25.08.2023 Author: Viktor Mikhin

The crisis in Niger and the bankrupt politics of the West

The crisis in Niger and the bankrupt politics of the West

Much of the world has been following developments in Niger with great concern since the coup d’état took place in the West African country on July 26. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, for example, which has been closely following these developments, in an official statement emphasized its country’s desire to maintain Niger’s security and stability, as well as the state’s constitutional and democratic system. “Egypt stresses its full solidarity with the Nigerien people and calls on all parties in Niger to prioritize the higher interests of the nation and preserve the safety of its citizens,” read the statement.

A group of military officers in Niger announced three weeks ago that they had ousted and taken President Mohamed Bazoum into custody. Bazoum had previously taken office two years ago in the country’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from colonial France in 1960. Meanwhile, a number of regional and world leaders, mostly from the Western world and representatives of former colonial powers, condemned the coup and called for Bazoum’s release. The Economic Community of West African States known as ECOWAS also held urgent meetings and cautioned that it could militarily intervene to reinstate Bazoum if the coup leaders refused to release him. The ECOWAS deadline of 6 August to meet its demands, however, has passed, and there is no sign of military action.

Burkina Faso and Mali, both ECOWAS members, have stated that they will not support any military intervention and have even declared their support for the coup. Considering that both countries have witnessed five consecutive military coups over the past few years, carried out, as the US and European press notes, with the help of Western powers, their stance was certainly not a surprise.  Algeria, which shares a long border with Niger, has also expressed its opposition to external military intervention by ECOWAS. Algeria’s government emphasized that while it supports the reinstatement of the deposed president and the constitutional process, it views African military intervention in Niger as further complicating the situation and opening the door to open conflict and brutal Western intervention. The Guinean authorities, for their part, said they believed it was necessary to refrain from sanctions and military intervention, which would not solve the problem but could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe with consequences that could extend beyond Niger.

Even in Nigeria, whose president, Bola Tinubu, initiated the call for military involvement in Niger, claiming that “there have been enough military coups in West Africa,” there are powerful groups asking for prudence and a peaceful end to the current standoff. Nigeria’s position is critical because it supplies the majority of its neighbor’s electricity as well as additional essential goods.  Nigerians are well aware from personal experience that Western powers’ meddling in Niger’s internal issues will not be limited to that nation.

The situation in Niger is difficult, and the sudden course of events has disproved recent claims that the West African country is a success story when compared to its neighbors that face similar economic challenges and have an extended struggle with terrorist organizations, including Boko Harem (an organization banned in Russia) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). The irony that afflicts many African nations has been best exemplified by Niger, which is rich in natural resources, particularly uranium, which is vital for nuclear reactors in Europe. However, because of the actions of former colonial powers, its people live in poverty, with 40% of its budget coming from foreign aid.

Despite the fact that the old colonial power France has a military presence in Niger alongside the United States, this has not shielded the country from the recent unrest on the continent, which has turned it into a battleground of proxy wars between major world powers vying for its strategic location and abundant natural resources. This is yet another striking illustration of how the old colonial powers fell short of their goal of bringing peace and prosperity to the people of Africa. France has lately reduced its presence in Africa, owing mostly to its colonial past and a growing resentment among Africans toward serving its own interests and maintaining control over their affairs. There have been reports of a potential French military withdrawal from Niger after coup leaders severed links with France, the United States, and Nigeria. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrived in Chad to follow up on a recent summit with Sudan’s neighbors held in Cairo. While the meetings will focus on Sudan’s deteriorating situation, the Egyptian official will have an opportunity to gain a better grasp of the situation in Niger and how Egypt, as one of Africa’s leading countries, can help restore peace and stability there.

The United States, which is thousands of kilometers away from Niger, sparked interest right away and dispatched provocateur envoy Victoria Nuland to Niamey, but she returned empty-handed, unable to meet with Mohamed Bazoum or even a new leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. Nigeriens are all too aware of what the so-called diplomat’s attempts at mediation in Ukraine ultimately resulted in: a coup d’état, the ascent of a neo-Nazi regime, and the subsequent war against Russia at the behest of the United States. In spite of this, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “[he] spoke to Nigerien President Bazoum to express our continued efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the current constitutional crisis.” Paris, which at first took a combative stance as the ECOWAS ultimatum approached, has also signaled a softer stance. According to the French Foreign Ministry, “ECOWAS must make any decision to restore constitutional order in Niger.” By doing so, France has fully accepted that it will be unable to assist in resolving this situation and fostering cordial relations with Niger. Since the rest of the world has long since abandoned using military force to resolve political issues, Paris has utterly revealed itself to be politically bankrupt, just like the US.

The concerned nations and the African continent must prevent Niger from devolving into a protracted civil war or into another failed state where terrorist organizations are protected. The international community expects that more can be done to persuade the coup leaders to resume the constitutional process without resorting to military force.


Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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