After the military takeover in Niger and having secured the support of many of the people of Niger, West Africa is on the brink of war. The coming days will determine if West Africa will offer its region for war or resolve to find more solutions towards peace and stability.
West Africa has enjoyed relative peace over a long period of time. After the fall of Libya and rise of Non-State groups, West Africa, especially Nigeria, has witnessed an internal crisis of insecurity. Niger is the fourth country in West Africa to experience a coup.
After the emergency meeting of the ECOWAS heads of state meeting in Abuja at the instance of its president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is also battling for legitimacy after what seemed like he conducted an electoral coup, has mandated Niger’s coupists to restore democratic mandate of President Mohamed Bazoum.
“West African countries have imposed sanctions on Niger’s new military leaders, threatening to use force if they fail to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum within a week. Otherwise, the bloc said it would take “all measures” to restore constitutional order. Such measures may include the use of force for this effect,” ECOWAS said in a statement. ECOWAS also imposed strict sanctions, including suspending all commercial and financial transactions between its member states and Niger and freezing of assets in regional central banks.
This resolution comes off as a red line which has caused all eyes to be on ECOWAS to enforce their resolution to either use military force or diplomatically advocate for peace and stability even when such “use of force” was not fully utilised in the cases of Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso.
“The objective of the meeting is to approve a plan of aggression against Niger through an imminent military intervention in Niamey in collaboration with other African countries that are non-members of ECOWAS, and certain Western countries,” Niger military spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said. He continued, “We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer, of our firm determination to defend our homeland,”
Niger plays a great role in the United States’ Africa strategy. “Niger has been an incredible security partner on the continent, and so we will continue to pay close attention to this,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel stated. Currently there are about “1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, where the U.S. military operates out of two bases.” Reuters reports. Will the US watch Niger seal its ties with Russia?
The people of Niger protested, burning down French flags and upholding Russia’s flags. Niger is the 4th former French colony after Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali to experience a coup and rejection of France to establish ties with Russia. In a voice message purportedly that of Wagner’s mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, RFI reports, “What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers. With colonists who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago,”
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement, “The President will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests,” warning that it would respond to attacks against French diplomats, armed forces or businesses.
Why are French colonies in struggle with their coloniser? “French authority in Africa is largely characterised by violent conquest, economic exploitation, legal inequality, and sociocultural disruption.” stated in Oxford Bibliographies “For years after African nations got independence, France maintained a web of political and business ties with its former colonies, often in effect propping up corrupt governments or dictators for its own benefit, a system widely known as Françafrique.” New York Times wrote.
Niger, widely said to be one of the poorest countries in Africa, is indeed rich. Niger is rich in uranium, coal, gold, iron ore, tin among others. France extracts uranium in the north of Niger, to run its vast network of nuclear power plants.
“In 2021, Niger provided the European Union with nearly 25 percent of its uranium supplies, which helped produce electricity for millions of households.” RFI wrote, as the locals are exposed to such dangerously high levels of radiation which can lead to birth defects, cancer, and a number of other disorders including poor electricity.
While African natural resources are exploited by the colonists, Africans are left poor and sick with a destroyed environment.
The sentiments in Niger is not what Nigeria should dabble into coming from the proximity of Niger and ECOWAS should not yield to a proxy war between the West and Russia following the interests so expressed to the use of force.
In a joint communique on Monday, Mali and Burkina Faso declared support for Niger. “Any military intervention against Niger would amount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali…any military intervention in Niger would result in the withdrawal of Burkina Faso and Mali from ECOWAS.” they said. Guinea has also pledged support.
Africa and West Africa should choose their fights. Is restoring democracy as touted by the powerful countries the same as having corrupt and greedy politicians who yield to the exploitation of African resources while rendering the peoples of Africa poor? Can the military taking over the governments ensure the peace and emancipation of the peoples of Africa? Are the countries of Africa ditching the stranglehold of the Western bloc going cap in hand to the stranglehold of the Eastern bloc?
So many questions that need an answer. Nigeria and West Africa going into Niger to enforce their threats will have Nigeriens feel betrayed by fellow Africans in service and support of the colonisers that have kept Africa down. Such is against the spirit of Pan-Africanism.
Nigeria cannot afford to make an enemy of its neighbour and cannot control the upsurge of internally displaced persons if war is waged.
President Tinubu, in his pursuit for legitimacy, warding off the military who may be eyeing his seat and to be in the good books of the Western colonisers, should not plunge West Africa and Nigeria into a war they have poor resources to finance.
African leaders should learn to protect the interests of Africa and her peoples first. That is where respect comes from, not marching forward to war. Africa and West African leaders should pursue peace and stability.