France Plays Checkers, The U.S. Plays Chess in Niger

Niger occupies central position in west Africa
Niger occupies central position in west Africa.

By Julia Wright

The consensus of most Left to Pan Africanist media is that President Emmanuel Macron of France is a very immature statesman – unseasoned in african affairs for which he holds no particular interest beyond the rich raw materials he can get out of his arrogant relationship with the sovereign states he neo-colonizes.

Macron’s immaturity, his lack of historic depth, his flippancy are only matched by the all too obvious bravado of his warmongering towards Niger’s new leaders. No subtlety there : he wants them out of the way and if the CEDEAO can serve as a good cover for a French proxy intervention, then so be it. Corruption and weapons will do the rest.

Macron’s government vision is short-sighted : keeping the uranium supply and the colonial Franc going.

On the other hand the USA, also massively present in Niger, has a much more long term vision of its stake there.

Because the U.S. has invested 110 million dollars in its biggest drone base at Agadez used as a hub of strategic control over the whole of the Sahel and Africa, because the U.S. also has a CIA base in Niger, because the US has known how to weaponize the fact it is not the colonial power, because the U.S. has trained several of the officers who organized the July 26th coup – the State Department and the Pentagon are trying to play it safe in Niger because their interests there go way beyond that State in a context of competition with the rising influence in Africa of Russia and China both key founders of BRICS.

The French are playing checkers, the U.S. with the neocons in the lead are trying to play chess.

Macron is a clumsy ineffective vassal of the U.S. not skillful enough in the eyes of the State Department. Bazoum was also a failed puppet of the U.S. – failed because by not holding on to power he has exposed the U.S. agenda.

The coup leaders deliberately left Bazoum with his iphone and digital equipment : they now have evidence of the foreign power he appealed the most to. It is not a coincidence that his call for help was published in the Washington Post.

That being said, there is a difference between a vassal and a puppet. Puppets are expendable and plausibly denied. To the U.S., Bazoum is no longer a winning card although lip service for his release will be part of the U.S. spin.

The winning card must be the one that will secure the perennity of the mother of all bases at Agadez. Bazoum can be checkmated.

So will the winning card be Barmou – one of the coup leaders ? Can Victoria Nuland and Co count on U.S. military-trained Barmou to further U.S. interests within the government born of the coup ?

As they say in French, rien n’est moins sur. Let’s not hold our breath.

The transitional governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea are manned by military officers who were trained by the West – but none of these new governments have bowed to western interests after taking power. On the contrary.

So, yes, Barmou was trained at Fort Benning. But that begs the question of the reaction of Africans in the United States to the toxic racist atmosphere at such white supremacist military training institutions. The African military trainees learn the blood choke that killed George Floyd – an Israeli army technique. Interestingly it was a post coup Burkina Faso that initiated along with Iran the draft resolution asking that the UN investigate racism and brutality in law enforcement on U.S. soil after George Floyd was murdered.

Officers like Barmou are witnesses to what their African American brothers endure – but also their African brothers living in the United States : Amadou Diallo a Guinean was riddled with bullets because the police said they thought the wallet he was holding was a gun or Patrick Lyoya an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo killed by a bullet in the head on April 4th 2022 in horrifying circumstances.

So to those who may have thought U.S. military training would integrate Africans into the white supremacist mindset – there could also be unintended consequences like biting the hand that feeds you, or simply using the master’s tools to destroy his house.

The american long term strategy in the Sahel is completed by another winning card that the corporate state is keeping close to its chest. A decades old project, a gas oleoduct destined to bring Nigerian gas through Niger to Algeria and to the G7’s Europe was enthusiastically revived when the war in Ukraine cut Europe off from its dependence on Russian gas. A gas substitute was desperately needed – especially after the U.S. blew up the Nord Stream pipeline – or else the whole of Europe would go dark. This is when the building of the Trans Sahara Pipeline revved up with the blessings of pro western President Tinubu of Nigeria.

The U.S. company Chevron has invested heavily in the pipeline all the more so because Chevron is now deeply involved in the gas extraction in Warri, Nigeria, where the pipeline originates.  In  Nigeria, junior workers have periodically denounced their contracts with Chevron as slavery.

Wherever Chevron, one of the top CO2 fossil fuel polluters in the world, goes, environmental scandal,  corruption and disregard for human life follow. Two years ago,the environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger sued that oil giant and won a $18 billion settlement on behalf of 30,000 Indigenous people in Ecuador for dumping 16 billion gallons of oil into the ancestral land of the Amazon. They refused to pay, placed Donziger under house arrest for over 800 days and he had to fight a jail sentence.

So what about the new Nigerien leaders’ reaction to a pipeline dominated by Chevron and being built to supply gas to a Europe that has not broken its colonial ties ?  We can only guess that they were less than eager.

So does the Niger coup mean a defeat for a U.S. oil giant as rich as the U.S. government if not richer? The deep state is part of the Niger picture.

Sandwiched in between the Russia Africa Summit last month in Saint Petersburg – and the BRICS Summit opening in Pretoria today, the U.S. is between a rock and a hard place and the lengths it will go to keep a hold on its zones of influence in Africa are not to be underestimated.

The BRICS founding members among which Russia plays a key role have by their agenda and their economic and political traction drawn the attention of the world away from NATO’s failure in Ukraine and turned the attention of the world to the rise of an empowered de-hegemonized Global South.

The U.S. is slowly realizing that in spite of billions of dollars of investment in military bases and training and equipping terrorists when needed – they are losing Niger to a far greater challenge than the Ukraine one – a new game-changing multipolar order where their hegemony is stalemated.

(c) Julia Wright. August 23 2023. All Rights. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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