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Parts of Africa are switching from obedience to France, to obedience to Russia

August 7, 2023 at 1:29 pm

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the plenary session of the “Africa-France” Summit in Montpellier, southern France, on 8 October 2021. [LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images]

In my previous article, I mentioned the military coups in the Arab region, which are a plague. They were not done for the sake of God and the homeland, but rather for the sake of America and its interests and influence in the region.

America came up with the idea of coups and encouraged other colonisers to follow suit. We now see Russia creating a coup in Niger from behind the scenes and overthrowing elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who is loyal to France. Russia used senior Niger army officers loyal to Moscow to lead the coup and create a military council headed by Abdul Rahman Chiani. It was Chiani who announced the expulsion of 1,500 French soldiers from Niger and the cancellation of all military cooperation agreements signed with France.

He also announced that France can no longer mine for uranium and gold in Niger. This is a serious blow to France, which relies on nuclear reactors fed by Niger’s uranium for 65 per cent of its electricity, while Niger itself is left in the dark.

Since the overthrow of Bazoum, the streets have been filled with protesters carrying the Russian flag and denouncing France for looting their country’s wealth. The Niger coup is a harsh slap in the face for France, following the coups in Mali and Burkina Faso. Macron was counting on Niger and Chad, the last of France’s main strategic partners in the region, in order to reformulate his strategy in the African Sahel region. They are France’s last strongholds in Africa. In fact, the continent is a military intelligence base for more than one country in the western camp, with at least five US, French and German military bases. Africa is also rich in natural resources, especially uranium, contributing seven per cent of its global production.

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France occupied Niger and other countries along the West African coast at the end of the nineteenth century; all have abundant natural resources. It looted this wealth, and dominated and humiliated its people, and viewed them like slaves, sending them to Europe to work on farms and in factories. The French government even sent them to fight and kill on its behalf in its colonial wars. Moreover, the French distorted the once Islamic cultural identity and civilisation in these lands, banning the use of the Arabic language in all of the administrative, economic and social facilities of the state. At the same time, it imposed the French education system; removed the teaching of the Qur’an and placed restrictions on the opening of Arabic schools; and otherwise prevented learners from practicing the correct pronunciation of the Arabic language. France basically erased the identity of Africans with an iron fist and forced West African countries to keep half of their foreign currency reserves in French banks.

The French used to enslave and despise Africans. It is worth remembering what former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said years ago: “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.”

Such vile racism exposed the true face of French colonialism and the false propaganda used to justify its occupation of twenty countries in Africa. It had claimed to spread civilisation as part of the so-called “White Man’s Burden”. This French path towards progress and prosperity portrayed Paris as the capital of light and freedom, while the opposite was true; France killed millions of Africans and set up a museum of skulls as well as human zoos displaying naked Africans in its cities for “free” French citizens to gawk at.

After the independence of African countries in the 1960s, France established an entity to “unite” Francophone countries in order to continue its economic, security and political ties with them, all of which apart from Mali and Burkina Faso are against the military coup in Niger and support the return of Bazoum to power. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened to use force, if necessary, to restore constitutional order to the country at the conclusion of its emergency summit on Niger.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, was keen for the Russian-African summit in St. Petersburg — which coincided with the Niger coup — to reformulate the nature of Russia’s relations with Africa and boost its economic and political presence across the continent. He promised six African countries free grain shipments in the coming months. He also hinted at the dream of the African Union joining the G20, stressing that Moscow is looking forward to the AU obtaining full membership of the group in September.

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In exchange, African countries are seeking to explore opportunities for cooperation with Russia in various fields and obtain Russian support in development, infrastructure and security issues. This raises an important question: can Russia fulfil its obligations towards the continent at a time when its own economy is suffering from Western sanctions and given the absence of a political solution on the horizon for the war against Ukraine?

West Africa has turned into a hotbed of confrontations and rivalry between the old and the new camps. During the past three years alone, the region has witnessed a series of coups: Mali (2020 and 2021); Burkina Faso (2022); Guinea (2021); Chad (2021); and Sudan (2021). There are also armed conflicts still waiting to be resolved.

France represents the old Western colonial camp and defends its influence in Africa fiercely; it continues to dominate the Francophone countries. Russia represents modern colonialism, and seeks to infiltrate the continent to extend its influence. African nations are split into two groups: those who long for the slavery of the old coloniser, France, the protector of the country and the people; and those who welcome Russia, the supporter of the people. Meanwhile, democracy has fallen into the legacy of slavery between the ignorant and the hungry, leaving them to switch from obedience to France, to obedience to Russia.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.