Niger Marks 4th Anti-Western Coup in the Sahel

Each of these coups was led by military officers angered by the presence of French and U.S. troops and by the permanent economic crises inflicted on their countries, write Vijay Prashad and Kambale Musavuli.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken entering Niger’s presidential palace for a meeting with Mohamed Bazoum on March 16. (State Department, Chuck Kennedy, Public domain)

By Vijay Prashad and Kambale Musavuli
Peoples Dispatch

At 3 a.m. on July 26, the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum in Niamey, the capital of Niger. Troops, led by Brigadier General Abdourahmane Tchiani closed the country’s borders and declared a curfew.

The coup d’état was immediately condemned by the Economic Community of West African States, by the African Union and by the European Union. Both France and the United States — which have military bases in Niger — said that they were watching the situation closely.

A tussle between the army — which claimed to be pro-Bazoum — and the presidential guard threatened the capital, but it soon fizzled out. On July 27, General Abdou Sidikou Issa of the army released a statement saying that he would accept the situation to “avoid a deadly confrontation between the different forces which … could cause a bloodbath.”

Tchiani went on television on July 28 to announce that he was the new president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie or CNSP).

The coup in Niger follows similar coups in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021) and Burkina Faso (January 2022 and September 2022) and Guinea (September 2021). Each of these coups was led by military officers angered by the presence of French and U.S. troops and by the permanent economic crises inflicted on their countries.

Parade of soldiers in the streets of Kaloum after the 2021 coup in Guinea. (Aboubacarkhoraa, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

This region of Africa — the Sahel — has faced a cascade of crises: the desiccation of the land due to the climate catastrophe; the rise of Islamic militancy due to the 2011 NATO war in Libya; the increase in smuggling networks to traffic weapons, humans and drugs across the desert; the appropriation of natural resources — including uranium and gold — by Western companies that have simply not paid adequately for these riches; and the entrenchment of Western military forces through the construction of bases and the operation of these armies with impunity.

Map of Saharan Africa. (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two days after the coup, the CNSP announced the names of the 10 officers who lead the CNSP. They come from the entire range of the armed forces, from the army (General Mohamed Toumba) to the air force (Colonel Major Amadou Abouramane) to the national police (Deputy General Manager Assahaba Ebankawel).

It is by now clear that one of the most influential members of the CNSP is General Salifou Mody, former chief of staff of the military and leader in the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, which led the February 2010 coup against President Mamadou Tandja and which governed Niger until Bazoum’s predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou won the 2011 presidential election.

It was during Issoufou’s time in office that the United States government built the world’s largest drone base in Agadez and that the French special forces garrisoned the city of Irlit on behalf of the uranium mining company Orano (formerly a part of Areva).

Nigerien and American flags are raised at the opening ceremony in Agadez, Niger, of U.S. Africa Command’s largest annual special operations forces exercise. (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, Public domain)

It is important to note that Mody is perceived as an influential member of CNSP given his influence in the army and his international contacts.

On Feb. 28, Mody met with the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley during the African Chiefs of Defense Conference in Rome to discuss “regional stability, including counterterrorism cooperation and the continued fight against violent extremism in the region.”

On March 9, Mody visited Mali to meet with Colonel Assimi Goïta and the Chief of Staff of the Malian Army General Oumar Diarra to strengthen military cooperation between Niger and Mali.

A few days later on March 16, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger to meet with Bazoum. In what many in Niger perceived as a sidelining of Mody, he was appointed on June 1 as the Nigerien ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mody, it is said in Niamey, is the voice in the ear of Brigadier General Tchiani, the titular head of state.

Corruption & the West

Niger’s Mohamed Bazoum, second from left at table, after Blinken on left, at a meeting in Washington on Dec. 13, 2022. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at table on right. (State Department, Freddie Everett/ Public domain)

A highly informed source in Niger tells us that the reason why the military moved against Bazoum is that

“he’s corrupt, a pawn of France. Nigerians were fed up with him and his gang. They are in the process of arresting the members of the deposed system, who embezzled public funds, many of whom have taken refuge in foreign embassies.”

The issue of corruption hangs over Niger, a country with one of the world’s most lucrative uranium deposits. The “corruption” that is talked about in Niger is not about petty bribes by government officials, but about an entire structure — developed during French colonial rule — that prevents Niger from establishing sovereignty over its raw materials and over its development.

At the heart of the “corruption” is the so-called joint venture between Niger and France called Société des Mines de l’Aïr (Somaïr), which owns and operates the uranium industry in the country.

SOMAIR’s headquarters in Niamey. (Roland Huziaker, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Strikingly, 85 percent of Somaïr is owned by France’s Atomic Energy Commission and two French companies, while only 15 percent is owned by Niger’s government.

Niger produces over 5 percent of the world’s uranium, but its uranium is of a very high quality. Half of Niger’s export receipts are from sales of uranium, oil, and gold. One in three lightbulbs in France are powered by uranium from Niger, at the same time as 42 percent of the African country’s population lived below the poverty line.

The people of Niger have watched their wealth slip through their fingers for decades. As a mark of the government’s weakness, over the course of the past decade, Niger has lost over $906 million in only 10 arbitration cases brought by multinational corporations before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the International Chamber of Commerce.

France stopped using the franc in 2002 when it switched to the Euro system. But 14 former French colonies continued to use the Communauté Financiére Africaine (CFA), which gives immense advantages to France. Fifty percent of the reserves of these countries have to be held in the French Treasury and France’s devaluations of the CFA — as in 1994 — have had catastrophic effects on the countries that use it.

