Niger: for the closure of French and American military bases!

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We do not renounce the right to pit one imperialism against another and to use their antagonisms, but only a revolutionary people’s government can do this without becoming the instrument of one imperialism against another. (Trotsky, 11 August 1937)

In Niger, in the early hours of 26 July 2023, the presidential guard, commanded by General Abdourahamane Tiani, sequestered President Mohamed Bazoum, elected in 2021, inside the presidential residence in Niamey. Troops took up positions at strategic points in the capital.

The influence of French imperialism collapses in the Sahel

The July coup d’état in Niger follows a series of others, in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, in Guinea in September 2021, and in Burkina Faso in January and September 2022. It precedes that in Gabon in August 2023. What French imperialism considered its “private preserve” is collapsing like a house of cards, weakening its state in France as well as in the rest of the world.

July26, Niamey, the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland appears on Télé Sahel

Shortly after the putsch, the General Staff met in a barracks on 26 July and created the “National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland” (sic).

We, the defence and security forces united within National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP), have decided to put an end to the regime you know. This follows the continuing deterioration of the security situation, and poor economic and social governance. (CNSP, Press release, 26 July 2023)

Niger is the world’s 4th largest producer of uranium, with 4 deposits in the north-west:

  • a site at Azelik is part of a joint venture between the State and the Chinese capitalist groups CNCC and ZXJOY;
  • the one at Akouta has been exhausted but is currently being rehabilitated and cleaned up, the one at Arlit is running at full capacity, and the one at Imourarem is still under study; all three are in the hands of a joint venture between the State and the French capitalist group Orano (ex-Areva, ex-Cogema).
85% of the population has no access to electricity. The Chinese group Gezhouba (CGGC) is currently building the Kandadji dam, which should double electricity production, while the Chinese group CMB has already delivered a cement plant to Badaguichiri.

The extraction and refining of oil from Agadem (south-east Niger) have been entrusted to a joint venture between the State and the Chinese multinational CNPC. CNPC is also building a 2,000 km pipeline, the longest in Africa, to the port of Sèmè-Kpodji (Benin) to export crude oil.

The main gold mine is a joint venture between the State and the Canadian firm Endeavour.

The perpetrators of the coup, like their counterparts in Mali and Burkina Faso, are banking on hostile sentiment towards France, the former colonial power and main foreign army in the country.

The French government refuses to recognise the authorities that have emerged from the coup and maintains its ambassador and its troops. The Nigerian government and several other elected members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS, to which Niger belongs) are protesting the coup and threatening to reinstate the elected president, as they have already done.

An anti-imperialist united front at the service of the generals

The Sacred Union to Safeguard the Sovereignty and Dignity of the People (M62) was formed in August 2022 from a group of “around fifteen civil society organisations.”

Niger’s civil society organisations are calling on all trade unions, civil society organisations, academics, members of the media, transporters, farmers, herders, and religious leaders to join them in defending and safeguarding the sovereignty and dignity of the people, which are under dangerous threat. (M62, 2 August 2022)

A year later, the M62 immediately rallied to the coup.

The M62 hopes that this coup de force will be the last opportunity to redress the excesses of the deposed regime and restore the dignity of the people of Niger. (Mahaman Sanoussi, General Secretary of M62, 27 July 2023)

30 July, Niamey, demonstration called by the M62 at the French embassy / photo Balima Boureima

Staff and M62 are working hand in hand for the time being. The latter called for a march in support of the putschists on 30 July in Niamey, during which hundreds of young people chanted anti-French slogans and converged to the French embassy.

For their part, the leaders of the salaried workers’ unions bowed down to the junta.

The Union of Niger Workers’ Unions congratulates and lends its unwavering support to the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) for denouncing the military defence agreements with the French state. The USTN encourages the CNSP to persevere in its patriotic fight against insecurity and to safeguard territorial integrity. (USTN, 13 August 2023)

Some do so in the company of an organisation of small and large bosses.

Niger’s Trade Union Action Unity (UAS), made up of Niger Workers’ Alliance (ATN), the Niger Workers’ Convergence (CTN), the Niger Traders, Importers, Exporters and Wholesalers Union (SCIEDN) and the Niger Workers’ Inter-union (ITN), has reiterated that all the people of Niger stand behind their army and salute the dignified, courageous, fraternal and courageous decision taken by the Niger Workers’ Alliance, Niger Workers’ Inter-union (ITN) recalled that all the people of Niger stand behind their army and salute the dignified, courageous, fraternal and pan-Africanist decision of the brotherly countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Conakry. (UAS, 2 August 2023)

On 11 August, in response to a call from the M62, several thousand demonstrators marched past the French military base, flying national and Russian flags. On 14 August, the courts decided to release the coordinator of Niger’s M62, Abdoulaye Seydou.

On 26 August, the Seyni Kountche stadium in Niamey (30,000 seats) was two-thirds full to support and listen to the generals. The flags were Nigerian, Russian and Algerian.

The Islamists of the CUAFVC enter the scene

1 September, Niamey, demonstration called by the CUAFVC

The Islamists, who had not been very active on the streets until then, are trying to rival the M62. Their Single Framework for Action by the Driving Forces of Change (CUAFVC), whose leader is Sheikh Djibril Soumaila Karanta, President of the Islamic Association of Niger (which officially received the American ambassador at its headquarters on 21 July 2021), called for demonstrations across the country on 1 September.

