By Abukar Arman
Monday August 21, 2023
The world is changing at a rate that is too hard to keep up with. And nowhere is that reality more evident than in Africa. Whether the coups in West Africa and the Sahel region, and the sporadic anti-Western diplomatic mutiny in other parts of the continent, will bring about positive change is yet to be seen. But one thing is almost certain: there will be internal and external pushback against the movement to de-Westernize Africa; especially at its infancy.
Africa’s growing outrage against The West is driven by the confluence of these three factors:
First, Western hubris or the ‘might is always right’ mentality and the ‘your wealth is ours’ exploitation. Second, the moral decay that celebrates and guarantees institutional protection to those who want to force-feed individuals, families, and nations alphabet soup and punishes anyone who tries to opt out or complain about the taste. Third, the Western proxy war against Russia that is intensifying food insecurity, instability, and destroying economies in Africa.
These three factors have inspired two groups of African leadership. Both groups are eager to free their respective countries from Western hegemony. The first group is the revolutionary nationalists personified by the military coup leaders of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. All of them are newcomers to the African political theatre, and all of them want to reclaim their respective national sovereignty by the barrel of a gun.
The second group, which I refer to as the Neo-Africans, comes with a certain political credibility and notoriety. They speak in a collective Africanist language that demands a bigger share of the Western manipulated economic pie. They demand dignity and respect, especially regarding their sovereignty, values, and respective cultures.
Though US and other European powers consider both groups as two-sides of the same threat, they consider the neo-Africans who operate within the existing international institutions and have the capacity to make their case through media platforms, or shame them at UN General Assembly debates more dangerous.
BRICS World Order
The three aforementioned factors also outraged many others in the global south and made BRICS and the prospect of establishing a new economic and political order more appealing. Though the combined economic strength of the current BRICS’ member states and those such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria that are likely to join is significant enough to chart a new way, the group is less likely to introduce a new currency to challenge the US dollar at the upcoming South Africa Summit. Mainly for two main reasons: the US is deeply rooted in the current financial system. India—one of the key BRICS member states—has indicated it may object to a BRICS common currency that I have been referring to as the BRICSall to accelerate the de-dollarization process.
Despite these setbacks, the outcome of the summit is likely to shake the foundation of the current global economic and political order.
The Niger Dilemma
Taking the pathway paved by the leaders of successful military takeovers in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Chad, Nigar’s presidential guards overthrew their pro-Western leader. The State Department urgently dispatched its most hawkish high-ranking official—Victoria Nuland—to meet with key leaders of the Niger coup to deliver a diplomatic ultimatum to restore the previous government or suffer the consequences. This appears as though the US is doing France’s bid to maintain its uranium exploitation. France, which owns 90% of Niger’s uranium mines, needs roughly 8.000 tons of uranium annually to operate the “fifty-six nuclear reactors in (its) eighteen power plants.”
Currently the West in general, more particularly countries such as France, UK, and Germany are facing ‘existential energy crisis’ that they never thought possible when they joined the US, NATO, and EU partnership in support of Ukraine to defeat Russia. Germany which was the strongest economy in Europe has experienced the unthinkable. According to Reuters, there were “8,400 corporate insolvencies in Germany from January to June, up 16.2% from the first half of 2022.”
However, with thorough scrutiny, one is left with more questions than answers. The most nagging one being: Why would the same country that blew up the Nord Stream pipeline—US—care to protect France’s energy needs?
Stakes are high for the US now that Niger has formally invited the Wager Group, the US is very concerned about the economic and geopolitical scenario of Russia or China controlling the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP). The group is capable of rapidly mobilizing thousands of mercenary fighters for cash or natural resource concessions while China and Algeria have strong ties and are determined to strengthen their “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
The TSGP is a $13 billion project, a 2565-mile-long pipeline stretching from Nigeria, through Niger, to Algeria where it would connect to existing gas pipelines to Europe. Since the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, Europe was forced to import liquified natural gas (LNG) from the US at a highly expensive price. US oil and gas companies are salivating for more profits.
Meanwhile, security continues to deteriorate in countries that make up the resource-rich, predominantly Muslim Sahel region.
The Neo-Africans Diplomatic Revolt
Contrary to the wide media coverage afforded to the coup leaders, the neo-Africans are personified by leaders like president Paul Kagame of Rwanda, president Matamela Ramaphosa of South Africa, president William Ruto of Kenya, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia, though the latter country it the only African country that was never colonized. All four leaders are in the crosshairs of the defenders of the status quo. The latter two—Ruto and Abiy—are considered are considered rabble-rousers, rogue leaders that are bent on inflaming the average Africans’ emotions and turning them into anti-Western revolutionaries.
Unlike the non-aligned countries that successfully played the two Cold War superpowers—the Soviet Union and the US—against one another for their own survival, the neo-Africans seem to operate without a mutually forged strategy. And that makes leaders such as Ruto and Abiy whose countries are already politically and economically unstable very vulnerable. Neither one has adequate public support from his people to survive, let alone champion the de-Westernization of Africa’s economy, military, and politics
Remember The Safari Club?
The now defunct Safari Club was formed in 1976. This defunct counterintelligence program initially formed to sabotage the old Soviet Union’s influence in Africa and the Middle East has supplied arms to various militia groups, funded deadlier wars as in the Somalia-Ethiopia war, staged proxy coups in Africa. Though the intelligence heads of France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and (pre-revolution) Iran were the ones who got credit or the blame, the CIA was the brain behind the Safari Club. That was by strategic design. The CIA’s clandestine powers were legally limited by the US Congress after the agency engaged in a domestic surveillance scandal in the mid-1970s.
Meanwhile, the question that itches for an answer is: What might the West be planning for a counter strategy?
Incidentally, Niger has a catalog of every acronym of every terrorist group. It is a landlocked country that shares borders with seven other countries. Already 17 of Niger’s soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Burkina Faso border. And ECOWAS‘ military chiefs are laying out a strategy to restore the overthrown government. There are also French and American bases. If that is not enough, there are various militants, various clans, and Sunna and Shia in Niger.
Against that backdrop, the US is yet to utter the ‘C’ word. And interestingly, the Niger coup leader—Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou— was trained in America and he is one of its favorite generals in Africa.
Soon we shall know whether we have been witnessing raw geopolitics where even allies undermine each other to advance a zero-sum interest. Whatever the case may be, Niger is a geopolitical pawn and is set to become the latest theatre of violence and unrest. Breaking away with the current failed global economic and political system by joining BRICS may be a promising option, but no country should haphazardly jump on this wagon without thorough study of its economic and political conditions and vulnerabilities. The neo-Africans should not forget how in the 50s and 60s, many African countries were liberated from different colonial powers without clear strategy only to become Cold War pawns and get more subjugated
Abukar Arman is a foreign policy analyst and a former diplomat. On Twitter: @4DialogSK