Africa’s poorest countries defy imperialism

Three of the poorest countries in the world according to the United Nations — Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — stood up Jan. 29 and disrupted how French and U.S. imperialism control Africa.

Demonstrators wave flags of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and a poster reading “No to ECOWAS” during a rally Jan. 29, 2024, in Bamako, Mali, to celebrate the three countries leaving ECOWAS. (Photo: Ousmane Makaveli/Getty Images)

The three landlocked countries are former French colonies located in the western Sahel region, just to the south of the Sahara Desert, and founding members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a widely respected bourgeois think tank, “ECOWAS is arguably the most successful model of regional governance in Africa.” As its mission statement puts it, “By 2024, the body consisted of 15 members [countries] representing more than 400 million people in ‘all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters.’”

The current governments of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso had a different opinion of ECOWAS. The three denounced the “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions” applied by the ECOWAS bloc in an attempt to reverse the popular military actions that overturned the civilian governments that had been in cahoots with the French imperialists. 

These military actions, which were portrayed in the U.S. and French media as “undemocratic,” had strong popular support. The first took place in Mali in 2020, the last in Niger in 2023. They all led to the expulsion of French troops and a reduction of U.S. intervention emanating from the CIA’s base in Niger.

The joint statement, published on the National Council for the Defense of the Fatherland of Niger webpage, read, “ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers and having betrayed its founding principles, has become a threat to member states and their peoples … the organization has failed to assist our countries in the fight against terrorism and insecurity.”

Col. Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson for Niger’s junta, reading from a statement in a televised address, said ECOWAS had turned away from “the ideals of its founders.”

The three countries have formed a mutual defense pact and hired Russian advisors to supply the military technical aid that the French troops previously provided.

It is still not clear what the outcome will be, but it is clear that the masses of the three countries are engaged and active.

G. Dunkel

G.Dunkel@workers.org

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G. Dunkel

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