Crowds express support for the new Nigerien government. "France must go. Long live Niger."(Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
As the U.S. and France move to interfere in the Sahel region of West Africa, Niger, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali have spoken up to defend their sovereign rights and declare their determination to be free from western hegemony.
Originally published in AAPRP-International.
August 7, 2023
Revolution in Sahel?
Military Coups in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger
On July 26, 2023 in a military coup d’etat, the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) ousted Niger president Mohamed Bazoum and took control of the country. This followed recent coups in Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, and Chad. These countries are bound together by the Sahel, a semi-arid region on the edge of the Sahara desert that stretches from the Atlantic ocean in the west and to the Red Sea in the east. The Sahel region suffers from a number of complex factors resulting from French political and economic domination designed to exploit the region’s vast natural and human resources, while subordinating the region’s sovereignty to France. The U.S. and European powers have collaborated to promote an imperialist agenda. Consider the NATO led invasion of Libya, which led to the murder and overthrow of Pan-Africanist leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Libya then became a breeding ground for Western armed terrorist groups that destabilize the region. Because of these ongoing conflicts instigated and perpetuated by Western imperialist powers, life in the Sahel has been, and remains, hellish.
It is in this context that we observe the Sahel’s most recent history of coups. However, not all coups are staged for the same reasons. Throughout history, and especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, anti-colonial and pro-people movements have conducted coups of their own, overthrowing repressive and brutal dictatorships and securing material gain for the masses who had the colonizer’s boot pressed on their necks.
Of 106 coup d’etats in Africa since 1950, 103 have been reactionary coups orchestrated by the Portuguese, French, U.S. and other European powers. One of the first and most brutal coups was the U.S. backed overthrow of democratically elected Congolese President Patrice Lumumba, who was detained, murdered and dissolved in a barrel of acid. The CIA overthrew Kwame Nkrumah in 1966 while he was in China consulting on a plan to end the American war on Vietnam. In 1973 the Portuguese assassinated Amilcar Cabral before his party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), won independence. The PAIGC came to power months later, and was overthrown in 1980 by a French orchestrated Coup. To this horrific list of Western inspired coups must be added the 1987 assassination of Thomas Sankara and overthrow of the revolutionary government in Burkina Faso, once again with the hidden hand of imperialists and their puppets..
However, there have been three coups in Africa’s history that have defied the trend of reaction. These military uprisings were conducted in the interest of the people. Each of these was Pan-African in nature and revolutionary in spirit. The first was the Egyption Revolution that followed a carefully planned and executed 1952 coup to overthrow King Farook. Gamel Abdul Nassar became president in 1956 and made Egypt the first modern African State to initiate revolutionary land reforms. We see this as proof that a coup d’etat could be a positive thing under the proper conditions. For instance, when the forces led by the aforementioned Colonel Muammar Gaddafi took over Libya from the British-backed Senussi monarchy of King Idris I. The Ghadaffi government nationalized the oil reserves and used that revenue to fund redistributive programs for the people. Libya provided its people with education, healthcare, housing, and improved living conditions. Under the Jamahiriya Government, Libya became a beacon of light for all of Africa, with the highest standard of living on the continent.
Similarly, in Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara overthrew the then government and created some of the most widespread social programs the African continent had ever seen. Carrying out educational programs that increased the literacy rate of Burkina Faso from 17% to 73%, appointing women to high positions of his administration while outlawing forced marriages, and built roadways to further connect and modernize the country.
While events are still playing out in Niger, eyewitness accounts in the country and the responses of both Niger’s neighbors and the neo-colonial powers indicate that this coup has the support of the people on the ground and is a response to the neo-colonial conditions inflicted upon them.
Niger’s Sahel is an incredibly resource rich region. Niger is the world’s seventh biggest uranium producer, as well as a prolific exporter of gold, oily seeds, minerals, oil and coal. The vast wealth does not benefit the people of Niger. The wealth of Niger, like the wealth of most of Africa goes to the imperialist, neo-colonial European Western powers that have a stranglehold on the country. The uranium stolen from this country is used to power one in three lightbulbs in France and countless numbers of French homes, while the people of Niger are unable to afford even three meals a day. Niger’s uranium is of such importance to France’s nuclear powered infrastructure that French military forces seized the city of Irlit, on behalf of French multinational uranium mining corporations.
Niger was also engaged in a “joint partnership” with France called Société des mines de l’Aïr (Somaïr), that controls the country’s entire uranium industry. Somair is 85% controlled by France while Niger owns a measly 15%. To add insult to injury, over the last ten years Niger has lost upwards of $906 million in World Bank arbitration cases against French multinationals.
