Imperialist-aligned forces are preparing for an invasion of Niger in West Africa because it has upset France, the US and their allies.
Western-aligned states in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have given Niger’s new regime until Sunday night to restore deposed president Mohamed Bazoum or face the consequences. They said this may include “use of force”.
A document leaked last week suggested Nigeria was preparing to mass troops in Sokoto state on Niger’s southern border.
A group of generals removed Bazoum at the end of July. They offer no way forward but are boosted by the widespread hatred of French imperialism. The new rulers, to the great anger of the West, have revoked military deals that allow France to maintain a base and 1,500 troops in the country.
The US, which has over 1,000 soldiers stationed in Niger, can’t fly drones from its bases because the country’s airspace has been closed.
The Italian government currently has 350 military personnel stationed in Niger. It’s unclear what all these foreign forces would do if an invasion began. But we can guarantee they would be very warm towards Ecowas troops.
Western governments fear that Niger will come under Russian influence and that the US and its allies will have even less control in the region than they do now.
And Niger produces about 5 percent of the world’s uranium, a crucial component in nuclear power, and has oil and gold resources.
Anti-intervention demonstrators gathered in the capital Niamey on Thursday of last week, 3 August, which marked Niger’s independence from France 63 years ago. They pledged support for the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland, as the new regime is known.
M62, a coalition formed last year with the aim of forcing the withdrawal of French forces, organised the protest. French forces had hoped to use Niger as the hub of their operations in the region after they were forced out of neighbouring states Mali and Burkina Faso.
Economic warfare has already begun. Nigeria, which supplies up to 70 percent of electricity to Niger, has cut power to the country. Ecowas has imposed other sanctions, with Ivory Coast suspending the import and export of goods, and the regional central bank closing its branches.
Food price inflation in the landlocked country, one of the world’s poorest, has accelerated. Any military moves could face fierce resistance in Niger. And they could also destabilise further the main states—Senegal and Nigeria—that are seeking to “restore order”.
On Monday, the government of Senegalese president Macky Sall banned the main opposition party, Pastef, and arrested its leader.
Mass protests began in Senegal in June over unemployment and corruption. The revolt has been so powerful that Sall has drawn back—for now—from a plan to run for a third presidential term. Youth unemployment is nearly 50 percent in a country where 60 percent of the population is under 24 years old.
And in Nigeria the government of president Bola Tinubu is facing resistance after it eliminated a set of petrol, education, health care and, electricity price subsidies. It saw nationwide protests last Wednesday—although union leaders then ended them on the basis of vague promises from Tinubu.
None of the great powers and their allies—or the feuding military groups in Niger—are interested in the country’s ordinary people. And any Ecowas intervention could spark a wider war with Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea promising to back Niger.
Senegalese development economist Ndongo Samba Sylla points to the particular crisis of former French colonies. He writes, “Niger is being described as a country with a ‘democratic’ tradition. In 1996, French officials were ‘happy’ with the military coup by I.B. Maïnassara. When the latter was killed during a new coup, they lamented a ‘democratic setback’.”
He shows the way that even after formal independence, the hold of French imperialism has impoverished Niger and the rest of the former French colonies.
Niger’s highest level of national production per head was $867 in 1965, five years after the French officially left. But the stranglehold of imperialism and military means that the figure today is just $545 per head—40 percent lower.
Opposing intervention is crucial, but has to go together with advancing measures to help workers and the poor and to win democracy. Workers across Africa have the same interests against their pro-capitalist rulers.
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