Niger Rejects Rules-Based Order

France and the U.S. have been blindsided by popular support for Niger’s coup, as the trend towards multipolarity emboldens Africans to confront neo-colonial exploitation, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar.

A French military helicopter over the Nigerien town Madama. (Thomas Goisque, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By  M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

The coup in the West African state of Niger on July 26 and the Russia-Africa Summit the next day in St. Petersburg are playing out in the backdrop of multipolarity in the world order. Seemingly independent events, they capture nonetheless the zeitgeist of our transformative era.

First, the big picture — the Africa summit hosted by Russia on July 27-28 poses a big challenge to the West, which instinctively sought to downplay the event after having failed to lobby against sovereign African nations meeting the Russian leadership. Forty-nine African countries sent their delegations to St. Petersburg, with 17 heads of states traveling in person to Russia to discuss political, humanitarian and economic issues. For the host country, which is in the middle of a war, this was a remarkable diplomatic success.

The summit was quintessentially a political event. Its leitmotif was the juxtaposition of Russia’s long-standing support for Africans resisting imperialism and the predatory nature of western neo-colonialism. This works brilliantly for Russia today, which has no colonial history of exploitation and plunder of Africa.

While every now and then skeletons from the colonial era keep rolling out of the Western closet, dating back to the unlamented African slave trade, Russia taps into the Soviet legacy of being on the ‘right side of history’ — even resurrecting the full name of Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow. 

Yet, it wasn’t all politics. The summit deliberations on Russia-Africa partnership helping the continent achieve ‘‘food sovereignty,’’ alternatives to the grain deal, new logistics corridors for Russian food and fertilisers; enhancement of trade, economic, cultural, educational, scientific, and security cooperation; Africa potentially joining the International North–South Transport Corridor; Russia’s participation in African infrastructure projects; Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Action Plan to 2026 — these testify to the quantifiable outcome. 

Enter Niger. The most recent developments in Niger underscore the leitmotif of the Russia-Africa summit. Russia’s prognosis of the African crisis stands vindicated — the continuing ravages of Western imperialism. This is evident from the reports of Russian flags seen at demonstrations in Niamey, Niger’s capital.

Niger’s ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum.  (Creative Commons)

ECOWAS Lacks Capacity to Intervene for West

The rebels who seized power lost no time to denounce Niger’s military-technical cooperation agreements with France, which has been followed up with the demand that France withdraw its troops within 30 days. On its part, France has spoken ‘‘firmly and resolutely’’ in favour of foreign military intervention “to suppress the coup attempt”.

The French authorities made it clear that they have no plan to withdraw their armed contingent of 1500 people who are in Niger “at the request of the legitimate authorities of the country on the basis of signed agreements”.

France’s stance comes as no surprise – Paris does not want to lose its position in Sahel region and the cheap source of resources, especially uranium. But France miscalculated that the coup didn’t enjoy the support of the Nigerien military or had a social base, and all that was needed to roll it back would be a limited demonstration of force that would compel the elite presidential guard to begin direct negotiations with France.

France and the US coordinate their actions with the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS]. The ECOWAS initially did some sabre-rattling but has piped down. Its deadline for intervention has passed. The ECOWAS simply does not have a mechanism for the rapid gathering of troops and the coordination of hostilities, and its powerhouse Nigeria has its hands full tackling internal security.

The Nigerian public opinion feels wary about a blowback — Niger is a large country and has a 1500km long porous border with Nigeria. An unspoken truth is, Nigeria is hardly interested in increasing the French military presence in Niger or on being on the same side with France, which is extremely unpopular throughout the Sahel. 

Coup’s Popular Support Blindsides West

The mother of all surprises is that the military coup enjoys a groundswell of popular support. Under the circumstances, the strong likelihood is that the French troops may be forced to leave Niger, its former colony. Niger is a victim of neo-colonial exploitation. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, which is, ironically, a spillover from the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 spearheaded by none other than France into the Sahel region, France ruthlessly exploited Niger’s mineral resources. 

A noted Nigerian poet and literary critic Professor Osundare wrote last week:

‘‘Probe the cause, course, and symptoms of the present resurgence of military coups in West Africa. Find a cure for this pandemic. More important, find a cure for the plague of political and socio-economic injustices responsible for the inevitability of its recurrence. Remember the present brutish anarchy in Libya and the countless repercussions of the destabilisation of that once blooming country for the West African region.’’

The only regional state that can afford effective military intervention in Niger is Algeria. But Algeria has neither any experience in conducting such operations on a regional scale nor has any intention to depart from its consistent policy of non-interference in the internal politics of a sovereign country.

Algeria has warned against any external military intervention in Niger. ‘‘Flaunting military intervention in Niger is a direct threat to Algeria, and we completely and categorically reject it… Problems should be solved peacefully,” Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune said. 

