the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Aug 7, 2023
This article is translated from the August 4 issue #2870 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger in West Africa, a big ally of France, was overthrown by a military coup on July 26. The putsch was led by Abdourahamane Tchiani, head of the presidential guard. Macron and the French government immediately responded with threats.
This is the third recent coup in the Sahel region of Africa. It follows a coup in Mali in August 2020 and one in Burkina Faso in January 2022. The French army has been at war in this region of Africa since 2012. French president François Hollande decided to deploy the army there to fight Islamist militias in Mali. But despite this decade-long deployment, massacres of civilians happen one after another—particularly in the so-called “three borders” area between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Since 2013, more than three million inhabitants of the Sahel have had to flee, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The French army has only contributed to the chaos. It has not helped. How could it be otherwise? The only real goal was to perpetuate the looting of France’s former African backyard by French companies—firstly Orano, formerly Areva, which supplies France’s nuclear power plants.
Niger is the world’s fourth largest exporter of uranium. But it is also one of the world’s poorest countries. The International Monetary Fund ranks Niger as 182 out of 187 countries. In 2010, the portion of revenue from uranium sales going to Niger was barely 13%. The rest went to Areva. This economic domination fuels the legitimate anger of the population against France and the regimes France protects in the name of defending alleged democracy.
Demonstrators attacked the French flag and the logo of the French embassy in Niger’s capital Niamey on July 30. The French government and media claimed the protesters were manipulated by the military junta or by Russia. But demonstrations demanding that France get out are nothing new. In November 2021, in Téra in Niger’s west, people got angry enough to block a convoy of French soldiers. The troops responded by shooting. They killed two people and wounded 18.
French imperialism was forced to relocate its troops during the coups in Mali and Burkina Faso. But the coup in Niger is not the same situation. Macron threatened an “immediate and firm response.” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken defended coup target Bazoum. This contrasts with U.S. policy until now. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a group of government leaders loyal to imperialism, threatened military intervention. They gave the junta a one-week ultimatum to return Bazoum to office.
Is an armed intervention next? What is certain is that following the putsch, great powers like France are concerned about their control over strategically important minerals in the region, and their control over the Sahel in general. To be able to continue their looting, they are ready to turn threats into action—their own or that of their local allies.