In 2015, Chad’s President Idriss Déby Itno said that the CFA “pulls African economies down” and that the “time had come to cut the cord that prevents Africa from developing.”

Talk now across the Sahel is for not only the removal of French troops — as has taken place in Burkina Faso and in Mali — but of a break with the French economic hold on the region.

The New Non-Alignment

At the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit in July, Burkina Faso’s leader, President Ibrahim Traoré wore a red beret that echoed the uniform of the assassinated socialist leader of his country, Thomas Sankara.

Traoré reacted strongly to the condemnation of the military coups in the Sahel, including to a recent visit to his country by an African Union delegation. “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity,” he said. “The African Union must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.”

In February, Burkina Faso had hosted a meeting that included the governments of Mali and Guinea. On their agenda is the creation of a new federation of these states. It is likely that Niger will be invited into these conversations.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a leading political and cultural Congolese voice. Based in Accra, Ghana, he is a policy analyst with the Center for Research on the Congo-Kinshasa.

This article is from Peoples Dispatch was produced by Globetrotter.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

12 comments for “Niger Marks 4th Anti-Western Coup in the Sahel

  1. Observer
    August 4, 2023 at 12:58

    > At the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit in July, Burkina Faso’s leader, President Ibrahim Traoré wore a red beret that echoed the uniform of the assassinated socialist leader of his country, Thomas Sankara

    I see I am not the only one to notice how Traoré is copying Sankara’s style (not just in headgear!); it will be interesting to see how much he copies Sankara’s substance, too. (One hopes without coming to the same end.)

  2. forceOfHabit
    August 3, 2023 at 13:45

    It is so helpful to be shown a non-western corporate media perspective. Thank you.

  3. August 3, 2023 at 10:35

    What the authors of this insightful report fail to mention is that, to avoid losing its colonial interests in Vietnam, it was France that conned the US into falsely attacking Vietnam (the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) to (falsely) inhibit the “spread of Communism.”
    Ironically, the Vietnamese idea of ending French colonialism was led by a former New York busboy named Ho Chi Minh, who got the idea while in New York from reading the US Declaration of Independence.
    Except that our US self-righteous Reich-Wing was so terrified of Communism, that it failed to realize that Vietnam was almost as opposed to Chinese dominations as it was to French Colonialism.
    After over 56,000+ American military deaths, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilian deaths, we finally got our butts kicked badly enough to withdraw.
    The further irony is that 50 years later, Vietnam is now one of our strongest economic partners.
    The Oligarchs in France and the US need to realize that creation of THEIR wealth is not the same as creation of wealth that benefits the country from whose resources are being stolen.
    Russia needs to recognize that as well which is why Russia (and China) are not welcome parties in rebuilding (and restructuring) the Niger economy. The illegal war by Russian against Ukraine has nothing to do with either “territory” or “Nazi” but is actually an attempt by the Russian Oligarchs to teach the Ukrainians that they should not have hindered the corrupt Ukrainian Oligarchs and to serve as a threat to Russian citizens that they should continue to be obedient to the corrupt Russian Oligarchs who are pillaging their country.

  4. Christian J Chuba
    August 2, 2023 at 12:08

    Even if the uranium company is 85% owned by foreigners, the govt could impose royalty taxes on the uranium ore. A govt acting in the interests of Niger would do that. This is how Russia was able to reclaim their own oil wealth after the 90’s.

  5. Rudy Haugeneder
    August 2, 2023 at 11:55

    Important to notice that neither China or India have military bases in these countries, no do they stranglehold Sahel economies like Europe and America still temporarily do.

  6. mgr
    August 2, 2023 at 11:38

    “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity,” he said. “The African Union must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West” (Traoré).

    Well, someone finally got the message. It might also pay to look into who is pulling the strings in the African Union. That is too obvious a choke-hold for Western powers to ignore.

    • AA from MD
      August 2, 2023 at 15:03

      Gaddafi as the chairman of AU, tried to work on making African Union more independent and create African Union currency. We all know what happened to him.

      • karl
        August 2, 2023 at 17:18

        yes,but that was then,this is now.the global co-relation of forces is more conducive to struggles for national liberation and consolidation of defences against the ne-liberal and neo-con attack that is surely in the making

      • David Otness
        August 2, 2023 at 17:39

        A new season is upon us. The majority of the non-West has learned well those indelible lessons. As Sam Cooke once sang and implored, “A Change is Going to Come.” That and other changes are indeed already underway, and of such a magnitude and variety we are going to wake up to a very different world shortly enough.

        Kicking and screaming, infiltrating and false flag bombings are shopworn as the new consciousness rises all over the third world.
        For this is about the entire globe now. Shackles and chains are being cast off north and south, east and west.

        • Valerie
          August 2, 2023 at 21:57

          Let us hope David it’s not too late to combat our existential threat of climate breakdown. What irony, to shake off the shackles and chains of capitalism, to be exchanged for a battle of our own making, in the form of climate and Mother Nature. (A true force; of which no amount of money can buy.)

    • Valerie
      August 2, 2023 at 19:21

      “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.”
      1546 proverb

      Translated in the 1800’s to: the worm has turned.

      • Observer
        August 4, 2023 at 12:47

        Note that “worme” here means what we call a “snake” nowadays. Many of those will indeed turn and bite you.

Comments are closed.