The crowd gathered at the Escadrille [the square near the French base] performed a collective prayer, some on their rugs and others on the ground. The aim is to implore the Almighty on this holy day of Islam, to protect Niger and its people from the mischief and plots that target it. Thus, after the prayer, a succession of ulemas took to the podium to deliver sermons and enlighten the demonstrators on the noble struggle that Nigeriens have been waging since 26 July. (National Press and Publishing Office, 3 September 2023)

The spokesman for the clerical bourgeoisie urged the population to obey the military junta.

History teaches us that whenever a people and its leaders rally around the defence of strategic interests, they emerge victorious against their enemies. This is why the CUAFVC has called on all the nation’s active forces to rally behind our military grouped within the CNSP. (Boulamine Moustapha, 1 September 2023)

Above all, history has confirmed the warning of a leader of the Communist International (1919-1923).

As for backward States and nations, it is particularly necessary to bear in mind … the need to fight against the clergy and other reactionary and medieval elements …; against pan-Islamism and other similar currents …, against the tendency to dress up the bourgeois democratic liberation currents of backward countries in the colours of communism. (Vladimir Lenin, First draft of theses on the national and colonial question, 5 June 1920)

The following day, 2 September, the M62 demonstration, which was more massive, noisier, and younger, surrounded the French army base. None of the speakers cared about the American military presence. Among them was the junta-appointed Minister of Trade and Industry.

Present at this memorable revolutionary event, Niger’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Seydou Asman, accompanied by economic operators, came to lend his support … And no Nigerien should stay behind in this march towards sovereignty. For the Minister, this mobilisation is the starting point of the greatest revolution in our country, because, he says, many things are going to be reviewed so that it can only benefit the people. (National Press and Publishing Office, 3 September 2023)

In her speech, the M62 treasurer endorsed the conspiracy fable that the jihadists were created and armed by the French state.

We have come together here, men, women, civilians, and soldiers, for a single objective, which is Niger … It is not these terrorists who are fighting us because they cannot carry out this massacre of hundreds of civilian and military deaths … This terrorism does not come from the sky, it does not grow out of the ground, it was created by France, otherwise we cannot understand someone who has never been to school making weapons, ammunition, setting up ambushes. (Souleymane Falmata Taya, 2 September 2023)

Far from the media hype, Orano continues to extract uranium.

The other imperialist powers are playing their card

Russian imperialism gained a foothold in Central Africa in 2018, and in Mali in 2022. In return, Wagner’s private capitalist army is plundering natural resources on behalf of itself and of the Russian state. On 11 August, Russia warned against any attempt to dislodge the putschists.

China is increasingly influential in Africa, where it has a military base. It is the leading supplier of goods to Niger and the second largest investor after France. The Xi government was taken by surprise by the coup, which it did not condemn. On 4 September, following a meeting with the prime minister of the government appointed by the junta, the ambassador announced that his country was ready to act as mediator.

The United States has a strong military presence. Its main concern is to prevent Russia from supplanting France. The Biden government condemned the overthrow of the President, but did not call it a coup. Like the UN, he continues to provide humanitarian aid. On 7 August, he sent Deputy Foreign Minister (“Under-Secretary of State”) Nuland to Niamey for talks with the junta. On 9 August, Foreign Minister Blinken called Niger, ECOWAS and France to order, calling for a “peaceful resolution” to the crisis.

Germany is trying to take its place in Africa. Chancellor Scholz visited Niger, Senegal and South Africa in May 2022, Economics Minister Habeck went to Namibia and South Africa in December 2022, Finance Minister Lindner visited Mali and Ghana in February 2023, and so on. After the coup, the EU followed France’s lead and decided to impose sanctions. Over time, Sweden and Germany separated themselves from France and came out clearly against any military intervention, even an African one, an option that France encouraged. The German ambassador is not threatened with expulsion.

Class independence and international workers’ solidarity!

In Niger, the working class must emerge as a class, fight against all forms of exploitation and oppression, oppose Islamist reaction in all its forms, and wrest the fight against imperialism from the hands of corrupt and impotent generals. To achieve this, the working class needs to create a revolutionary workers’ party whose immediate slogans would be:

  • Close all military bases!
  • No news censorship by the junta!
  • Break of the salaried workers’ unions with the junta!
  • Creation of workers’ and peasants’ militias against jihadists and threats of intervention!
  • Cancellation of public debt to the IMF, the WB, and the major powers!
  • Workers’ control over the production and export of gold, uranium, and oil!
In neighbouring countries, workers must stand up to protect the people of Niger and, with them, pave the way for a genuine democracy based on workers’ and peasants’ councils:

  • No threat of military intervention by ECOWAS in Niger!
  • An immediate end to sanctions!
  • All the foreign troops out!
  • Abolition of colonial borders by a socialist federation of Sahelian Africa!
In France, in a country where the working class includes thousands of workers of Nigerian origin (and where hundreds of young Nigerians are studying), the workers’ parties, salaried workers’ unions and student unions must take a stand against their rapacious bourgeoisie and its government:

  • Withdrawal of French troops from Niger! Closure of all French military bases!
  • An end to sanctions against Niger! Cancellation of debt owed to banks and the French state!
  • Freedom of movement and establishment for workers and students from Niger!
9 September 2023
Permanent Revolution Collective (Argentina, Austria, France, Spain, Turkey)