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Sour relationship between Africa and its colonial masters 

By Samuel Agbelusi
24 August 2023   |   4:32 am
In the late hours of Wednesday, July 26; presidential guards led by a General in Niger Republic announced a successful coup on national television, taking over the government from Nigerienne President, Mohamed Bazoum.

[FILE]France’s President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Niger’s president Mohammed Bazoum ahead of a meeting on Sahel with leaders from the region at the Elysee palace in Paris, on February 16, 2022. – President Emmanuel Macron hosts African leaders on February 16, 2022 ahead of an expected announcement that France is withdrawing its troops from Mali after an almost decade-long deployment to battle a jihadist insurgency. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

In the late hours of Wednesday, July 26; presidential guards led by a General in Niger Republic announced a successful coup on national television, taking over the government from Nigerienne President, Mohamed Bazoum. They effectively suspended all the institutions set up by the constitution and closed the nation’s borders just after putting president Bazoum under house arrest.

The news of a coup in the Niger Republic spread rapidly across the shores of several African countries and its media. In some reports, citizens of Niger celebrated the coup and raised the Russian flag, making the coup perceived as a revolt against French imperialism and neo-colonialism.

Coming after similar events took place in Mali and Burkina Faso by their military junta respectively, several  renowned organisations like the United Nations and ECOWAS have expressed their concerns over the military actions in the country.

The continued ousting of President Bazoum has raised further concerns by the West due to the readiness of his government to protect their interests. Long before now, the French country has kept a cordial relationship with the Republic of Niger by giving the necessary support, most importantly in the fight against the Jihadist ravaging the country. But the strong relationship is perceived by the Nigeriens as exploitation and a continued control of the French country over their economic system.

France’s supposed strong ties with Niger
Before the latest incident, the bilateral relationship between both countries has seen France deploy aids in various forms to help the country develop. In the aftermath of the Mali government suspending the French troops in their country, France relocated their base to Niger building a strong military presence in the country and boosting the security architecture. France–Niger relations are based on a long shared history after Niger gained independence from France in 1960.

However, the history of French-influenced culture and language have been a point of commonality in the creation of a distinctive Nigerien culture from the diverse pre-colonial nationalities which make up modern Niger. France-Nigerien relations continue to be close, the former being Niger’s top export partner (in value), and the French government being almost entirely dependent upon Niger for the Uranium which fuels its extensive Nuclear Power system, mined in the northern town of Arlit.

France benefited economically from their time as a colonial power and still relies on imports from Niger for elements of their economy. Despite the supposed strong ties with Niger, the military junta accused the French country of exploitation most especially the exploitation of Uranium to boost their electricity on their soil and leaving them without substantial power investment.

Amidst the ongoing political crisis and a conflict of interest between both countries, the junta supporters set the France embassy ablaze as the coup marched on through the streets of the capital, Niamey, waving Russian flags, chanting the name of the Russian president and forcefully denouncing former colonial power France.

It is evident that the coup is accompanied by the support of the masses against French policy and this has exposed the West I.e both the US and France atrocities in the Sahel region to the World.

The West exposed?
The West is witnessing a revolt in several African countries most notably in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, following allegations of exploitation and repression. These African countries have suspended all activities relating to their colonial masters. 

In a famous statement by the Burkina Faso President at the Russia-Africa summit, Ibrahim Traore said “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity. The African Union (AU) must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their puppet regimes of the West.”

This statement has further revealed the ongoing revolution against the West sabotaging the resources of the African continent. The main reason for the revolution is as a result of the continued West sabotaging African development by boycotting African oil and gas with other natural mineral resources and also placing a huge debt burden on several African countries.

Recent trends of military intervention in African countries symbolise an attack on the Western colonialism pervading the continent. A key example of the fight against Western imperialism is seen with Colonel Assimi Goita, the current military leader of Mali. 

Upon assuming office in two years, he expelled the French army, broke colonial ties with France, and banned French as an official language. With these actions, the West feared that Niger may follow suit in doing the same which may end the relationship between Niger and France.

