The second anti-colonial war in Africa

Without a doubt, the armed coup in Niger, and the previous events in Burkina Faso and Mali, as well as the ongoing processes in Chad, the Central African Republic and other African states can be considered the second anti-colonial war, stresses ‘Geopolitika’ review from Croatia.

Indeed, after the first anti-colonial war, which took place in the second half of the twentieth century, neo-colonialism was established, which did not differ too much from the previous dark period. Poor Africans were not allowed to develop using African natural wealth, but only increased their debts and humiliations.

Niger, a nation of 26 million population is located in West Africa and is landlocked. Part of it lies in the Sahara, part in the Sahel. Niger borders Algeria to the northwest, Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria to the south, Mali to the west, and Benin and Burkina Faso to the southwest.

In recent weeks, Niger has been in the spotlight of world politics and media that specialize in international politics. Even more attention is being paid to Niger now than Ukraine has been in the last year and a half, and there are definitely reasons for this. Suffice to say that the former commander of the NATO forces in Europe, retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis believes that the situation in Niger can escalate into a full-scale war on the African continent, and there are all prerequisites for this.

Where did such a huge interest come from, probably the poorest country in the world, albeit extremely rich in strategic mineral wealth?

In Niger, an impoverished state with rich reserves of strategically important natural resources, including uranium, tin and gold, as well as rare earth metals necessary for the development of high-tech sectors, a military coup took place on July 26. During it, the first civilian president of this state, Mohamed Bazum, a representative of the Arab minority, elected in 2021, was overthrown. His pro-Western government was replaced by the command of General Abdurahman Tchiani, who declared himself chairman of the National Council for the Salvation of the Motherland.

This is the eighth coup d’état in West and Central Africa since 2020, highlighting the region’s vulnerability and political instability.

The overthrow of Bazum dealt a serious blow to the interests of France and the United States in Africa, since it means, as in the case of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, as well as Guinea and the Central African Republic, the close rapprochement of Niger with the Russian Federation. At the same time, it will not surprise anyone if Niger says “thank you” and, like Mali, sends French and American troops home from his country.

The military coup, which is symbolic, was carried out during the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. The Russian leadership did not support him with a single word. However, undoubtedly, what happened to Russia plays into the hands, as well as the pronounced pro-Russian sentiments of Niger citizens, who overwhelmingly support a military coup in their country.

It is precisely because of the widespread support of the population for the overthrow of the former president that it is difficult to talk about a typical armed coup in Niger. Although this is how it is presented by the world media and politicians. It would be more correct to use the term “revolution” in relation to these events, given the significant support of the population provided to a group of 60 of the highest-ranking military officials who know each other well. This is what brought success, and also allowed to withstand external pressure.

Citizens expressed their loyalty to the new military authorities with mass rallies in front of the French embassy and at the national football stadium, where the military, that is, the new leaders of the state, spoke to the cheering crowd in the stands:

The military coup in Niger can also be viewed in a broader context, that is, through the prism of current processes that have engulfed not only the African continent, but the entire so-called global south. He “raises his head” like never before, seeing a sure chance for himself in building a multipolar world against the backdrop of a new big geopolitical conflict between the collective West led by the US and the East – China  and Russia.

Therefore, without a doubt, the revolution (military coup) in Niger, and the previous events in Burkina Faso and Mali, as well as political and social processes in Chad, the Central African Republic and other African states can be considered as a kind of second anti-colonial war.

The first anti-colonial war, which began in the second half of the 20th century and was supported by the Soviet Union (hence the current African sympathy for Russia and the Russians), brought African countries basically only formal freedom. Soon, and especially after the collapse of the socialist camp led by the Soviet Union, this imaginary freedom was replaced by a modern version of colonialism, the so-called neo-colonialism.

The former colonies never got a real chance to develop, taking advantage of the vast African natural wealth. Their volumes almost free of charge fell into the hands of already democratic, and not colonial powers. It is best to recall that large quantities of Niger’s uranium and tin were sent to France practically free of charge, and Niger provided 30% of the French nuclear industry. Now the new authorities immediately banned the export of uranium to France.

In addition, the United States of America, for example, now has six thousand soldiers in its military bases throughout Africa. This allowed Western powers to maintain influence in many African countries until today.

The problem is that Niger has so far been the West’s staunchest ally in the Sahel. The United States, thanks to a military base established in 2018, has used this country as an extremely important springboard for control over the Sahel and North Africa.

However, it is already becoming clear that external military intervention in Niger, at least for the time being, will do nothing, despite strong statements that this is exactly what will happen if the military junta does not urgently return the ousted president to power. In recent days, Nigerian generals have heard similar threats from both official Paris and the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS).

In fact, the only significant and militarily strong state in this organization is Nigeria, whose population exceeds 200 million people, and which maintains very good relations with the United States. However, the Nigerian Senate decided not to use armed forces against neighboring Niger.

On the other hand, France has long been unable to do anything on its own in Africa in a military sense, and therefore the use of armed forces in Niger looks increasingly unlikely, primarily because of the resolute position of the Nigerians themselves and the new military leadership to resist any external intervention. Burkina Faso and Mali are ready to help them in this.

Thus, a possible military intervention in Niger could ignite a big war in the heart of Africa, which few people want – even the United States of America, without which the interventionist forces, whoever they were, would hardly have been able to achieve anything. Right now, Washington is mostly preoccupied with the Ukrainian war and growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, and another war with an unknown end is definitely not what President Joe Biden needs in an election year.

The loss of Niger for the European Union is de facto tantamount to economic losses, especially for France, could be catastrophic. It was planned to lay a long gas pipeline Nigeria – Algeria through Niger, which would become an alternative to gas supply from Russia, and which is now under threat.

Niger’s new prime minister will be Ali Mahaman Lamine Zein, who was finance minister from 2003 to 2010. Recently, he was the representative of the African Development Bank in Chad, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon, and now he will combine the post of prime minister with the post of minister of economy and finance. Bakara Yau Sangare, who previously served as Niger’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has been appointed foreign minister, while General Salifu Modi, who led the General Staff from 2000 to 2023, will become defense minister.

In other words, the military coup was a success and will soon acquire its “democratic features”, as is usually the case in such cases. Whether the West will adapt to the new situation or try to destabilize it, we will know soon, ‘Geopolitika’ concludes.