By Charlie Kimber 
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2866

Niger coup ousts pro-Western president 

But none of the great powers—or the feuding military groups in the west African country—are interested in ordinary people 
Issue 2866
A map with a pin pointing out Niger illustrating an article about the Niger coup

Niger in west Africa

A coup in Niger in west Africa is a huge blow to imperialism. The BBC’s “security correspondent” Frank Gardner—always a reliable guide to the thinking of the British state— said, “Western influence in the region is shrinking like a water pool in the dry season.” 

President Mohamed Bazoum was detained by his own presidential guard on Wednesday in a coup that the bulk of the army then supported. The next day, hundreds of people gathered in Niamey, Niger’s capital, waving Russian flags.

Abdourahmane Tchiani led the revolt by barricading Bazoum inside his residence and demanding his resignation. 

Tchiani appeared briefly on television on Friday to say that he had taken over the country. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner Group, welcomed the coup and offered its new leaders the services of his mercenary group.

In return for wads of cash, the now-ousted Bazoum had enthusiastically allowed Western military forces to operate inside the country. He also pledged to the European Union (EU) that he would make it harder for refugees to pass through on the way to reach Europe. 

The British government, that backs dictatorships across Africa and the world, said this week that it wants to see an end to “the unacceptable events and to ensure the full and swift restoration of Niger’s democratically elected institutions”.

Niger had backed a resolution at the United Nations last year condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while many African countries did not. 

France has a large base in Niamey and Germany has trained Niger’s soldiers. The US has two drone bases, one near the desert city of Agadez, and 1,100 soldiers in the country. 

US secretary of state Antony Blinken is still offering Bazoum his “steadfast support”, and warned those detaining him that “hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance” was at risk. But this is whistling in the wind. Bazoum is very unlikely to be restored to office.

In February, the EU launched a “military partnership mission” to support the training of troops from the same army that backed the coup, and in March agreed to provide it with £35 million.

The West wanted to use Niger to extend its influence in the region and keep out Russia and China. Niger produces about 5pc of the world’s uranium, a crucial component in nuclear power, but it exports all of it to France, which sources 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, met Bazoum—and possibly some of the insurrectionists—just 23 days ago. 

During that trip, Borrell hailed Niger as “a haven of stability”. “Niger is a solid, reliable partner, both politically and in terms of security,” Borrell said. “And we support president Bazoum enormously, with all our might.” 

As the Financial Times newspaper reports, “Unfortunately for Borrell, the insurrectionist special forces had other plans.”

The turmoil in Niger follows coups in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022 that weakened Western influence in the area around the Sahara desert.

In Mali, following the 2021 coup, the new regime expelled French troops and signed a contract with Wagner operatives.

Ibrahim Traore, president of Burkina Faso, told a session of the Russia-Africa Summit on Friday, “African countries have suffered for decades from a barbaric and brutal form of colonialism and imperialism, which could be called a modern form of slavery.

“However, a slave who does not fight for his freedom is not worthy of any indulgence. The heads of African states should not behave like puppets in the hands of the imperialists.”

But Putin’s imperialism or Wagner offer no positive alternative to Western intervention. Niger is one of the poorest countries on Earth. And it has the world’s youngest population, with an average age of 14.8. 

Imperialism and capitalism offer Niger’s people nothing except poverty, war, oppression and climate chaos. This month Niger has been in the grip of a severe heat wave. 

Scientists say temperatures in Niger are rising one and a half times faster than in the rest of the world.

None of the great powers—or the feuding military groups in Niger—are interested in ordinary people.

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