Niger conflict: Let’s talk about neo-colonialism, resource theft and refugee routes

Mauritania, Mali, Niger and other countries on a globe. Source: Pixabay

Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). The threat of military intervention by Nigeria in neighboring Niger appears to have been banned for the time being. But the neo-colonialists in the West, notably France and the US, will try tooth and nail to maintain their dominance in the country through their military bases in Niger. It is also about migration routes and raw materials.

Last Saturday, one day before the August 6 ultimatum in which Nigerian President Bola Tinubu had given the new military rulers in neighboring Niger military intervention to reinstate the president who had been ousted by the putschists, the Senate of the oil-rich West African state of Nigeria announced President Tinubu refuses to invade Niger. English-language Nigerian daily newspapers unanimously reported what was somehow overlooked by politicians and the media in the collective West.

The senators from the 19 northern Nigerian states had previously convinced their counterparts from the southern Nigerian states that their states, which share an uncontrollable border well over a thousand kilometers long with the Republic of Niger, would be flooded by an uncontrollable wave of refugees in the event of war would become.

With the exception of military intervention, the Senate approved all other methods proposed by President Tinubu to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. As a result of this policy reversal, Nigerian military chiefs met with their counterparts from other ECOWAS member states who were initially prepared to join a Nigerian invasion of Niger. Together they issued a statement that they no longer thought it a good idea to use military force against Niger’s military junta.

The well-known Nigerian engineer and blogger Chima Okezue reported on August 5 on his Telegram channel that the danger of war has been averted for the time being. However, diplomatic efforts to persuade the military junta to resign continue. However, there are two big question marks. Firstly, will France and the USA be content with a non-military solution to the conflict over Niger? And secondly, do diplomatic efforts have any chance of success? As for the second question, the images and videos from international news outlets in the days after the military coup in Niger seem to give diplomacy little chance of restoring the legitimate, democratically elected President Mohammed Bazoum. Even news agencies in the collective West have shown images of mass demonstrations in support of the new rulers, whose rhetoric echoes the anti-imperialist tones of Niger’s neighbors Burkina Faso and Mali. The storming and burning of the French embassy by a huge mob without police or military intervention also seems to confirm the reports that there are no visible factions in Niger’s security organs sided with the ousted president or France and the USA would ask.

This suggests that the new rulers in Niger, no matter what their motivation for the coup, will continue to use anti-colonial rhetoric to legitimize themselves in front of their own people. At the same time, it is to be expected that they wanted to secure the support of neighboring countries such as Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Algeria and, more broadly, the BRICS countries with an anti-imperialist foreign policy. At the mass demonstrations in Niger in support of the coup, Russian flags were waved and shouts of “Putin, Putin” could be heard. A few days ago, Ulf Laessing, who switched on from Bamako/Mali, answered the question of whether the Russians were behind the coup in the ARD Tagesschau news in the negative. Laessing, head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Sahel project and familiar with the situation in Niger, pointed out, among other things, that Russia does not even have an embassy in Niger and has no other influence in the country. According to current knowledge, the motives for the military coup do not appear to be ideological in nature, but based on personal disputes between the military leadership and the president.

When asked what the relationship between Germany and Europe with the new rulers in Niger might look like in the future, Laessing said that the Europeans would have to work together with the putschists if they didn’t want the migration route to Europe to be reopened. This route was largely closed by the ousted president at the urging of the EU. There were quid pro quos from the EU to compensate Niger for lost income. Because the closure of the migration route had destroyed many lucrative jobs in Niger, which was characterized by high unemployment and poverty, which led to great anger among the population. Migration from southern Africa to Europe through Niger had created booming demand across the country for desert transportation, restaurant, hotel and retail services. At the same time, many people were able to make money smuggling to and from Libya. As a result, the population in Niger will put great pressure on the putsch government to reopen the route. So if the Europeans don’t want any new, additional flow of migration from Africa, they have no choice but to make a deal with the new rulers. The usual foreign policy confrontational course à la Baerbock, which feigns virtue, would also have very counterproductive consequences for Germany with regard to Niger.

Now back to the first of the questions asked above: will France and the USA also be satisfied with a non-military solution to the conflict over Niger?

The ultimatum from Nigeria discussed above, combined with the threat of invasion in order to reinstate the ousted president in Niger, had received a lot of political support, especially from France and the USA. The fact that some of the smaller ECOWAS states had agreed to join an eventual Nigerian military operation was seen as an added bonus by Paris and Washington, as it could better serve their own neo-colonial purposes than under the guise of selflessly helping Africans to recover of democracy in Niger are hidden.

It was probably the fact that imperialist circles in the USA and France jumped at the military intervention announced by Nigeria that led Niger’s neighboring countries Mali and Burkina Faso, but also Algeria, to declare their intention to provide Niger with military support in the event of war. This suddenly created a situation in which any military action by Nigeria in Niger would end in a gigantic catastrophe for the entire region.

