The region is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources, including oil, gold and uranium . However, the Sahel, a semi-arid region, is one of the poorest and most environmentally degraded in the world. For example, Niger, despite its abundant extractive resources is ranked 187/188 on the Human Development Index.
Natural Resources Management Strategies in the Sahel – a Birmingham University report for the UK Government.
An excellent piece on the Niger coup, written by Thomas Scripps, appeared two days ago on the WSWS site. While its final paragraph carries the obligatory rabbit from a hat call for …
… organising the anti-imperialist sentiment and hostility to the local ruling class behind a socialist programme, [to see] workers in Africa join forces with the international working class around the world in a fight against all war and exploitation …
… which I see as a worthy cause while not holding my breath, I’m glad to see the likes of this …
… China is also seen as a threat to imperialist interests …
… and this:
… the threat of war remains, driven by the global conflict between the imperialist powers and Russia and China, erupting in different flashpoints and via various proxies across the globe …
Why? Because without coming right out and saying so, their wording strongly implies that China and Russia are not themselves imperialist powers. If so that’s (a) a conclusion I agree with; (b) a distancing both from earlier WSWS characterisations of Russia and China, and from those of others on the Marxist Left. (Despite or rather because of my being closer to Marxism than any other political approach, I say it is quite wrong to call either state imperialist. 1 )
Be that as it may. Regardless of our understanding on this particular, and of its choosing a title which bigs up local opposition to intervention without flagging other cautionary factors for ECOWAS and the West – including the Wagner Group’s presence – WSWS offers a timely antidote to the drivel pouring out of our systemically corrupt media as they peddle the fairy tale – for we are few while the credulous are many – that what motivates Europe, and a Washington which had the gall to despatch Victoria Nuland – she of Maidan coup leading, cookie distributing “fuck the EU” renown – to remonstrate with the coup leaders, is a passion for democracy in the mineral rich Sahel! 2
Mrs Merton’s question to Debbie McGee springs to mind: what first attracted you to millionaire Paul Daniels?
Will we ever wake up, en masse, to the truth that media which may well speak truthfully to us on lesser matters are utterly incapable of doing so when imperialist interests are at stake? Or even of acknowledging – one of the biggest lies of omission of all – that there’s any such thing as western imperialism?
But let me hand over to Mr Scripps.
West African states step back from immediate military action against Niger due to popular opposition
Plans for a military intervention in Niger to restore overthrown president Mohamed Bazoum have been put on hold by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Four days after its deadline for his reinstatement passed, a closed-doors summit was held Thursday in Abuja, capital of lead ECOWAS state Nigeria. Its President Bola Tinubu told the media, “We prioritise diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach” and said it was “our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.”
A week ago, Nigeria and ECOWAS were speaking about a military intervention as almost a certainty. Senegal, Benin and the Ivory Coast had all pledged to contribute troops and battle plans had reportedly been drawn up.
The union was backed by the imperialist powers, most aggressively the former colonial power in Niger, France, whose 1,500 troops are threatened with expulsion. Their main concern, set out by US Secretary of the State Antony Blinken, was that Niger would go the way of Mali and Burkina Faso—where military coups took place in May 2021 and September 2022—and turn to Russia and its Wagner paramilitary group.
Russian flags have featured in pro-coup demonstrations in Niger and its military leaders have reportedly been in touch with Wagner.
Blinken said Tuesday, “I think what happened, and what continues to happen in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but… they tried to take advantage of it.
“Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed.”
China is also seen as a threat to imperialist interests, which include major stakes in Nigerien uranium mines and oil fields and refineries. In 2019, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched a five-year plan to “deter Chinese and Russian malign action”. The US has two military bases and 1,100 declared soldiers in Niger.
Almost immediately, however, imperialist officials were sounding notes of caution, stressing “mediation” and a “diplomatic solution” between Niger and ECOWAS. On Wednesday, Blinken called in careful language for “continued efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the current constitutional crisis,” specifying only “the immediate release of [Bazoum] and his family.”
Fears that a war would destabilise imperialist investments and security agreements played a part, particularly for the European powers, who have turned to Africa as a source of energy exports in the wake of the NATO-Russia war …
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- A useful definition of ‘modern imperialism’ – aka ‘indirect rule’; aka ‘neocolonialism’ – is of the export from global north to south of monopoly capital, and the south to north repatriation of profits. This is not to be confused with the direct rule of colonialism, though both are exploitative, underwritten by force of arms and, with a few newcomers and demotions, involve the same players in the same power relations. (That last is unsurprising since the one laid the basis for the other.) The upshots are many, dire and interwoven but those I most invoke are (a) prosperity and self determination thwarted in the global south; (b) a hyper-financialised global north whose FIRE led economies have been enfeebled by decades of de-industrialisation for the enrichment of rentiers; (c) as with colonialism, a drive to wars of asset grab and to thwart rival empires; (d) a systemic inability to prioritise environmental sanity. NB, unlike many Marxists I do not see Russia or China as imperialist under the definition just given, but do see America’s war on Russia in Ukraine as also aimed at weakening its European rivals and binding them even more tightly – in the face of manifest opportunities for European businesses of trade with an ascendant Eurasia – to its orbit.
- On this matter may I also recommend George Galloway’s Mother Of All Talk Shows? In particular this 12 minute segment of a few days ago. Granted, George’s tub-thumpery can sound like a pneumatic drill to the brainbox, but this is a small thing when considered alongside his mastery of detail, and fine tuned ability to turn it into spellbinding narrative and withering takedown.