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Niger: ‘West’s domination coming to an end’

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Picture: ANA files Protesters with sign that reads ‘Down with France, long live the CNSP’ (National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland). Niger’s Revolutionary Organisation for New Democracy Secretary General Sani Adamou tells Peoples Dispatch in an interview that the recent coups are expressions of widespread discontent among the people.

By Peoples Dispatch

On July 26, 2023, Mohamed Bazoum, the President of Niger, was ousted in a coup d’état. This coup came after similar coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea over the past three years.

The coup in Niger was met with popular enthusiasm as the new military junta denounced the French military presence in Niger, a source of deep resentment amongst many in the African nation. The coup was immediately denounced by France, the European Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), who threatened military intervention unless former president Bazoum was restored to power.

Niger has long been important in the expression of French power in the region, housing a French military base with 1,500 troops. After taking power, the military junta in Niger demanded that France remove all troops from Niger and abandon their military base.

This was met with great enthusiasm by the people of Niger and sparked months of mass mobilisations and protests against the French military presence. Finally, on September 24, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that they will begin the withdrawal of all 1,500 troops stationed in Niger along with the French Ambassador to Niger.

Peoples Dispatch spoke with Sani Adamou, Secretary General of Niger’s Revolutionary Organisation for New Democracy, to discuss the root causes of the recent coups and the future of democracy in Niger.

Peoples Dispatch: What are the reasons for coups d’état on the Continent?

Sani Adamou: There are many reasons for coups d’état in Africa. But recently, what we are experiencing, especially in French-speaking countries, can be attributed to the exhaustion of the neo-colonial model. You know, it’s been over 60 years since our states became independent. But to date, the development of our countries has not been strong. Attempts were made in the early days of independence, but without success. And then, around the 1990s, it was said to be a new era of democratisation, liberal democracy.

It has been said that democratisation, liberal democracy, could be the solution to our problems. 30 years later, it’s the same story of failure. Democratisation in Africa has not produced the expected results. Our institutions are hollow; the people are not participating. The people remain miserable. Our institutions are not representative and the coups d’état are expressions of this.

In truth, instead of coups d’état, we needed to have popular revolutions. However, there is a low level of organisation amongst the people and coups d’état instead take their place. What’s happening in the Sahel should have led to insurrection, but the low level of political consciousness made this difficult. This is why we instead had coups d’état follow one another.

So coups d’état express a deep discontent in Africa. The fact is that our experiments in democratisation have failed. Sixty years after independence, we are even more dependent on foreign powers today than we were yesterday. So we have a problem of sovereignty and a problem of democratisation. And it’s this problem that has led to coups d’état.

Coups d’état are not the solution, but they express widespread discontent amongst the people of Africa.

PD: Why did these coups become so popular?

SA: Coups d’état have become popular because the governments have done nothing for the people. And so, as far as the people are concerned, they’re fed up. And when these regimes are overthrown, the people are relieved, because they hope for something better.

They don’t agree with the way they’ve been governed all these years. Because people have become poorer. More so today than after independence. So what is the point of policies in which the people suffer and gain nothing? So, when regimes like that are overthrown, the people applaud.

Governments that don’t represent the people are no good. We have to stop. We have to find a solution. That’s why the people agree with coups d’état.

PD: Are there alternative ways for the people to reject the dominant regimes other than coups d’état?

SA: Yes, in truth, there are two means. I told you that coups d’état happen because our institutions don’t work. Democratic institutions don’t work. They’re hollow. In a democracy, it’s the people who are supposed to decide. However, the people do not participate in political decision-making. The people do not participate in policymaking. The people don’t even know how these policies are defined. The people are excluded.

In a democracy, the people are supposed to be the arbiters. Normally democratic institutions should make this possible, but these institutions don’t work. They only work for a handful of elites. They are corrupt. They have no credibility. And so, they’re hollow. It’s as if there aren’t any democratic institutions at all.

The Assembly doesn’t play its role because it’s in the pay of the president. The judiciary is controlled by the president. There are no institutions that function independently. So how are the people going to complain? Who’s going to take charge of anything? It doesn’t work.

The solution is for all the people to rise up and make a revolution. Which is very difficult when there’s no revolutionary organisation capable of doing it. The other alternative is for coups d’état to happen when democratic institutions don’t function as they should. There is no other choice.

PD: What do you think of the posture of the African Union and Ecowas?

