Following the military coup against the Government of Niger between the 26th – 28th July, President of France Emmanuel Macron made a statement that the French Government will respond “immediately” to any act of violence by the Armed Forces of Niger against so-called “French interests”. According to Macron – to quote him directly – France “will not tolerate any attack on France and its interests”. No further elaboration on Macron’s part was given regarding what exactly these “French interests” are, considering that Niger has been an independent state ever since it gained its independence from France on the 3rd August 1960.
President Macron’s statement followed in the wake of a number of turbulent events which have rocked the African state of Niger throughout last week. Following the military coup that ousted the ruling government – the latter of which was led by President Mohamed Bazoum – crowds of thousands of people congregated outside of the French Embassy in the Nigerien capital city of Niamey to protest against continued French geopolitical influence in the country. It has also been reported by both local and international media present in the city that the crowds had been chanting slogans such as “Down with France!” and “Long live Putin!” It is not uncommon for formerly colonised African states to condemn and demonise their respective former colonial overlords, but public statements in support of Russia and President Vladimir Putin are arguably especially worrying for former imperial powers which are hostile to Russia.
An increasingly pro-Russian African continent is becoming a starker reality with each passing month, given how popular Russia and President Putin are in many African countries today, and how popular the Soviet Union was to Africa during the Cold War. This is especially evident in the strong presence of pro-Russian socialist regimes in Africa, as opposed to pro-Western capitalist ones. It should be noted, however, that nationalist ideologies in the ethnic and racial senses are also common across many African nations, thereby reinforcing the notion that many African states are actually syncretic in their respective political ideologies and regimes – economically left-wing, but socially and culturally right-wing.
The anti-French sentiment sweeping across Niger alone is evidently not significant enough in itself to justify President Macron’s threats of military intervention in Niger, but considering the increasing pro-Russian sentiment in the country, this is certainly a cause for concern for France in this new age of geopolitical conflict and, arguably, the beginning of a second Cold War between East and West.
A Conflict of Interests
Prior to last week’s military coup, France and the European Union had both invested heavily in Niger, with France sending much in foreign aid and peacekeeping forces to the country, in order to allegedly further its development, whereas the EU had previously allocated over 40 million Euros to the training and equipping of the Nigerien Armed Forces – the very same armed forces which had since launched this very same military coup in question in the first place.
Vice-President of the European Commission and foreign policy chief of the EU, Josep Borrell, strongly condemned the military coup and made a statement last Saturday that the EU would immediately halt all financial support and military co-operation agreements with Niger. Borrell also stated that the EU will not recognise the legitimacy of the new military leadership of Niger. Of course, as we have seen many times throughout history, the majority of military dictatorships care little about the opinions of foreign powers when it comes to the recognition of their own respective state leadership.
It will likely come as little-to-no surprise to many that it has been theorised that access to Niger’s natural resources has been claimed to be one of the primary factors contributing to Macron’s threats against the African state. Much of France’s electrical supply is powered by uranium shipped over from Niger. This is in stark contrast to the energy situation in Niger itself, considering that over 80% of country’s population are without access to basic electrical needs. In direct response to such energy unfairness, the new military government of Niger immediately halted all exports of uranium and even gold to France. With the country’s new military government also being explicitly pro-Russian in their sentiment, it has been predicted that the uranium and gold that would have continued going to France could now potentially end up in Russia, enriching the latter country and Putin’s government with more natural resources and gold reserves. Both would also be of vital importance to Russia’s ongoing war efforts in Ukraine, as well as the prospect of the launching of a new gold-backed currency for the member states of BRICS and its several potential new member states in the future.
It should also be noted that even Germany has been setting its sights on a potential new campaign in Africa, with German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius even stating that “all options are available regarding the movement of our [German] forces in Niger.”
With each passing week, we are gradually seeing the world enter into what is increasingly looking like a Second Cold War, and, as was the case back in the 20th century, it will not only be Europe and North America that will be at the forefront of the new geopolitical struggles, but Africa as well, with the potential for the latter to become a new setting (once again) for new proxy wars between East and West.
ETN Board Member (Serbia)