The political situation in Niger and West Africa as a whole continues to be in a flux. While people and their movements across the region are mobilizing against war and neo-colonial intervention, regional bodies have taken a stand in favor of the status quo. In a communique released on August 22, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) announced its decision to suspend Niger from all the bloc’s activities in response to the July 26 military takeover. The declaration released by the PSC on Tuesday had been adopted at a meeting held on August 14.
On this episode of Journalists for Sale, we tackle West Africa and the recent coverage it has been drawing due to the military junta taking power in the country of Niger. Niger joins the so called “Coup belt” in Africa, where countries like Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali have all experienced military coup takeovers in the last few years. We are joined by David Hundeyin, a Nigerian journalist and filmmaker whose name has been in the news lately for his reporting on the corrupt Nigerian politician and now president of the country Bola Ahmed Tinubu. David helps us understand the anti-imperialist sentiment spreading around the region as well as the roles of countries like Russia and China in trying to present an alternative economic and security alliance as opposed to ECOWAS and the West.
Senegal began “regrouping” its forces in the region of Thiès at the start of this week after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered the activation of a standby force for a potential military intervention in Niger. The bloc’s chiefs of defense staff concluded another two-day meeting in Ghana on August 18 on the deployment of military force as part of ECOWAS’ response to the July 26 military coup in Niger. ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah stated during Friday’s closing ceremony that the “D-Day” for the intervention had been decided: “We are ready to go anytime the order is given,” while adding that the bloc was readying a mediation mission as they had “not shut any door.”
The African Union (AU) said on Wednesday, August 16, that it will not support the military intervention that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is planning, with the backing of France and the US, to restore ousted Mohamed Bazoum to Niger’s presidency. Bazoum was deposed in a popularly-welcomed coup on July 26. 10 days after the expiry of the deadline given by ECOWAS to Niger’s military government to restore Bazoum, the sub-regional bloc is beset by internal disagreements and domestic opposition in its member states. After the ECOWAS heads of states ordered on August 10 “the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force” and directed “the Chiefs of Defense Staffs to immediately activate” it, the chiefs were scheduled to meet on August 12 to set the wheels in motion.
French newspaper Le Figaro cited an unnamed diplomatic source over the weekend who alleged that the US backstabbed France during Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s trip to Niger. The piece is paywalled but was summarized here. France reportedly fears that the US might tacitly recognize Niger’s interim military-led government in exchange for being allowed to retain its bases. Should that happen, then the US would proactively replace France’s security role in the Sahel before Russia/Wagner has a chance to. This concern is predicated on rational calculations.
The coup in the West African state of Niger on July 26 and the Russia-Africa Summit the next day in St. Petersburg are playing out in the backdrop of multipolarity in the world order. Seemingly independent events, they capture nonetheless the zeitgeist of our transformative era. First, the big picture — the Africa summit hosted by Russia on July 27-28 poses a big challenge to the West, which instinctively sought to downplay the event after having failed to lobby against sovereign African nations meeting the Russian leadership. Forty-nine African countries sent their delegations to St. Petersburg, with 17 heads of states traveling in person to Russia to discuss political, humanitarian and economic issues.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday ordered the activation and deployment of a reserve force to “restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger” while also saying it would seek peaceful means to restore Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum. After the summit, Alassane Ouattara, the president of Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), said the West African bloc agreed to launch an intervention “as soon as possible” and said his country would provide a battalion of 850 to 1,100 soldiers. The ECOWAS summit in Nigeria came a few days after the August 6 deadline that the West African bloc gave Niger’s junta to reinstate Bazoum.
Following the military takeover of power in Niger from the Bazoum-led administration on July 26, concerns have been raised about the supply of uranium as the EU and especially France depend largely on uranium from the country to fuel their nuclear reactors and for medical purposes. Data from Euratom indicates that Niger was the EU’s second largest supplier of uranium in 2022, when it alone supplied the EU with 2,975 tU (representing 25.4%). The landlocked country was followed by Canada which supplied 2,578 tU (22.0%), and Russia which supplied 1,980 tU (16.9%) that same year.
Niger is shaping up to be the surprising frontline of the new Cold War. Yesterday, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered the “activation” and “deployment” of “standby” military forces to the country, an action that threatens to spark a major international war that could make Syria look minor by comparison. In this venture, ECOWAS has been fully supported by the United States and Europe, leading many to suspect it is being used as an imperial vehicle to stamp out anti-colonial projects in West Africa. On July 26, a group of Nigerien officers overthrew the corrupt government of Mohamed Bazoum.
The Africa Team of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and the U.S. Out of Africa Network (USOAN) condemn the threats of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lead a military intervention into Niger. We believe this would be an act of subservience to U.S./EU/NATO interests. As Western imperialism seems to be losing its neo-colonialist grip on Africa, it is trying to expand its use of puppets and proxies to undermine resistance. The military coup in Niger on July 26 deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and installed General Abdourahamane Tchiani as the country's new leader.
Approximately 30,000 people gathered in Niger’s capital of Niamey on August 6, as the country faced a looming threat of military intervention led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. However, as the deadline set by ECOWAS expired on Sunday, the regional bloc held an emergency virtual meeting with the African Union to discuss the situation in Niger. The bloc did not publicly comment on the expiration of its ultimatum, but did on August 7 issue a brief statement, announcing that the chair of ECOWAS, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, had convened a second Extraordinary Summit of the Authority which would take place in Abuja on August 10, to discuss “the political situation and recent developments in Niger.”
The regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has drawn up a plan for a military invasion of Niger to restore the ousted Mohamed Bazoum to presidency. However, in Nigeria, whose president Bola Tinubu is the current chair of ECOWAS, the Senate has refused to support the military intervention. On Saturday, August 5, at a closed-door executive session to deliberate on Tinubu’s letter seeking the Senate’s support for “military buildup and deployment of personnel for military intervention,” “almost all senators… totally ruled out the military options,” an unnamed senator told Premium Times.
Last week’s military coup in Niger could be a game-changer in the New Cold War if the junta cuts off the uranium exports upon which France’s nuclear energy industry depends, kicks out its former colonizer’s troops from their last regional bastion, and/or requests Russia’s “Democratic Security” assistance. Unlike the patriotic military coups in Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, which were condemned by the West but not considered a threat to its neocolonial stranglehold over Africa, the one in Niger is ringing alarm bells. France and the US strongly condemned this latest regime change, with the first suspending all aid in parallel with the EU while the latter is preparing to follow suit.