By Abayomi Azikiwe
Niger has remained defiant in the face of repeated threats by French and United States instigated efforts to stage an invasion of the uranium-rich West African state.
On August 6, tens of thousands of Nigeriens rallied in the capital of Niamey in support of the now ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which came to power on July 26, overthrowing the western-backed President Mohamed Bazoum.
Federal Republic of Nigeria President Bola Tinubu, whose recent election was shrouded in controversy, has been the subject of fierce criticism inside the country and within the entire West Africa region. Tinubu, who is now the chair of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had threatened just days after the ascendancy to power of the CNSP to lead a military intervention to reimpose Bazoum.
In fact, ECOWAS had given the CNSP in Niger an ultimatum to step down by August 6. The date passed with ECOWAS announcing another meeting for August 10. The tone of Tinubu shifted, saying that the regional organization would apply more strenuous diplomatic measures aimed at “restoring democracy” in Niger.
On August 5, the Nigerian Senate, which is dominated by the president’s own political party, the All-Progressives Congress (APC), strongly repudiated a proposal by Tinubu for the upper legislative body to authorize an invasion into Niger. The country shares a border with Nigeria and its people are very close as it relates to language and culture. People on both sides of the Nigeria-Niger border speak the Hausa language and adhere to the Islamic religion.
Regional Voices Speak Out Against Military Intervention
On a more popular level, other social and political forces came out against the proposed military intervention. A frequent comment by many in the Nigerian media was that the West Africa region should not become another Libya or Ukraine. The implications of such statements represent a clear rebuttal to U.S., French and NATO foreign policy in Africa and internationally.
In a press release on August 4, leading Nigerian political organizations stated:
“[The] Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, has called on Nigeria to quit the ego trip by rescinding the decision to lead ECOWAS to war against the military junta in Niger Republic, saying that the country cannot afford to fund such expensive adventure while her citizens are suffering.”
Just four days later, News Ghana printed an article citing an African regional workers confederation in their opposition to the imperialist-backed intervention in Niger. According to this report:
“The African Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has advised the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resort to dialogue in resolving the political impasse in Niger. It said it was imperative that the regional bloc reversed its earlier course of using the military to intervene in the crisis. Such an action would degenerate into violent hostilities, it cautioned.”
Despite the efforts by ECOWAS to build consensus around the idea of military intervention, the actual history of the regional organization portends much for its current efforts. A series of military seizures of state power have occurred since 2020 when Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew the civilian government in Bamako. ECOWAS immediately called for the resumption of civilian rule yet some three years later, the Malian military regime remained in power.
Later in Guinea-Conakry on October 1, 2021, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya led a military coup against the civilian head-of-state President Alpha Conde who had sought to change the national constitution to guarantee a third term. Quite similarly as in Mali, the sanctions announced by ECOWAS have failed to cripple the Guinean economy which derives most of its foreign exchange from the mining of bauxite and iron ore. In Guinea during recent months there have been demonstrations by several organizations demanding the holding of multi-party elections. However, the military government remains firmly in power.
Burkina Faso experienced two military coups in 2022 where the most recent on September 30 of last year, took on an anti-French political character. In Burkina Faso, as has occurred in Mali and Niger, many people have called for greater ties with the Russian Federation and a sharp move away from the former colonial power of France.
All of these states have taken positions in support of the CNSP in Niger. Consequently, ECOWAS cannot claim that it genuinely represents the governments and people of the West Africa region in the present period.
The same article quoted earlier on the regional trade union movement, goes on to further say:
“ITUC-Africa, in its statement, pointed out that a military option by ECOWAS would ‘most likely destabilize and worsen the already precarious situation in Niger with real contagion effects for the entire West Africa sub-Region and Africa as a whole. Already, we are witnessing the interplay of external geopolitical interests and the issuance of counter-threats from some members of ECOWAS against the military invasion of Niger. These threats and counter-threats are heating up the sub-region’s political spaces and pose real threats to peace, stability and cohesion,’ the Unions noted. The statement reiterated the ITUC-Africa’s commitment to constitutionality and democracy. It appealed to ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) to take steps to convene a solemn assembly to discuss the security and related issues threatening the socio-economic and political stability of the Sahel region and the African continent.”
