There’s no one coming to save us but ourselves

Saturday August 26 2023

Supporters of National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland wave the Russian and Nigerien Flags as they gather for a demonstration in Niamey, Niger near a French airbase on August 11, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Soon after the Niger coup that removed President Mohamed Bazoum from office, crowds poured into the streets in support of the putsch. Many waved Russian flags while others trashed the French flag. When the jubilant were interviewed, they voiced strong support for the coup.

They said that France, instead of helping them develop over the years, had instead exploited them.

Thus, they now wanted to replace France as their development partner with Russia.

This view has generated a lot of support in Africa and in Pan-Africanist circles around the world.

Read: Russia moves to fill void left by France in West Africa

But for me, the scenes and sentiments in Niger, far from being a beacon of hope, clarify what is wrong with Africa.


First, we seem not to learn from history that coups, though demonstrative of weakness of the state and attendant problems of mismanagement, are not the solution. In 1971, Ugandans went into the streets to celebrate Idi Amin’s coup against Milton Obote. Within a few years, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The number of people killed by the Amin regime is estimated to be 300,000.

Amin’s torture chambers at the infamous State Research Bureau make Kenya’s Nyayo House torture chambers look tame by comparison.

Sudanese welcomed Omar Bashir’s coup, but soon realised that Bashir was not the saviour they had hoped for. When Bashir was removed from power after much suffering and bloodshed, the new rulers discovered theft and mismanagement of public resources on an epic scale.

None of the many coups in Nigeria or Ghana, at first welcomed by the people, ever brought any remarkable transformation in their lives. I am willing to bet that the coup leaders in Niger or Burkina Faso or in Guinea will not expand democracy or bring prosperity.

Read: Military coups in Africa: What determines a return to civilian rule

Second, and more crucially, Africa’s development will not be brought by development partners, whether France, Russia, China or America. We have to totally rid ourselves of this deeply ingrained belief. No doubt, development partners can help.

But what will really transform our lives is when we finally solve our crisis of governance. Good leadership ensures the rule of law, not impunity of those in power; it protects public resources, not steals them; it invests in critical areas like education and agriculture, not underpins fabulous lifestyles of politicians.

The raison d’etre of good leadership is transforming people’s lives, not accumulating wealth for its relatives and cronies. It is profoundly disturbing that instead of demanding that our governments work to the highest possible performance standards, we instead look to this or that development partner to extricate our countries from the humiliating conditions of underdevelopment.

Third, placing hope in foreigners to save us indicates that, at a psychological level, we have lost confidence that our governments will ever transform our countries. People have lost confidence in their countries and risk everything to escape to Europe. What a terrible indictment of post-independence governance. It’s time to reinvent ourselves