to have a strong respected voice yet we are always the ones invited by some foreign leader who host Africa summit for African presidents waiting in line for the photo op with the host.

Now the coup in Niger has brought about a dynamic threatening to disrupt the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). Now there is a new generation of Africans who are tired of being resource-rich and cash-poor, and they have had enough.

The people of Niger are on the side of the coup plotters. One in three light bulbs in France is powered by resources from Niger, yet Niger lies in darkness. Niger’s uranium powers up the United States, yet Niger remains in darkness.

The junta has cut off uranium and gold supplies to France with immediate effect. They have also shut their airspace to flights. Suddenly what looked like a sleepy African country has flexed its muscle and the world is on edge. Ghana has dared the US to sanction them because of the anti-gay laws, and they have threatened to reciprocate and take over all foreign interests in the nation.

The World Bank has stopped funding to Uganda because of anti-gay laws. How will that scenario play out? Across the continent of Africa, people are getting bolder and telling off exploiters.

Read: World Bank suspends funding to Uganda over anti-gay law

When Ecowas threatens to bear arms against the Niger junta, in a place where the people seem to be on the side of the revolution, then Ecowas must tread very carefully lest they find themselves on the wrong side of history as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have declared their support for the mutiny.

The greatest complexity of this situation is this. Democracy is the government of the people. However, when the people have been pushed to the wall by the people they elected, they will rejoice at anything that replaces that.

European and Asian nations have adopted their own unique form of democracy. A number have adopted a monarchy to run alongside their republics. It is time for Africa to have that long-overdue meeting to define what democracy really is, in an African way.

Wale Akinyemi is the founder of the Street University Email [email protected]