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)
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.
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 Authorities have also repealed a 2015 law—adopted under EU pressure—that sought to curb migration to Europe.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.
Three months after overthrowing the country's elected government, Niger's ruling military junta is continuing to crack down on critical media and peaceful dissent. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement that dozens of officials from the ousted administration have been arrested, and called on the authorities to end arbitrary detentions. To try and force the regime to relinquish power, landlocked Niger's southern neighbor Nigeria has shut its border and imposed stringent sanctions through regional bloc ECOWAS—including cutting off electricity supplies and blocking food shipments. The EU is also preparing its own package of measures aimed at individuals involved in the July 26 coup.
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.
France looks set to begin a "limited" military withdrawal from Niger, after ongoing popular protests have made it clear its troops are no longer welcome. Niger's new military leaders had given France a month to pull its 1,500 soldiers—plus ambassador—out of the country. But Paris, which does not recognize the legitimacy of the junta, had refused. Now, with the expiry of the Sept. 3 deadline, talks are underway with Nigerien army commanders (not the putsch leaders, French officials stress) for an undisclosed number of French troops to be transferred to Chad. But France's military presence is resented across the Sahel. On Sept. 5, there were demonstrations outside the French base in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad, after a French legionnaire killed a Chadian soldier.
A group of soldiers in Gabon announced on public television Aug. 30 that they have seized control of the country and canceled the results of its presidential election, just after incumbent President Ali Bongo was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. The soldiers, part of the newly formed Committee for the Transition & Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), also declared the closure of Gabon’s borders and the suspension of the country’s Senate, National Assembly and Constitutional Court. Brice Oligui Nguema, commander-in-chief of the Gabonese Republican Guard, has been named as the transitional leader.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk raised concerns Aug. 18 about the Nigerien military junta's decision to prosecute deposed president Mohamed Bazoum and others working with him for high treason. Türk called on the generals who seized power in July to immediately restore constitutional rule. "Now the very people who they elected to build a pathway to end their destitution have been removed by force against the constitutional order and detained by the coup leaders. They must be released at once, and democracy restored. This decision is not only politically motivated against a democratically elected President but has no legal basis as the normal functioning of democratic institutions [has] been cast aside," Türk said.