By Abayomi Azikiwe
A series of military coups in West Africa since 2020 have taken on an anti-French character in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. All three of these former French colonies constituted a significant part of a military alliance ostensibly designed to fight “terrorism” and uphold democratic governance.
Nonetheless, this model of neo-colonial dominance from Paris did not prevent the penetration of so-called Islamic extremist groupings who were armed and committed to taking control of huge swaths of territory in the Sahel. Due to the political transformations in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, all three states have withdrawn from the G5.
In addition, they have called for the removal of French military forces from their respective states and pledged to move ahead with a new Alliance of Sahel States (AES). After the military seizure of power by the National Committee for the Protection of Our Homeland (CNSP) in Niger on July 26, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-member alliance of governments in the region, threatened to intervene militarily in order to reimpose ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. This proposed initiative aiming at a military invasion by ECOWAS was backed by both France and the United States.
However, due to the public outrage throughout West Africa inside and outside of the Sahel states, the proposal for the reinstallation of Bazoum, who is an asset for Paris and Washington, was shelved. France eventually withdrew its ambassador after a standoff with the Niger authorities which lasted for several weeks. Even within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the bulk of ground troops for such an invasion would have to come from, the Senate majority held by the All-Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party of President Bola Tinubu, rejected such a military adventure into a neighboring state.
During September the military-led governments of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger held a summit where they signed a joint defense agreement known as the Liptako-Gourma Charter. In the aftermath of this initiative, it became quite obvious that the G5 French military pact was teetering on the brink of collapse. Absent three of the five West African states, it would be impossible for the French defense project to continue.
Since the formation of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) encompassing Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, two other governments holding power in Chad and Mauritania seem to have abandoned the beleaguered G5 neo-colonial construct. The question then remains what will be the next step for France and the U.S. in pursuing their military presence in West Africa?
Nigerian President Tinubu, the current chairperson of ECOWAS, addressed a recent summit of the regional group held in Abuja claiming that the formation of the AES would not hamper what he described as the mission of the 16-member body. Tinubu asserted that one of the key purposes of ECOWAS was to fashion good governance among member states.
At this ECOWAS summit the grouping announced the conditional readmission of the CSPN government in Niger. No mention was officially made of the other two AES governments in Mali and Burkina Faso.
According to the Associated Press:
“West African heads of state on Sunday [December 10] officially recognized the junta in power in Niger but said their sanctions to reverse the July coup in the country would remain even as they initiate steps for a ‘short’ period of transition to civilian rule. A team of heads of state would engage with the junta ‘to agree on a short transition program’ as against the three years the soldiers earlier proposed, Omar Alieu Touray, president of the regional bloc of ECOWAS Commission, said at the bloc’s meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja…. [However, the CNSP seemed to reject the offer saying] ‘We won’t back down. We will not compromise. We will not betray, and we will overcome,’ the junta wrote without further details.”
Imperialist Militarism Faces Challenges
In his address, the Nigerian head-of-state derided the AES members saying their project is undemocratic. Nonetheless, the questions surrounding democratic governance in Africa extend far beyond the holding of multi-party elections.
Any genuine democratic administration would jealously guard against imperialist interventions under the guise of humanitarian, security and anti-terrorism assistance. The operational existence of the former G5, Operation Barkhane and the ongoing U.S.-led Africa Command (AFRICOM), represent the struggle against neo-colonialism that is yet to be won.
A recent report published by Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical research center, says:
“Chad and Mauritania announced that they are paving the way for the dissolution of the G5 Sahel, an alliance that was formed to address development and security issues, particularly terrorism in the Sahel region, Radio France Internationale reported on Dec. 6.
“Why It Matters: This decision is the formalization of the alliance’s decline following Niger and Burkina Faso’s announcement on Dec. 2 that they intended to exit the alliance, citing its failure to meet objectives. In the G5 Sahel’s place, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have united to establish the Alliance of Sahel States, or AES. Their expressed desire is to create a confederation of independent states that ultimately evolves into a federation with a centralized government overseeing and dictating policies for the entire group of countries. While the establishment of the AES may enable Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to enhance cooperative efforts in security and defense, financial constraints and inadequately trained armed forces in each nation diminish the likelihood that the federation will take root.”
Despite this assessment of the military prospects of the AES by Stratfor, the Malian defense forces have retaken the city of Kidal near the border with Algeria in the north of the vastly arid country. The military base in Kidal had been occupied by the United Nations peacekeeping forces (MINUSMA) now exiting the West African state.
After the departure of MINUSMA, the rebels took control of the base. However, thousands of Malian troops headed in the direction of the base fighting battles along the way before seizing Kidal.
Although events in Ukraine and Palestine have overshadowed the rapidly developing security situation in West Africa, the trend towards breaking ties with the western imperialist states continues. Obviously, the imperialist military presence in these territories has only worsened the security and economic situations.
Proposal for a Monetary Alliance
The neo-colonial domination of Africa does not only encompass military, diplomatic and cultural affairs. The economic impact of the international capitalist financial system is perhaps the most pernicious aspect of modern-day imperialism. One of the aims of the African Union (AU) is the creation of a continental-wide monetary framework. Today the strength of the U.S. dollar, Euro and French franc, among other currencies, carry far more weight than those generated by the 54 member- states which make-up the AU.
Within the subregion of West Africa where ECOWAS was formed in 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria, there have been discussions about introducing an independent currency. The existing national currencies are either pegged against the French franc or substantially devalued against the U.S. dollar and the Euro.
At a recent summit of the AES held in early December, there were numerous issues discussed which could solidify the union between these states. According to an article published by Africa News:
“The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger recommended on Friday [December 1] creating a confederation as part of a long-term goal of uniting the West African neighbors within a federation. The top diplomats of the Alliance of Sahel States met in Bamako for two days. Their discussions aimed to flesh out the workings of the new alliance, with the ministers emphasizing the importance of diplomacy, defense and development ‘to consolidate political and economic integration.’ Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the recommendations will be submitted to each head of state, who are due to meet in Bamako at an unspecified date.
“The countries’ economy and finance ministers who met in late November advised creating a stabilization fund, an investment bank and a committee that would study an economic and monetary union.”
Nevertheless, the desire for a regional and continental currency is really a political issue. The AU member-states and the subregional groupings must break their dependency upon the world imperialist system led by Washington and Wall Street.
The formation of a continent-wide socialist transition process would provide the ideological and material basis for the unification of Africa. Outside the consolidation of the AU region, there can only be decades of future dependency upon the imperialist system for Africa and billions of others across the world. Absent the Global South, the domestic working class and nationally oppressed, the imperialists are left with no basis for their exploitative system.