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Western powers threaten new government in Niger

By Rick Majumdar

A new transitional government was formed in Niger after a takeover conducted and led by the military leader Abdourahamane Tchiani against Mohammed Bazoum, July 26.

The events were the result of decades-long discontent with the Bazoum government; poor conditions and societal breakdown in Niger resulting from economic stagnancy, high cost of living, periodic drought and desertification leading to poor agricultural yield, and the rise of religious extremism.

These conditions in Niger, however, did not arise out of the blue. Niger, despite having high percentages of uranium ore, gold and coal, remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The poverty and generally terrible conditions of Niger were the result of the country being for many decades compliant with Western countries, such as France and the United States.

France had a direct role in the arm twisting and manipulation of Niger's political system. Through the deployment of troops, in their so called “anti-jihadist” campaign, France was able to secure its material and resource interests from Niger. Despite independence from France in 1960, Niger and the larger Sahel region has seen resource exploitation by France.

About 48 to 51% of the uranium ore extracted from Niger is utilized in the nuclear power plants in France for electricity, while at the same time, 80% of the Nigeriens do not have access to electricity in their homes.

On July 29,  people came in large numbers outside of the French embassy in Niamey to defend the military takeover, calling out the decades long exploitation by France. After taking power, Abdourahamane Tchiani openly said Niger would immediately stop the export of uranium and gold to France.

The result of the curtailment on uranium exports resulted in the Biden administration putting out a statement saying they would halt financial aid to Niger. Abdourahamane Tchiani replied to this statement in a video saying that “Charity should begin at home,” and suggested the United States utilize this aid to feed the millions of homeless inside of the U.S.

The pro-Western allies of the African Union and a section of the ECOWAS group – Nigeria, Liberia, Benin and Guinea Bissau – condemned the coup. This prompted a threat of military invasion from these countries.

On July 30, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Twitter, “I strongly welcome and support ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments to defend constitutional order in Niger” thereby urging intervention in Niger. Soon after, France decided to pull out French nationals from Niger.

However, during the Russia-Africa summit, Ibrahim Traore of the new government of Burkina Faso provided support to Niger. At the conference he said, “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity. The African Union must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.”  Traore came to power in 2022 and immediately banned the export of uranium to France as well.

On July 31, Leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso put out a statement saying that they would declare war on the ECOWAS countries in the event that the new goverment was overturned in Niger. Algeria and later Guinea also provided support militarily to Niger.

The results of the coup are worth following and the next days will show the results and fallout of the event.

#Niger #Africa