Trend of Multipolarity Emboldens African Nations

At its core, without doubt, the coup in Niger Republic narrows down to a struggle between Nigeriens and the colonial powers. To be sure, the growing trend of multipolarity in the world order emboldens African nations to shake off neo-colonialism. This is one thing. On the other hand, the big powers are being compelled to negotiate rather than dictate.

Interestingly, Washington has been relatively restrained. President Biden’s espousal of ‘’values’’ fell far short of the diktat on  ‘‘rules-based order’’. Although America reportedly has three military bases in Niger. In the multipolar setting, African nations are gaining space to negotiate. Russia’s pro-activism will spur this process. China also has economic stakes in Niger.

Notably, the coup leader Abdurahman Tchiani is on record as saying “the French have no objective reasons to leave Niger,” signaling that a fair and equitable relationship is possible. Russia has been cautious that the key task at the moment is “to prevent further degradation of the situation in the country”. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, ‘‘We consider it an urgent task to organise a national dialogue to restore civil peace, ensure law and order… we believe that the threat of the use of force against a sovereign state will not contribute to defusing tensions and resolving the situation in the country,” .

Clearly, Niamey will not succumb to pressure from outsiders. “Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory,” a junta representative said in a statement. A delegation from Niamey went to Mali asking for Russian-affiliated Wagner fighters to join the fight in the event of a Western-backed intervention.

US under secretary of state Victoria Nuland visited Niger’s capital to hold talks with the military leaders of the country. (State Department, Freddie Everett)

Situation in Sahel Escalating

An early resolution of the crisis around Niger is not to be expected. Niger is a key state in the fight against the jihadi network and is linked strategically and structurally to neighboring Mali. The situation in the Sahel region is escalating. This has profound implications for the crisis of statehood in West Africa as a whole.

American exceptionalism is not a universal panacea for existing ills. The Pentagon helped train at least one of the coup leaders in Niger — and those in Mali and Burkina Faso, which have promised to come to Niger’s defense.

Yet, speaking from Niamey on Monday, the visiting U.S. acting deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland lamented that the coup leaders refused to allow her to meet with the ousted president Mohamed Bazoum and were unreceptive to US calls to return the country to civilian rule. Nuland’s mission aimed at dissuading the coup leaders from engaging with the Wagner group, but she was unsure of success. Nuland was not granted a meeting with General Tchiani. 

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. Views are personal.

 This article originally appeared on Indian Punchline.

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

19 comments for “Niger Rejects Rules-Based Order

  1. August 12, 2023 at 13:16

    Fascinating, in a sick way, to note the US, NATO, etc., hypocrisy on the situation in Niger, when one considers their roles in the Ukraine since 2008, especially since 2014.

  2. Piotr Berman
    August 12, 2023 at 12:28

    Adherence to democratic mechanisms is surely preferred, but according to Western practice, with exceptions, of which there are quite a few. In recent years, the most glaring exception was a coup in Haiti against democratically elected and popular president Aristide, and USA reacted decisively: US Marines arrived at the presidential palace that was under siege at that moment and … more or less packed him with the family on a plane and send him to Africa. That was the SECOND time Aristide was duly elected and removed by a coup, on the previous occasion “High-ranking members of the Haitian National Intelligence Service (SIN), which had been set up and financed in the 1980s by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of the war on drugs, were involved in the coup [Wiki]”. But 28 February 2004., US role was totally blatant, although it is still presented as “under disputed circumstances”.

    In short, the rules of “world order” are infinitely flexible in respect to violent overthrow of elected leaders. Lacking such flexibility, we would need to know about the background to make a judgment. Some governments that started from forcible overthrow of the predecessors are benign or at least competent, some are corrupt and incompetent, some decrease civil and civic liberties drastically and for a long time, some lead to stabilization and democratic rule.

    So far, we know little about Niger situation, but we know the motivation behind the sanctions and attempted intervention.

    • Piotr Berman
      August 13, 2023 at 14:08

      An example of Western flexibility in respect to military coup that is very close in time and space to Niger is 2021 coup in Chad, the eastern neighbor of Niger. In that year presidential election was scheduled, and the incumbent ruling since 1990, Idris Déby, would not run again. Wiki: Hissène Habré was overthrown in turn in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. [who later he switched to “democratic elections”.] But before the election Déby was assassinated and a council of generals abolished the constitution and elected one of them, incidentally a son of Déby, to be president and since then Chad is under military rule — with no foreign reaction whatsoever. Wiki: the Transitional Military Council led by his son Mahamat Déby assumed control of the government and dissolved the Assembly. Chad remains plagued by political violence …

  3. August 12, 2023 at 05:29

    Niger was right to refuse to talk. Victoria Nuland is evil incarnate. She worse then Medusa. Don’t even look at her. Her fingerprints are all over Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and countless attacks against sovereign states (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq…)

    • Valerie
      August 13, 2023 at 08:38

      That’s a very interesting and exstensive resumé you have Mr. Kasolias. (And yes, it’s painful to look at Nuland,)

  4. Robert
    August 12, 2023 at 03:30

    The Biden Administration is broken. Proof? Sending Victoria Nuland to Niger in an attempt to resolve an internal conflict is proof. There are 8 Billion people in the world. Any Administration run by smart, rational people would realize that Ms. Nuland should have been the very last of the 8 Billion people to select for that task.

