Friday, 8th December 2023

Stop that Niger military project – Part 2

By Adama Gaye
24 August 2023   |   1:54 am
No matter what America says, despite her laudable efforts at mediating by sending to Niamey, Niger’s capital, Victoria Nulland, her number 2 diplomat, Washington has continued unfortunately to repeat Paris’s mantra.

[FILE] Ghana’s Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Seth Amoama (1st row 4th R) and Ghana’s Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul (1st row C) poses for a group photo with Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) delegates during the Extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana, on August 17, 2023. – West African military chiefs met in Ghana on August 17, 2023 to coordinate a possible armed intervention to reverse a coup in Niger, as Germany called for EU sanctions against the rebel leaders. Alarmed by a series of military takeovers in the region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed to activate a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger. ECOWAS is demanding Niger’s coup leaders release President Mohamed Bazoum after his July 26 ouster, warning that the bloc could send in troops as a last resort if negotiations fail. (Photo by GERARD NARTEY / AFP)

No matter what America says, despite her laudable efforts at mediating by sending to Niamey, Niger’s capital, Victoria Nulland, her number 2 diplomat, Washington has continued unfortunately to repeat Paris’s mantra. Stating that ECOWAS that is failing, must be supported. That is a stance that used to be the norm during the Cold war, from 1946 to 1989, when it agreed to a role-sharing with its European, former colonial powers, giving them the mandate to be in charge of Africa while it was focusing on the bigger picture, namely the containment of the Soviet Union.

No one can understand why when neocolonialism is being rejected across the continent and that former colonial powers have left Africa, why Paris remains still hell-bent to salvaging a divine ownership on over a dozen number of African nations.  

The truth is that with herself and her Western allies calling for the sovereignty of Ukraine to be upheld in opposition to the Russian invasion, it has been suffering from since February 2022, how come France has managed to convince further the international community, to back the military solution to end the coup d’etat in Niger? Many are also aware that it is only doing so to keep control of that hapless country’s uranium while stating the case that her colonial safari is not yet over.

We are living at a time when Francophone people and countries, not necessarily the Trojan horses Paris has kept at their helms, have engaged the battle for a genuine decolonisation, the second and most earnest, of their lands. 

By covering the military coup, may be the ‘parricide’, as it is known in French parlance (killing of his adoptive father, Idriss Deby), by General Mahamat Deby, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, is in the midst of this confusing situation while making the local official players being put to use at meeting like those of EOWAS which create a new rupture between an organization losing touch with the pulses of their nations -and the peoples who no longer are aligned with its erratic behavior.

In light of the growing conundrum, we are now faced with a huge dilemma. Will France bankroll a neocolonial military adventure in Niger with the risk of transforming West Africa into a powder keg?  Will it not be funny to see the African military forces being deployed under the supervision of France? How can Macron justifies this zeal when barely two and four months after he was sworn-in as Niger President, the same Mohamed Bazoum he is projecting as a democracy champion was celebrating next to him, on April 2021, the coup d’Etat made by Deby-son as the sole manner to contain the rebels lurking on Chad?

Let us not overestimate the talk of Russia taking advantage of France’s demise in West Africa. The war against Ukraine and the Wagner rebellion, albeit brief, exposed the status of Russia’s Putin: a giant with clay legs…

Let us also not believe that China is eager to mingle in this complex crisis. The decision to invoke “force majeure” by the Chinese firm Guezouba in order to stop the Kandaji dam it was doing in Niger is the confirmation that the Middle Empire is more capitalistic than ideologically driven: hence the wait-and-see attitude it adopts, based on the tenets of real-politics -namely it bids its time, as advised by one of his paramount leaders, Deng Xiaoping, the father of its economic reform, before following the winning side.

The biggest challenge this crisis lay bare is the democracy decay in West Africa. We have never witnessed such a regression. Rule of law is suffocating. Corruption is rife. Social inequality destroys the social harmony. Ethnicism is back with a vengeance. Insecurity and terrorism all around. Human-rights trampled with. State-violence, the legitimate one, as argues Max Weber, is replaced by the surging of private militias, many created to sustain to power their masters. And, compounding this situation; sovereignty is being lost, even reduced, because leaders in the region are more dealers, willing to sell out what had been hitherto the pride of the nations they are in charge of.

Rescuing democracy will take more that bellicose rhetoric from the ECOWAS leaders who are first and foremost compelled to show their true democratic colors before lecturing the world on what they don’t practice at home.  Going to war in Niger is an even worse proposition. Having failed to fight the rag-tags armies of terrorists and jihadists, unable to play a Leviathan role as the keeper of security in their national borders, most of them have become day-dreamers.

By announcing they will go to war in Niger to do what America failed to achieve in Somalia in 1993 and in Afghanistan (where it ended up negotiating with the Talibans), the West African leaders did not even take into account that they could not fly their Chiefs of Army Staff to a meeting place in Accra this past Saturday, August 12th. Now they will do the encounter on August 16 and 17th just to show off, to increase their bargaining capacity towards a military junta they know they can get out of power. 

Too little, too late. Where will they get the muscles to carry the troops, maintain them, face the budgetary constraints to be added to their dire internal situation? Who will foot the bill? Have they prepared a plan before going to war? Do they have an exit strategy? 

With a landmass of 1, 266000 km2, in the hands of a military backed up by their citizenry and the population of West Africa, this harsh and inhospitable territory that Niger is may be the graveyard for many ill-equipped West African armies -and for France’s neocolonial remaining allure. And at the end of the day, the solution will be worse that the ill it was meant to cure may transform West Africa into a new Libya. 
Gaye, former Director of Communication of ECOWAS, and the author of Hostage of a State (Editions L’Harmattan) that recounts his ordeal.