Russia’s Romance with Africa 
The East i.e Russia is taking advantage of the several falls in the relationship between the West and some African countries, making the continent a ground for Cold War between the power countries. 

The Russia-Africa summit which was held last Friday is a testament to the efforts of the East in trying to consolidate their new found relationship with Africa. President Vladmir Putin of Russia is playing a key role in extending its relationship by iterating his pledge that Russia will maintain steady supplies of grain and other agricultural products to the continent after its withdrawal from a deal allowing grain shipments from Ukraine.

This is after Moscow’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has fueled concerns of a global food crisis. The Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) was negotiated in July 2022 between Turkey, the United Nations (UN) and Russia as a way of ensuring that Ukraine, one of the breadbaskets of the world, could ensure that its grain could leave its southern ports via the Bosphorus.

The initiative, allows for commercial food and fertiliser (including ammonia) exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi (formerly known as Yuzhny).

Meanwhile, Putin declared at the summit’s opening on Thursday that Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Central African Republic each will receive 25,000 to 50,000 tons of Russian grain in the next three to four months. This is to further their relationship with Africa.

In return, the military leader in Mali has given a green light for the operations of the Wagner group in the country after suspending the troops from France and United Nations.  The paradigm shift in the relationship with Africa from the West to the East is a consequence of the continued ignorance of the West towards the development and growth process of Africa Continent.

The Niger Coup has further received the backing of Russia and the Wagner group which was revealed in a statement spread across social media channels just after the coup was plotted.  The statement reads “This is a moment of long-overdue liberation from Western colonisers and made what looked like a pitch for his fighters to help keep order.

“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers. With colonists who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago,” said the message, posted on Thursday evening.

A critical time for ECOWAS and African Union 
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have expressed their concerns and sent a clear warning to the military junta in Niger calling for the restoration of democracy in the country and the unconditional release of the detained President Bazoum. 

Under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, the commission has declared that they “reject coup and interruption to constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.” The regional bloc has agreed to impose a series of sanctions ranging from financial and economic sanctions to the closure of all borders relating to the country. 

The regional bloc further emphasised that the military junta in Niger must cede power in a week and immediately release and reinstate the country’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, or the ECOWAS will take all necessary measures to restore constitutional order in Niger, including the use of force.

Also in a separate statement, the African Union call for the immediate and unconditional return of the military to their barracks in Niger within 15 days and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of President Mohamed Bazoum.

Meanwhile, the organisation warns that the Council will take all necessary measures, including punitive sanctions, against the country if they refuse to comply with the demands.

The two separate statements from the organizations guiding the affairs of West Africa and Africa respectively expressed total displeasure with the Niger Coup and seek for a resolution to restore the legitimate government in the country.

With the backing of the Wagner group received by the Niger coup plotters and the new found alliance with other countries under the military regime such as Mail, Burkina Faso and Sudan, there seems to be a perceived war that might arise from the shores of the West Africa countries. 

All African leaders must maintain a diplomatic resolution while imposing the sanctions to see to the restoration of democracy in the country. The “use of force” will further escalate the tension and the two superpower blocs might just take advantage and use Africa as a battleground to fight and protect their interests.

Counters from Mali and Burkina Faso
To counter the regional blocs’ sanctions, countries like Mali and Burkina Faso have released a joint statement issuing a stern warning to ECOWAS against using military intervention and further sanctions on the Republic of Niger. They both noted that they are ready to assist and support the government of Niger against any interference.

The two governments revealed that they have requested the needed technical support from Russia in order to support their fellow country and as such the ECOWAS should respect Niger’s sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the leader of Guinea Conakry has released a similar statement taking sides with the Republic of Niger.  This statement coming from the Sahel region is perceived to be a collective effort in the fight against Western imperialism. 

With the strong statement against ECOWAS, it is important that the commission resort to dialogue and not engage in a tussle that will cause more damage to the region and neighbouring countries. The decision of ECOWAS should be pending until all diplomatic means are exhausted.