Niger’s new interim government has rightly accused France of sending its troops and “a large amount of military equipment” to the region in preparation for a possible invasion to overthrow leaders that toppled the previous president, who was a puppet of Paris. Officers in Niger’s military claim that troops from the French Armed Forces have been deployed in several West African countries in preparation for a military attack on Niger’s new leadership, to be mounted in coordination with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesman for the Nigerien coup leaders and its new interim government, made the above claims in an announcement on national television. In his communiqué, which was read out on a state television channel, the coup leaders, who toppled President Mohamed Bazoum at the end of July this year, also repeated their call for French troops to be withdrawn from Niger. The statement calls on “national and international opinion to witness the consequences of this aggressive, underhanded and contemptuous attitude adopted by France.” The facts clearly show that French “military cargo aircraft have enabled large quantities of war material and equipment to be unloaded in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Benin, to name but a few,” continued Colonel Abdramane.
Relations between Niger and its former colonial power France have been strained since Paris declared the new military government illegal. Many politicians around the world have accused France of extreme hypocrisy, as Paris has previously supported interim governments that came to power following military coups in a number of other countries in the region, including Algeria. Analysts claim that France supports military coups in Africa depending on which French agenda they seek to serve. Amid a sharp rise in anti-French sentiment, Niger’s military leaders have also followed the example set by coup leaders in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, and are seeking to sever the country’s longstanding military ties with France. Many West African countries have accused the French Armed Forces of playing destabilizing role in their countries in order to promote France’s interests.
When he was asked about the latest remarks by Niger’s military leaders concerning a possible attack, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, merely said, rather pompously: “We do not recognize any legitimacy in statements made by the leaders of a coup.” He declined to comment directly on claims made by the Nigerien military that France was deploying troops in other parts of West Africa in readiness for a planned attack on Niger. The comments made by the French President, who believes he can speak for the UN and decide for himself which coups are legitimate, display a striking arrogance and short-sightedness. Macron needs to be reminded that we are living in the 21st century, and France no longer controls half of Africa, even though it still aspires to rob these countries of their enormous natural resources. But the old days of inhumane French colonialism are long gone, and the peoples of Africa want to live in free, independent states and use their natural resources to serve their own interests rather than handing them over to their former master for nothing.
Under pressure from Paris and Washington, the main regional grouping, ECOWAS, has imposed sanctions on Niger and put its so-called reserve troops on standby in case of a possible military intervention. ECOWAS insists dogmatically that the use of force is a last resort, and that it would prefer to see a peaceful solution to the impasse. In its ongoing talks with Niger, this regional grouping is serving France’s interests and seeking a diplomatic solution that benefits Paris.
Bola Tinubu, the President of Nigeria and current Chairman of ECOWAS, recently proposed a nine-month transition to civilian rule – a measure that would be supported by the main powers in the region. But the new government in Niger insists that it will need three years to restore order in the country. The fact is that during this so-called transition to civilian government any military action either by France or any of the African nations will be outlawed.
At the end of the recent two-day summit of G20 leaders, held in India, journalists insistently questioned Emmanuel Macron about the roughly 1,500 French troops based in Niger. The French President declared that any decision on the deployment of these troops would have to be taken in coordination with the deposed President, who, as was said above, was a French puppet. “If we ever redeploy… I would do so only at the request of President Bazoum,” said Macron in a press conference.
Experts believe that, since the new leadership in Niger does not wish to serve French economic and colonial interests, Paris is now calling both for a military attack, and also for an increase in its military presence in several African countries. France, once a model of democracy, has refused to recognize the many large-scale public demonstrations supporting the country’s new leaders that have taken place in Niger in recent weeks. These include protests and sit-ins outside French military bases, with participants demanding that French troops “pack up and go home.” This is a clear sign that the people of Niger are opposed to the French military presence in their country. However, these calls have gone unheeded and Paris has so far refused to respond to these protests or engage in open dialog with the interim leadership, since the latter is acting in the interests of its own people rather than those of France.
There is a simple and quite evident explanation for all this – France still gets most of the uranium it needs to run its nuclear power stations from Niger. If France breaks off its relations with Niger, Paris will lose its main source of uranium, and the French economy is currently facing a shortage of electrical power. The war waged by the US with the help of its lackey, the current neo-Nazi government in Ukraine, has reduced cheap gas imports from Russia. Instead, Washington is forcing Europe to buy expensive liquefied natural gas from the US, thus tripling energy prices in Europe, including in France. France is therefore desperately in need of a source of cheap electricity at the moment.
In terms of its economy, France also still maintains its colonial mindset, and 50 percent of Niger’s revenues are transferred to the French treasury. This economic policy has been in effect for decades, and as a result the French have grown richer and Niger’s population of some 26 million people suffers from high levels of poverty. In Niger, which is currently – through the fault of France – one of the poorest countries in the world, the spiraling inflation and other woes have led to the overthrow of the former puppet president and the rise to power of patriotically-minded military officers.
It should be noted that Niger is not the only country in Francophone West Africa that has been forced to hand over more than 50 percent of its revenue to France. Several years ago, ECOWAS considered the idea of creating a common currency, the eco, to prevent this plundering of African countries. The ECOWAS member states agreed on the proposal, but France intervened and sabotaged the entire project, as it would deprive it of a huge amount of revenue, particularly from its former colonies.
Quite understandably, this is just one of the reasons why anti-French sentiments run so high in the West African region.
Another reason why the military toppled President Bazoum was that his government had failed to effectively deal with the problem of attacks by militants, despite his close cooperation with France, which was not threatened by these terrorists. Critics have warned that military intervention in Niger will not help to eradicate terrorism in the country. Instead, they claim, it would actually worsen the security situation by creating a power vacuum in the country, and the terrorists would take advantage of the situation to sow further chaos, both in Niger and in the wider region.
And finally, it should be borne in mind that all the coups in West Africa over the past few years, including those in Mali, Burkina Faso and elsewhere, were staged in order to break off relations with France, which has entirely compromised itself both during its colonial past and in its current neo-colonial form, and which has always unashamedly sought to plunder the wealth of African nations.
Victor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.