“When Africa becomes economically free and politically united, the monopolists will come face to face with their own working class in their own countries, and a new struggle will arise within which the liquidation and collapse of imperialism will be complete.”
– Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of imperialism
Today, Aug. 6, is the deadline issued by the Economic Community Of West African States for the current government of Niger, headed by Abdourahamane Tchiani, to abdicate power or face a possible military intervention by ECOWAS forces. Tchiani came to power through a military coup, which has been condemned by imperialist powers such as the United States and France, who have a vested interest in maintaining a foothold in Niger.
Demonstrations in Niger support the new government, along with targeting the French embassy, a symbol of brutal French colonialism and exploitation of Nigerien people. (Nigerien refers to the people of Niger; Nigerian refers to the people of Nigeria)
Niger is a target of imperialism for many reasons. Its natural resources include uranium, which supplies up to one third of France’s entire electrical grid. Yet Niger remains one of the poorest countries in the world with the majority of its over 27 million people lacking access to their own electricity. Niger also holds strategic importance to the U.S. military as a hub for its drone operations in Central Africa, used to maintain U.S. influence in the region as well as assist in French military interventions.
In addition to 1,500 French troops, there are over 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in Niger, which the U.S. government now refuses to withdraw, despite the security agreements between the U.S. and Niger being suspended and multiple European countries evacuating their citizens. The U.S. military machine is digging in, hoping to restore the pro-imperialist government by whatever means necessary.
Sanctions against Niger have already been implemented, but a military option remains on the table, through which the U.S. and France will be able to use ECOWAS security forces as a proxy. France has given its full support for an ECOWAS intervention, although many African countries have been hesitant to participate. Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali – all former French colonies – are among the countries that have come out in support of Niger against imperialist threats.
African opposition to invasion of Niger
The governments of Burkina Faso and Mali issued a joint statement, asserting that any attempt at military intervention to remove Tchiani would be taken as a declaration of war against both their countries. “The transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali, One: have expressed their fraternal solidarity of the people of Mali and Burkina Faso with their brothers in Niger who have decided of their own accord to take their destiny in hand and to assume their sovereignty. Two: Denounce the persistence of the regional organizations to apply sanctions that aggravate the suffering of the population and imperil the spirit of Pan-Africanism. Three: Refuse to apply these illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the Nigerien people and authorities, Four: Any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali”, the statement read. (africanews.com, Aug. 1)
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who is also the current ECOWAS chair, has authorized the deployment of Nigerian soldiers against Niger; they would make up the bulk of ECOWAS forces. However, the Nigerian senate voted not to approve this deployment.
The refusal of other neighboring countries to participate in the U.S. and French-backed ECOWAS invasion, as well as the hesitancy of the people within the countries whose leaders advocated for invasion to actually carry it out, shows major fractures in the imperialist grip over West Africa after hundreds of years of colonialism.
Niger was one of the last remaining governments friendly to the U.S. empire in the Sahel region. Put into power by a series of earlier coups, the governments of Mali and Burkina Faso cut ties with French colonialism and expelled French troops. Since then, ECOWAS has established its own military presence to attempt to prevent anti-colonial coups from taking place within ECOWAS member states, without U.S. or French troops intervening directly.
Some of the new African governments are working with the Wagner Group – mercenary forces based in Russia – to control and repress local Islamic State-affiliated groups. These ISIS-like armed groups have been a security concern for countries in the region since NATO aggression destroyed Libya in 2011 and destabilized the region. U.S. and French imperialism have used these groups’ existence as a pretext for military intervention.
Workers World Party affirms the right of Niger’s people to take the fate of their country into their own hands. We oppose any U.S. or French-backed military invasions, sanctions, or meddling in African politics. We support the expulsion of all U.S. and French troops and the dismantling of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
We support the right of African nations to make economic and security relationships on their own terms with other countries, including with Russia and China, rather than being forced into a position of subjugation as a neo-colony of imperialist powers like the U.S. or France.
We oppose any U.S., French or NATO plans to launch yet another major proxy war. Such a war would spread havoc in the region in its attempt to maintain economic dominance over and perpetual super-exploitation of the African people.