These developments have posed a serious crisis for the U.S. and France. A delegation of diplomats from the United Nations, African Union (AU) and the Biden administration, in the personage of State Department functionary Victoria Nuland, visited the capital of Niamey on August 7 seeking to convince the CNSP to relinquish power to Bazoum. The CNSP leadership turned down the diplomatic delegation in its request to meet with the ousted western-backed president.
International Dimensions of the Niger Crisis
The Russian Federation through its state media has opposed the military interventionist plans of ECOWAS. Although diplomatically Moscow has not come out in defense of the CNSP, there are strong indications that the majority of Nigeriens are in favor of seeking defense assistance from Russia. Reports say that the CNSP has reached out to the Russian-based Wagner Group to assist the West African state in its security interests.
An article published by Tass News Agency on August 8 emphasizes that:
“More than 60% of Nigeriens deem Russia to be the country’s most reliable foreign policy partner, the Economist reported, citing data from a survey conducted by Premise Data.
“According to the poll, less than 10% of Nigeriens named Saudi Arabia as being the country’s most loyal partner, and about 5% of respondents named the U.S. Even fewer respondents listed China, France and the UN. According to the results of the survey, none of the respondents mentioned the United Kingdom. At the same time, while 54% of respondents opposed foreign intervention in Niger, half of those who favored such a scenario said they would support Russian intervention, so long as the country sides with the rebels. U.S. intervention was supported by 16% of respondents, the African Union by 14% and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by only 4%.”
Also, the North African state of Algeria, which shares a wide border with Niger, has come out against the western-inspired ECOWAS interventionist program. Algeria, a former French colony from 1830-1962, fought an eight-year war against Paris winning its national independence in 1962.
Middle East Eye news agency says of the situation:
“The deadline by ECOWAS, a regional political body that has led several interventions in the region in the past, passed on Sunday (Aug. 6). On the same day, Algeria’s president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, went on the airwaves calling for mediation efforts and a return to ‘constitutional order’ in Niger. ‘A military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region, and Algeria will not use force with its neighbors,’ Tebboune said.”
Burkina Faso military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, President of the Transition, visited St. Petersburg to attend the Russia-Africa Summit in late July. The summit was subjected to repeated threats and political attacks utilizing the corporate and government-controlled media outlets in the imperialist states and their satellites globally.
Traore’s address at the Russia-Africa Summit took on an anti-imperialist character evoking the ideological legacy of Captain Thomas Sankara during the mid-1980s when he led a coup that attempted to establish a revolutionary government in Burkina Faso. He challenged the continuing economic dominance over African economic, political and military affairs.
At the Russia-Africa Summit Traore stated:
“The problem is seeing African heads of state who bring nothing to peoples who are struggling, but who sing the same thing as the imperialists, calling us ‘militia,’ and therefore referring to us as men who do not respect human rights. What human rights are we talking about? We take offense at this. It is shameful. Against this, we African heads of state must stop acting like marionettes who dance each time the imperialists pull on our strings. Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin announced that grain would be shipped to Africa. This is pleasing, and we say thank you for this. However, this is also a message to our African heads of state, because at the next forum, we must not come here without having ensured… the self-sufficiency of the food supply for our people. We must learn from the experience of those who have succeeded in achieving this in Africa, weaving good relations here, and weaving better relations with the Russian Federation, in order to provide for the needs of our peoples… Power to our people. Dignity to our people. Victory to our people. Homeland or death. We will prevail.”
This is the level of determination that is required for the revolutionary social classes in Africa to achieve genuine liberation, unity and sovereignty. The promise of an anti-imperialist front on the continent allied with progressive forces around the world represents the political ingredients needed to end the exploitation and oppression of African people in modern history.