The Platform

Nigerien women in Agadez, Niger.

There are no real winners in Niger other than Russia and Islamists.

In the twilight hours of Wednesday, July 26, Mohamed Bazoum, the president of Niger, was detained by his presidential guard. A successful coup led by General Abdourahamane Tiani was subsequently announced on national television.

The coup effectively suspended all institutions established by the constitution and closed the nation’s borders, placing President Bazoum under house arrest.

Word of the coup spread swiftly across the world. According to various reports, many Nigeriens celebrated the coup, painting the event as a rebellion against French and Western imperialism.

Following similar coups in Mali and Burkina Faso, international organizations such as the United Nations and ECOWAS expressed concern over these military actions in the country.

The West’s increased anxiety over the ousting of President Bazoum stems from his government’s readiness to protect their interests. For many years, France has maintained a close relationship with Niger, offering essential support in its fight against Jihadists terrorizing the nation.

However, this robust relationship is viewed by many Nigeriens as exploitation and a lingering exertion of French control over their economy.

Prior to this latest incident, France’s bilateral relationship with Niger included various forms of aid to foster development. After the Malian government suspended French troops, France shifted its focus to Niger, enhancing its military presence and fortifying the country’s security architecture.

The relationship between France and Niger, grounded in shared history since Niger’s independence from France in 1960, continues to be intimate. France is Niger’s top export partner, followed by the United States, Switzerland, Nigeria, and Ghana, and conversely, Niger remains vital to the French energy sector, supplying uranium mined in the northern town of Arlit.

Despite this supposed camaraderie, the military junta accused France of exploitation, specifically the use of uranium to fuel France’s extensive nuclear power system, without substantial investment in Niger’s power infrastructure.

Amid this political crisis and conflicting interests, supporters of the junta set the French embassy in Niamey ablaze, marching through the streets and forcefully denouncing France.

The West is witnessing revolts in several African countries, most notably Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, amid allegations of exploitation and repression. These nations have severed ties with their former colonial rulers.

Ibrahim Traoré, the president of Burkina Faso, stated during a recent summit in Russia: “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity. The African Union (AU) must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.” This comment underscores the burgeoning revolution against Western interference with African resources.

Recent military interventions across Africa symbolize an attack on Western colonialism pervading the continent, with Colonel Assimi Goïta of Mali being a key figure in this fight.

In two years, he expelled the French army, severed colonial ties with France, and banned French as an official language. These actions have stoked Western fears that Niger might follow suit.

Russia is capitalizing on this rift between the West and some African nations. The Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization, has signed contracts across Africa, strengthening Russian influence.

The recent summit in St. Petersburg, Russia between 17 African heads of state, far fewer than expected, and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirms Russia’s efforts to consolidate its gains in Africa, promising steady supplies of agricultural products after its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

This initiative allowed for food and fertilizer exports from key Ukrainian ports and was crucial in ensuring Ukraine’s role as a global breadbasket.

Meanwhile, Putin announced substantial Russian grain shipments to several African nations, deepening their relationship with Africa.

In return, the military leader in Mali greenlighted the Wagner Group’s operations in the country after ejecting both France and the UN.

The Niger coup received the backing and support of Russia and the Wagner Group which was revealed in a statement spread across social media just after the coup was announced: “This is a moment of long-overdue liberation from Western colonisers and made what looked like a pitch for his fighters to help keep order. What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers. With colonists who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago.”

A compelling question emerges: are some African countries trading European colonialism for Russian imperialism?

ECOWAS and the African Union have sent clear warnings to the Nigerien military junta, calling for the restoration of democracy and President Bazoum’s unconditional release.

Under the leadership of Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ECOWAS “rejects coup and interruption to constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” threatening sanctions and potential use of force.

In contrast, Mali and Burkina Faso have warned against military intervention and pledged to assist Niger’s government, seeking Russian support. Guinea also voiced support for the coup plotters.

With strong opposition to ECOWAS, the organization should resort to dialogue rather than further strain the region. Their decision should remain pending until all diplomatic avenues have been exhausted.

Regardless of Russia’s ultimate intentions, regional leaders must prioritize a diplomatic resolution and full restoration of democracy. The “use of force” will only exacerbate the suffering of the people in the region.

This complex situation in Niger reflects a broader trend of a shifting balance of power, local discontent, and the potential rise of a new kind of Russian imperialism. As the world watches, the story of Niger could set a precedent for the future relationship between Africa and its former colonial powers.

Samuel Agbelusi is a freelance journalist and writer focused on international affairs and global economic issues. He is currently a fact-checker with Roundcheck which helps to combat fake news and information. Samuel loves writing and providing solutions to relevant issues. He is currently in his final year of studies at Adekunle Ajasin University. Aside from writing, Samuel loves playing games and exploring the world. He is open to different ideas and opportunities and is ready to make an impact on the world.