Niger: a conversation between two gentlemen

Niger: a conversation between two gentlemen
It may be that Europeans and Africans have more common ground than they would like to think, much rather admit.

While the war in Ukraine rages on, another brews in the West African country of Niger Republic, promising to be more costly in humanitarian consequences than Ukraine. 

The crisis began in Niger on the 26th of July 2023 when soldiers from the presidential guard deposed President Mohammed Bazoum in a coup and closed the country’s borders, citing corruption, high treason and an undermining of the country’s security. 

The military junta has since then declared a new government, naming 21 ministers led by Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine. In response, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by Nigeria continues to mount pressure on the junta for a return to constitutional rule, threatening military intervention in the event that a diplomatic solution fails.

Against this backdrop the following conversation between two gentlemen enfolds:

Hey bro, I'm curious to know what your opinion is about the current situation in Niger, if any...

With the issue in Niger, the coup, I mean, it’s the wish of the people. So it defies logic when anyone attempts to stifle it in the name of defending democracy.

Is it really about the people or about resources? For instance: Europe gets about 20% of its uranium from Niger.

Internally, the people want an end to the brazen corruption and bad leadership. But for external interests, it’s all about the resources.

Russia, like China is seeking ways to expand its influence in Africa. They don't need the resources [per se], but want to loosen the grip of the West over Africa. Rightfully so if you ask me, but how does this serve Africa? 

Africans have little choice over the whole thing. The chokehold of Western imperialism is just too severe on Africans, that they’d jump ship and row with Russia and China for holding a better offer for them.

I believe in the Sudan a similar play is at hand...

Worse will happen in Nigeria soon. The entire West African area is about to go up in flames.

I believe if African leaders play their cards right, put the interest of the nation over their own, stop thinking with their pistol but instead use their God given brain, they can keep both forces at bay.

You see, it’s quite a complex, yet simple issue. But let me try to explain how Nigeria comes into the picture and how Nigeria could be the key to either maintaining peace in the region (and allowing a West African revolution) or dancing to the whims of Western powers who want to maintain the status quo and protect their hold over Niger.

Tell me...

In the just concluded Nigerian election, Bola Tinubu was declared winner even though it was clear to all and sundry that he wasn’t. Bola Tinubu was a heroin kingpin in Chicago who was convicted by a US court and banned from entering the US. His legitimacy is being contested in court in Nigeria. But the US backs him because he’s an intelligence asset for them.

Understood...

Now, the US and France are pressuring him to lead an ECOWAS (the EU equivalent of West Africa) invasion of Niger. It’s his first international assignment for the West so they back his fight for legitimacy. But the Nigerian people aren’t in support of military intervention with Niger.

Aha, they play the proxy card, much like they do in Ukraine - with devastating consequences. An actor or a crook, it's all equal to them.

 

West African leaders are taking sides, with some rallying in support of Niger, and others for Nigeria. So, the subregion is now divided, with one side guided by Afrocentric ideology and another side, imperialist ideology.

Yes, so much  I have understood from independent media in the West. It's more or less a stalemate...

Yes.

With Nigeria(n leadership) being the joker in the deck of cards, being the most populous and probably most powerful of the ECOWAS countries.

Exactly. There are actually no definite borders between Niger and Nigeria. You can’t even differentiate Nigerians from northern Nigerians. They’re one and the same people; same phenotype, same language, same foods, mode of dressing, and value systems. And northern Nigerians are already protesting against a military invasion of Niger which they see as their kin. Mind you, the immediate past Nigerian president upon leaving office left for Niger to retire.

Aha, so the central [Nigerian] gov has no free reign in their decision making?

So it’s looking like if Tinubu goes to war against Niger, a military coup might happen in Nigeria. And if he doesn’t go to war, he lacks the backing of the West in his fight for legitimacy.

So they are betting on a dead horse, at least if the West wants to keep the supply of resources - including oil - secured. What about Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a tool of the government. Nobody talks about them now because the government has more pressing issues.

They would make for an excellent scape goat. 'Blame-it-on-Islam' is a popular meme in the West.

Exactly. War and instability is a business for these folks.

What is the West/US clout over Boko Haram?

In what regard?

Can they [the West/US] control/affect Boko Haram operations using the central Nigerian gov as the man-in-the-middle?

It’s not beyond the West to do so. But at the moment, I don’t think they have. Boko Haram is under the control of the Nigerian government. They’re armed and sustained by the Nigerian government.

It might be to their mutual benefit to play this card. If we see a resurgence in BH activity this would support this theory...

What’s currently at play is bigger than Boko Haram, I think...

The way I see it, BH is no more than a means to an end, like the Taliban were in Afghanistan. The aim is turmoil in the region, while maintaining a firm grip on the region's resources, and at the same time counterbalancing Russian and Chinese influence.

That’s right...

Using Boko Haram as the link-pin, a pin that can easily be discarded once it has outlived its usefulness. 

Boko Haram could get much more funding than they’ve been getting, including tactical support.

The Afghan playbook, although after 20 years the outcome was perhaps not as intended. Or maybe it was - only to be re-opened at a more convenient moment...

This is why I worry that the subregion could go up in flames. And we are talking of around 400 million refugees...

That would mean an even greater influx into Europe as there are no more boundaries, since Libya was turned into a wasteland. Further weakening Europe and of course the region itself, but that is of no consequence to the Western elites. It never has been...

They don’t see beyond momentary victories.

I believe they do, but they simple cannot be bothered by it, since there are no consequences to their actions. The Western public debate is dominated by Ukraine and climate change. Africa to them is a far away place, even with the influx of more refugees. In the end the Western elites will even sacrifice their own populace to retain power. A notion that is commonplace to many Africans...

It’s standard practice in Africa.

Exactly. A practice that is becoming more and more commonplace in the West. We can observe this from the insane policies towards Ukraine and the climate debate, which cuts in particular Europe off from resources, food and energy stability. Of course no news to Africans, but it is still not fully recognised by the average European.

It may be that Europeans and Africans have more common ground than they would like to think, much rather admit.

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