SA: Clearly, Ecowas is not playing its part. Ecowas says it wants to prevent coups d’état. But it doesn’t want to examine the reasons behind coups. This means that Ecowas is not concerned with how our democratic institutions function. It only reacts when heads of state are overthrown.

But what happens every day? Every day, there are coups d’état in Africa. Because every day, a president violates the Constitution. Those in power do as they please. Justice is not independent. The laws are not respected, because the Constitution is not respected. This is the equivalent of a coup d’état. Ecowas defends heads of state; it’s a union of heads of state. They are not the representatives of the peoples of West Africa.

Ecowas doesn’t understand. Nigeriens have had enough. They want to take charge of their own destiny. They want to assert their sovereignty by demanding the departure of foreign military bases. Nigeriens want to use our resources, like uranium and oil, to improve people’s living conditions. Because until now, these resources have not been used for the betterment of the people of Niger.

Niger is one of the poorest countries on the planet. So, the people of Niger are on their feet today. They want to assert their sovereignty by calling off the military bases, demanding their departure and seeking to control mining resources and initiate a new development model. So, if Ecowas doesn’t understand, well, that’s too bad.

Because in a democracy, it’s the people who are sovereign. Come and organise a referendum in Niger and you’ll see what the people want. Do the people of Niger want Bazoum back? No. Only France wants Bazoum back, because Bazoum has only worked in France’s interests. And Ecowas works for the interests of France, not for the people of Africa.

So, if we want peace to prevail in Niger and Africa, we have to respect the people’s choice. Firstly, the illegitimate and illegal sanctions must be rejected. Secondly, there can be no military intervention. The military threats are not really coming from Ecowas, it’s France that’s behind it.

If we want to help the people of Niger, we have to stop the escalation. To say that we need military intervention in Niger is out of the question. If we want to help the people of Niger, we have to stop these unjust sanctions. And the people of Niger, as they are accustomed to doing, will organise themselves, consult each other and find the most appropriate ways out of the current crisis.

This is how we can get out of the crisis. Any other solution seems to us to be alien to the concerns of the people of Niger, alien to the interests of the people of Africa, and favourable to that of French imperialism, which is the cause of the crisis.

PD: What is the current situation in Niger and what are your recommendations for peace?

SA: The current situation in Niger is that since the coup d’état, the people of Niger have come out en masse to say that they are relieved. To say that they’ve had enough and that they want their sovereignty. Of course, Ecowas can’t understand this. Because Ecowas is concerned with the survival of heads of state, whereas the people of Niger want their sovereignty. They supported the coup because Bazoum came to power illegally.

It’s a hold-up. The election of Bazoum was the first time that weapons have been used to snatch ballot boxes. Weapons were used to snatch ballot boxes in Niger. Ecowas didn’t notice. Eight people were killed, including members of the electoral commissions. Ecowas didn’t notice. But in fact, Ecowas doesn’t notice because it doesn’t want to notice. Because most of the leaders of Ecowas came to power this way.

Buying votes is forbidden by the Constitution. Buying consciences is not democratic.

PD: What do you think of the Cold War imposed on China by the United States?

SA: The United States doesn’t want to accept that it has dominated the world for centuries, but no longer has the means to continue that domination. The whole American strategy has been to prevent the emergence of a second superpower in the world. What they call containment.

Well, it’s not working. American hegemony today is being challenged. American hegemony is being challenged because capitalism, the capitalist system itself, is in deep crisis. It no longer has the strength to continue. So, as the Americans are wont to do, when they’re in trouble, they go to war.

They want to impose war on everyone. They want to impose a climate of war on China, they’re manoeuvring in the China Sea, they’re making all kinds of provocations that show they’re not ready to accept that they’re losing, and that the centre of gravity of the world economy is shifting to Asia. It’s no longer the West, and only the West.

The West’s domination of the world is coming to an end, which the United States refuses to accept and is why the world today is under so many threats from the United States. However, their threats cannot stop the course of history. The United States is wasting its time. Many powers are going to emerge, and we’re in favour of a multipolar world.

We don’t want a world dominated by one power. We want a world where everyone can assert themselves. Where Africa can be a pole too. So, we want a multipolar world, free from the domination of one superpower. A much more united world. And this contradicts the interests of American imperialism, the interests of Nato, and the interests of many other forces. And so, for us, it’s a rearguard action that the United States is waging.

The future belongs to the liberation of peoples, to a multipolar world and a world of solidarity.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch