France in Africa

US agrees to withdraw troops from Niger

The US has agreed to withdraw its troops from Niger, the two countries announced in a joint statement on May 19. "The US Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of Niger have reached a disengagement agreement to effect the withdrawal of US forces, which has already begun,” the statement said, adding that the disengagement will end no later than Sept. 15. The statement comes after representatives from the two countries met in the capital Niamey as part of a Joint Disengagement Commission. Both delegations guaranteed the protection and security of the US forces during their disengagement.

US military kicked out of Niger

Niger's junta has revoked a security agreement with the US military shortly after a large American delegation visited the country. Junta officials said they were angered by the "condescending attitude" of the US diplomats, who wanted to convince Niger not to deepen ties with Russia and Iran, and to transition the country to civilian rule. The US has some 1,000 troops in Niger and a high-cost drone base on the outskirts of Agadez. It has used the base to surveil jihadist fighters but has not accompanied Nigerien forces on operations targeting militants. There is no public data showing what the base has achieved, and Nigeriens have questioned its efficacy. The junta's decision is part of a broader pushback against Western militarization in the Sahel. French troops were told to leave Niger last year, having previously been booted out of military-ruled Burkina Faso and Mali, which are also facing jihadist insurgencies.

Political violence erupts in Chad

Violence erupted in Chad this week shortly after the country's elections agency confirmed dates for a May presidential poll, which is supposed to restore democracy after three years of junta rule. Feb. 28 saw an armed attack on the headquarters of the National Security Agency (ANSE), which the government blamed on followers of the Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), the main opposition party in Chad. The PSF denied the charge. But the following day party leader Yaya Dillo—a vocal critic of ruler Gen. Mahamat Idriss Déby—was killed alongside dozens of the others in a shoot-out with security forces at the PSF headquarters in the capital, N'Djamena.

Russia creates new Africa Corps

Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow's unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now  reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner's estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (The Conversation)

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Jan. 28, issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a "sovereign decision" to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The three countries accused the bloc of failing to support their fight against "terrorism and insecurity," and imposing "llegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions." The statement also charged that ECOWAS has "drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," and is now "under the influence of foreign powers." (BBC News, Al Jazeera)  This appears to be largely a veiled reference to France, with which all three countries have reduced or severed ties, although de facto bloc leader Nigeria is closer to the Anglo-American camp.

Niger junta pivots from the EU to Russia

The ruling junta in Niger has ended a military partnership with the EU, pulling the plug on a mission that provided training and equipment for Nigerien security forces battling jihadists. Authorities have also repealed a 2015 law—adopted under EU pressure—that sought to curb migration to Europe. The diplomatic rupture is linked to the EU's refusal to engage with the junta, which toppled the bloc's close partner, Mohamed Bazoum, in July. Russian officials have visited Niamey in recent days, signing documents to strengthen military cooperation. Russian support for other Sahelian armies has led to massive rights abuses, yet the EU's track record is hardly glowing. The bloc spent large sums on the Nigerien security forces but lacked programs to prevent army abuses—an oversight that played into the hands of jihadists. Its migration policies, meanwhile, resulted in Niamey criminalizing the economy of the northern smuggling hub of Agadez, all while endangering migrant lives.

Burkina Faso: Sankara gets a street — but where's the legacy?

Thirty-six years ago this week, Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, was assassinated in a coup. Some feel his legacy is being carried forward by the head of the country's current junta, Ibrahim Traoré. Like Sankara, Traoré seized power in his early 30s and has espoused strong anti-imperialist views. He has cut ties with former colonial ruler France, snubbed offers of Western military aid, and nominated a Sankara supporter as prime minister. At a commemoration this week in Ouagadougou, authorities announced that the capital city's Boulevard Charles de Gaulle will be renamed Boulevard Thomas Sankara.

Podcast: Niger, Siberia and the global uranium wars

The Tuaregs of Niger and Buryat of Siberia, like the Navajo of the US Southwest, have had their territories usurped and destroyed by uranium mining for the nuclear-industrial complex, and it makes little difference from their perspective whether the extractivist bosses were French, Russian or American. While the Great Powers wage a neo-colonial game for control of this strategic resource, the indigenous peoples on the ground pay with their lands and lives—and are fighting back for autonomy or outright independence, and ecological and cultural survival. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 192 of the CounterVortex podcast.

Syndicate content