The total population of the Niger assisting countries is around 80 million, with Nigeria alone numbering 200 million. Without a clear front line, the war would spread to thousands of villages in the border regions. US and French airstrikes would do their part to intensify the resulting chaos. Not only would Nigeria’s border states be overwhelmed with refugees, as the Nigerian senators had warned, but an unmistakable stream of refugees towards Europe would also be on its way.

Because Nigeria has canceled a military intervention, France and the USA are now having great difficulty in conducting punitive military expeditions in Niger, which is far from the sea. Both the French and the US base in Niger could not hold out long against the Niger military in the event of a military conflict without the support of the respective air force.

In order to take military action against the government in Niger from their bases in Niger, the USA and France would need landing and take-off rights for their military aircraft in Niger’s neighboring countries. However, that is highly unlikely. Because in the current global situation, no West African country – regardless of its political orientation and that does not want to commit suicide – will dare alone, i.e. without the mighty Nigeria in the back, the French and American imperialists, unpopular throughout Africa, in a military action against the to support the African brother state of Niger.

In addition, the state of Nigeria itself has a long anti-imperialist history and a corresponding collective self-image. Nigeria has demonstrated this time and time again with its active and generous support of anti-colonial freedom movements in Africa. That is one side of the Nigerian coin. On the other hand, the Nigerian leadership is very allergic to military coups, especially when they target democratically elected governments, out of concern for stability in the West African region. It doesn’t matter what reasons coups are used to justify.

In this regard, Nigeria is supported by the Russian government. The Russian Foreign Ministry has also condemned the coup in Niger. Russian Ambassador to Nigeria Alexei Shebarshin reiterated the Kremlin’s line that the coup in Niger was “unconstitutional.” He added that Russia wanted the Niger crisis to be resolved peacefully and without Nigeria/ECOWAS intervention. More importantly, Russia has no plans to help the new military junta in Niger, Ambassador Shebarshin said.

So the situation in Niger is more complex than many anti-imperialists believe, who, for example, have reflexively condemned Nigeria’s reaction and labeled Nigeria’s president a US puppet simply because, at first glance, like the US and France, he was involved in military intervention in the country threatened Niger.

While a Nigeria/ECOWAS intervention is no longer to be expected due to the Senate decision in Nigeria, the collective West continues to lament the fall of Niger’s President Mohammed Bazoum. The West continues to threaten military action to reinstate Bazoum so the Pentagon can restart its drone base and France its uranium and gold mines in Niger.

How France, in particular, robbed the gold and uranium reserves of Niger to the last was explained by the German MEP Martin Sonneborn, who was elected to the EU Parliament, with his colleague Claudia Latour in an August 3 article in the Berliner Zeitung entitled: “Global South doesn’t want to be plundered by the West any more.” The factual article, which is definitely worth reading, makes it clear that in Niger, too, the Africans want to put an end to the theft of raw materials and cheating through mafia-type trade agreements with the West. Here is a brief excerpt from the article by Sonneborn and Latour as “Appetizer”: “There is not a single active gold mine in France. Nevertheless, this [formerly] criminal colonial state has the fourth largest gold reserves in the world with 2,436 tons. The [former] French colony of Mali owns exactly 0.0 tons of gold, although it has several dozen mines [including 14 official] in the country that extract as much as 70 tons of it per year. Of the income from almost 60 tons of gold, which is mined by [estimated] 600,000 children in the [former] French colony of Burkina Faso, only ten percent goes to the country, but 90 percent to multinational gold mining companies.

Despite its uranium and gold deposits, Niger recently ranked 189th out of 191 countries in the development index. The entire state budget of Niger, a country three times the size of Germany, is around 4.5 billion euros, no larger than the annual turnover of the French nuclear company Orano [formerly Areva].”

Finally, a reference to the multi-day reader survey on the RT-DE homepage entitled: “What is Niger about?” The background to the question was: “After the coup in Niger and the takeover of power by a military government, there is a risk of a Intervention by neighboring and western states. What is it about?”

As of 10:00 p.m. Monday, August 7, only 0.8 percent of readers had opted for the first suggested answer: “It’s about defending democracy against the putschists,” reflecting the healthy skepticism of RT DE readership against the mendacious western propaganda about human rights and democracy.

The vast majority of readers, 70.7 percent, voted for the second answer given: “It’s about controlling natural resources and liberating Africa from colonial structures.” 19.4 percent voted: “Niger is just another Venue in the West’s Struggle Against Russia and China’. The last suggested answer was: “I don’t care about Africa. We are being plundered and enslaved like a colony ourselves.” He got eight percent.

Annotation: The above article was written by Rainer Rupp in German and published in WELTEXPRESS German on August 10, 2023. The translation was done by WELTEXPRESS.

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