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Niger: The Emerging Anti-Colonial Resistance in French West Africa
By Gary Porter - On July 26, the African continent was rocked by news of a military coup in Niger, the fourth in West Africa since 2020. Cooperation between the US and Nigerien militaries has been suspended. The Niger government has withdrawn from its military agreements with France. The over 1,000 US troops in Niger have been restricted to their bases. France has evacuated 600 nationals from the country, while in a veiled threat, President Emmanuel Macron grandly declared he “would not tolerate any attack against France and its interests.” In response the French ambassador and French troops have been ordered out of Niger.
Meanwhile, a rift has emerged in West Africa, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu on one side, and the military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger on the other. ECOWAS is threatening an invasion to restore former President Mohamed Bazoum to power. But the divisions are deep and the Nigerian Senate refused to support an intervention proposed by the President. Mali and Burkina Faso have announced that they will consider an operation against Niger to be an attack on them and respond accordingly. The Organization of African States has come out against intervention by anyone. At the same time, rallies have brought thousands of Nigeriens out in support of the military government that removed Bazoum. It is clear that an invasion of Niger would provoke a regional war.
Niger closed its airspace in response to threats from ECOWAS and France, but fortunately the Sunday, August 6 deadline for intervention passed without incident. ECOWAS is planning to discuss Niger later soon.
Victoria Nulan, Deputy head of the US State Department and chief organizer of the right wing overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine in 2014, visited the coup leaders to threaten them with US action if they did not release the imprisoned President. She asked to see him but was refused. Unimpressed, the new government announced he would stand trial for treason and for undermining the security of Niger . Both Canada and the US have cut off their meager aid to Niger.
Niger is the second poorest country in the world and, until now, completely dominated by French imperialism. US and Canadian imperialism have their snouts in the Niger trough as well, part of French West Africa, France has never released its tight grip on Niger. The entire area uses a special French controlled currency, like company scrip. France keeps enough troops to protect its interests from the desperate population in each country and seizes their mineral resources almost for nothing. Uranium, for example, sells on the world market for USD 240 per kg. France pays Niger the equivalent of USD 11. France seizes 95% of the value.
The largest ethnic groups in Niger are the Hausa, who also constitute the major ethnic group in northern Nigeria, and the Zarma Songhai (also spelled Djerma-Songhai), who also are found in parts of Mali. Both groups are sedentary farmers who live in the arable, southern tier. The Kanouri (including Beri Beri, Manga) make up the majority of sedentary population in the far southeast of the nation. The remainder of the Nigerien people are nomadic or semi-nomadic livestock-raising peoples—Tuareg, Fulani, Toubou and Diffa Arabs. With rapidly growing populations and the consequent competition for meager natural resources, lifestyles of these two types of peoples have come increasingly into conflict in Niger in recent years. some white French people live in the country due to Niger being a former colony of France.
Niger's high infant mortality rate is comparable to levels recorded in neighboring countries. However, the child mortality rate (deaths among children between the ages of 1 and 4) is exceptionally high (274 per 1,000) due to generally poor health conditions and inadequate nutrition for most of the country's children. Nonetheless, Niger's very high total fertility rate (6.89 children born per woman, which is the highest in the world) means that nearly half (49%) of the Nigerien population is under age 15. However, school attendance is low (34%), including 38% of males and 27% of females. Additional education occurs through Koranic schools.
The NATO attack against the sovereign state of Libya under the command of a Canadian general in 2011 resulted in the overthrow and murder of President Quadafi. Since then Libya has degenerated into economic and social chaos, spawning multiple terrorist gangs such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. From one of the best run states in Africa, it has become a violent, impoverished source of terrorists, many of them US allies in other US attacks (e.g. Syria). These terrorists have spread down into French West Africa among the Taureg people, bringing death, destruction and chaos to the area. The pro-French government of Niger has proven incapable of curbing the terror, or relieving the desperate poverty of Nigeriens.
Of course Canadian imperialism is directly involved:
Canada-based GoviEx Uranium holds mining permits for the Madaouela project, in the Agadez region. The company earlier this year had begun the project financing process to develop the project. GoviEx holds an 80% interest in the operating company COMIMA, with the remaining minority 20% held by the Republic of Niger.
The Canadian mining industry is a global behemoth. Around 75% of mining companies are based in Canada, and Canadian-based companies own majority shares in two of the three largest gold mines on the African continent: Loulo Gounkoto in Mali, 80% owned by Barrick Gold, and Fekola in Mali, 90% owned by B2Gold. These mines are right next door to Niger.
The Canadian Armed Forces have been training Niger's military for the past decade, under a Canadian program called Operation Naberius. As many as 50 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to Niger every year to train the national army in counterterrorism operations. “Counterterrorism” to the Canadian military and its Canadian political masters means killing anyone who threatens the obscene profits of Canadian mining companies.
If France, Canada, the US or ECOWAS intervene militarily, a wider war in West Africa is likely. The suffering of this impoverished, highly exploited, imperialist dominated area will increase exponentially.
The imperialists have no right to intervene. Relief of African poverty demands the repossession by Africans of their own resources, management of those resources in their own interests, the complete withdrawal of imperialist troops and the closing of all foreign military bases.
Photo: Supporters of Niger's military government take part in a demonstration in front of a French army base in Niamey, Niger [Mahamadou Hamidou/Reuters] (Source)