Saturday, September 2, 2023

The recent chain of military coups in West Africa, mostly former French colonies is an inflection point, a disdain and rebuke to French meddling, dilemma for a lackluster African Union (UA), and exposes the stupidity of its psychology. The AU left putschists intact in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Sudan where a civil war is raging. This week Gabon’s Omar Bongo Ondimba fell in a surprise turn of events minutes after being declared the winner of a presidential election, and few will ‘make noise’ in his favour.

When a violent coup toppled the elected Mohamed Morsi, and a political crackdown against his Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt ensued, the AU suspended the country from its ranks, but reversed it almost immediately. Libya had just been knocked down by a NATO backed France bombardment where Nikolas Sakozy was said to had received election campaign money from Muamar Gaddafi and was trying to hide in plain view.

Five presidents on an AU peace mission that never was were turned away midair by NATO that began bombing Tripoli to pulverize the Libyan army, render physical infrastructure unusable, capture Gaddafi and subsequently murder him in full camera view like a street vagabond. Twelve years down the road, and there is no centralized government and Libyans are being scattered by the wild winds. People smugglers are making money as they trade Africans especially from ruined countries to the perilous journey across the Mediterranean into Europe hoping for haven as asylum seekers. The weapons from ruined Libya and those supplied by NATO is now scattered across the Sahel into the hands of militant groups some fighting for dubious causes.

In 2017 the army removed then long-serving Zimbabwean president, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe as the western world cheered. Today Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the man the military installed has just won re-election. Coups followed in Mali [August 2020], Burkina Faso [Jan 2022], Guinea Conakry [September 2021], and recently Niger where the Presidential Guard, took out their principal, President Mohamed Bazoum. And despite the stillness of ECOWAS, calm seems to be reigning after the storm at least for now. There have been coup attempts in the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe in 2022-all former, and still French dominated, exploited and misruled countries.

The reasons for the coups revolve around weak and illegitimate governance, economic issues, harsh climate characterized by prolonged drought, famine, failure to end cyclic violent extremism, cross-border conflicts over pasture, water and farming land. The epicenters of violence have been Liptako-Gourma and the Lake Chad basin. Liptako found in central Sahel is the borderlands of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger now associated with the destruction of the Libyan state and country by NATO in 2011 which led to the proliferation of weapons, armed fighters, terrorism, organised crimes and people smugglers.  

NATO which is still embarrassed by its debacle just next door in Libya, and Ukraine where it’s embroiled in a stalemate with Russia seems to have found ECOWAS as the soft door. In the bully Nigeria, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire where France installed Alhassan Qattara as president eleven years ago is where the echoes for war is loudest, although the Nigerian Senate seems to have stymied President Bola Tinubu’s ambitions to be the sharp edge of the spear. Nigeria has economic interests because it signed gas deal with the EU last year and the pipeline is supposed to pass through Niger.

ECOWAS although chocking in the throat is still threatening a military intervention to reinstate the deposed Bazoum, while Niger’s neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso are counter-deployment in Nigerian territory saying any attack on Niger will be deemed a declaration of war on them too. It should be embarrassing that Nigeria that seeks to be the spear of this military intervention apparently has the resources to fight in Niger when it has failed to defeat Boko Haram in its own territory.

Algeria with one thousand kilometres of shared border with Niger has is opposed to any military intervention saying it would be a direct threat to its own territory as this could spiral into violence in the Sahel region where Islamist insurgents are roaming almost free. The Sahel comprises Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Ivory Coast, CAR, Libya, Chad, The Gambia, Cameroon, Mauritania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and into the dry northern part of Kenya. 

The West is very furious over the coup in Niger because following the coup in Mali, French soldiers were expelled from there and relocated to Niger as the partner of last resort with Emmanuel Macron bragging it would be the “heart” of military operations against Islamist jihadists in the Sahel.  And of course the perpetual bondage and lucrative extraction of precious mineral resources including gold, oil and uranium by France that have gone on for over a century cannot go unnoticed. Niger’s petroleum worth USD191m, and uranium ores and concentrates USD153m or Mali’s USD90bn annual gold exports mostly to the US and Europe don’t show on their citizens.