    • forceOfHabit
      August 12, 2023 at 10:33

      Agreed. The only explanation for such a blatantly foolish move is that there are so few people they can still find to back their failed global agenda, that Nuland was pretty much their only option.

      • Piotr Berman
        August 13, 2023 at 08:27

        Whoever the envoy would be, the task was to deliver insults and threats, and receive same coin back, it takes a Nuland or Bolton to enjoy it. Additionally, threats delivered by higher ranks are more credible.

        On the other hand, finding some shaky quorum for the intervention in Niger is a feat of sorts for USA, given how low the position in Africa was of late. It matches the prescriptions of Fiona Hill. My prediction is that this “quorum” will turn to be brittle, starting from Nigeria where the opposition to intervention is wide and it seems to have parliamentary majority. Like in Pakistan, the majority can be eroded with bribes and threats (records of corruption compiled for years by USA, only to be weaponized at need), but the ethnic/cultural/historical link between Niger and northern Nigeria is very strong, so it is not an issue of Nigerian anti-colonialist intellectuals.

        Other brittle points can be in “imperfections of democracy” in ECOWAC. There were article how Senegal and Benin are basically repressive one-party states — ostensibly democratic.

  5. WillD
    August 11, 2023 at 22:58

    The collective west still has no real understanding of just how much the global majority loathes it and wants it out of their affairs for good. Or, for that matter, just how increasingly bold the global majority is becoming in its efforts to boot the west out.

    Like all tyrannical regimes, the US and its vassals double-down when challenged or resisted, just making the problem worse, and refuse to accept reality.

    They invent ever more implausible reasons to explain the situation and justify their responses.

  6. Cal Lash
    August 11, 2023 at 19:32

    And I barley finished high school.

  7. Andrew Nichols
    August 11, 2023 at 18:11

    Nuland makes Von Ribbentrop seem like a saint.

  8. Valerie
    August 11, 2023 at 17:32

    From the article:

    “Yet, speaking from Niamey on Monday, the visiting U.S. acting deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland lamented that the coup leaders refused to allow her to meet with the ousted president Mohamed Bazoum and were unreceptive to US calls to return the country to civilian rule. Nuland’s mission aimed at dissuading the coup leaders from engaging with the Wagner group, but she was unsure of success. Nuland was not granted a meeting with General Tchiani.”

    I’m not sure which is worse; to be abjectly thick or abjectly oblivious.

    • Anon
      August 11, 2023 at 20:49

      THEN, speaking from Islamabad on Tuesday, the visiting U.S. acting deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland applauded that the coup leaders refused to allow her to meet with the ousted president Imran Khan and were receptive to US calls to return the country to military rule. Nuland’s mission aimed at persuading the coup leaders to engage with US military contractors, sure of her success. Nuland was granted a meeting with General Asim Munir .”


      • Valerie
        August 13, 2023 at 08:32

        My kind of sarcasm. LOL

    • Steve
      August 12, 2023 at 05:59

      Everywhere Victoria Nuland sticks her nose in, death and destruction follow.

      The new government of Niger made the right move in refusing any engagement with that murder goblin.

      • Valerie
        August 13, 2023 at 08:35

        Yep. People are beginning to “wise” up.

  9. Paula
    August 11, 2023 at 16:35

    It’s been too long for Africa under these colonial powers. She must come into her own for she is a great continent and rich in resources. All I can say is that it is about time. Kick the neocolonials out, take your seat equally at the table of the world. As for the Western world, your bed is about to become a lot harder. Your blindness to the sources and conditions under which your wealth and lifestyle has developed is about to be awakened. You should be sure who is your enemy in this as it has never been Africa who wants only to be free of Western control of their resources and planned and plotted coups. Look to your criminal president and all the money laundering politicians running the war in Ukraine where the laundering money is a national pastime for the oligarchy.

  10. Wade H.
    August 11, 2023 at 14:41

    “But Algeria has neither any experience in conducting such operations on a regional scale nor has any intention to depart from its consistent policy of non-interference in the internal politics of a sovereign country”

    I would guess Algeria has no love for France either.

    Of course we (those of us not entirely having drunk the koolaid) are aware that neo colonialism is still rampant but to see it play out so clearly is quite amazing.

  11. mgr
    August 11, 2023 at 13:10

    It certainly seems like the dominoes are falling in one place after another toward an international LAWS based multi-polar world-order and away from the current Western led nonsense.

    Ironically, it is the utter vacuous and morally corrupt ex-senator and champion of the status quo and his hand-picked cabal of neocon fools who kicked over the first domino to get it going with their pet Ukraine project. With a little luck, they will take NATO, the EU’s vassalage leaders, for sure the irredeemable corporate DP and the idiot GOP with them as they are flushed down the toilet.

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