France holds 50% of Niger’s monetary reserves in its treasury, forcing the country to continue using the CFA franc which is anchored to the euro at a fixed rate determined by France. France also has de jure voting and veto power within Niger’s financial institutions. This also continues to be the economic reality in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and 14 African states in total.
The coup in Niger follows the pattern of recent takeovers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad. All are former French colonies who replaced neo-colonial regimes with military juntas. Some of these juntas have strong anti-imperialist sentiments, strong nationalist foundations and are actively working to create a Federation of African States. Chad appears as a puppet of imperialism aligned to France and the U.S..
ECOWAS has already set up a no-fly zone and frozen Niger’s assets in hopes of restoring the former president Bazoum’s administration. There are approximately 3,000 French troops along with an additional 1,100 Canadian and Italian troops currently stationed in Niger. At this moment the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has installed the world’s largest drone base in the city of Agadez. Meanwhile the Remote C.I.A. Base in the Sahara Steadily Grows in the Niger town of Dirkou, not far from the Libyan border. While it is claimed that this CIA station is also a drone base, it would be naive to think that all the CIA is doing in Niger is flying drones.
With the ever present threat of invasion Burkina Faso, and Mali pledged to defend Niger from any foreign military intervention. Guinea-Conakry conveyed their intent to refuse any offensive action against Niger if requested by ECOWAS. Algeria warned against any intentions of foreign military intervention according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Community Abroad.
In Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso the masses have taken to the streets in demonstrations setting the stage for what has come to be known as popular coups. The distinguishing characteristic of these demonstrations is that they have been sustained over long periods of time, are openly anti-imperialist, and call for a United States of Africa. These rebelling states unite to resist the imperialist occupation and control of the Sahel. They must remain united to free the Sahel of all imperialist military forces and intelligence operatives.
The U.S. and France claim they are in the Sahel to “secure the region against Islamist insurgent groups.” But it is no secret that these terrorist groups are tools of U.S./NATO, used to destabilize countries in the Sahel region. The French, NATO and U.S. created a crisis by having these so-called Islamic insurgents attack civilian populations. This led to African client states inviting foreign military forces into their territory to help fight terrorism. They created the problems they claim to be fighting. France’s failed Operation Barkhane, for example, tripled the rate of violence within the region leading to the loss of many innocent lives.
France, the CIA and Western military forces are in the Sahel to secure the interest of the imperialist exploiters of Africa. French president Emmanuel Macron said they will “not tolerate any attack against France and its interests.”
The All-African People’s Revolutionary Party wants to express solidarity and harmony with the people of Niger, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Algeria. We call for the withdrawal of all (French/U.S./NATO/ECOWAS/UN/EU) military forces, out of the Sahel. We oppose any intervention in Niger by ECOWAS, the African Union or any other reactionary African Military force. We want AFRICOM out of Africa Now! We stand resolutely against the U.S., EU and ECOWAS sanctions imposed upon or looming over the states of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and other African States like Eritrea and Zimbabwe. We firmly reject all attempts at military invasion by NATO member states or the ECOWAS body.
The A-APRP shares this information to raise the consciousness of our people. We are engaged in the permanent investigation and critical analysis of the struggle of Africans everywhere. The only reason to study our world is to change it. We are revolutionaries. Our understanding is that revolution is the transformation from one system to another. Accordingly, what is happening in the Sahel is not yet a revolution. It lacks the fundamental ingredient which is the organized force of the politically educated masses of people. It is not yet a revolution, but it is a step in that direction.
We encourage the people of the world to study Africa and the struggle we are waging to gain control of our land and our lives. We have tried every conceivable means to achieve our objectives. We have only one option left to us, the political organization and education of the masses of African people, wherever we are.
Pan-Africanism, “the total liberation and unification of Africa Under Scientific Socialism”, can only be achieved by establishing political and military coordination among Africa’s revolutionary political parties. We need an All-African People’s Army, an All-African High Command, and a single African monetary system. But none of these needs can be met without the political organization of the masses of the people under the leadership of an All-African Committee for Political Coordination (A-ACPC). The A-ACPC will link all of our liberated territories and struggling parties under a common ideology. It will organize and uplift the African masses and smooth the path to continental unity. African People must unify now more than ever! So, when the sun rises on a new day, we can face the world as a free and liberated people living in a unified socialist society of our own making.
La patrie ou la mort ! (Homeland or death!)
Pan-Africanism or perish!
Forward ever! Backwards never!