The hidden truth behind the coup d’e’tat in Niger

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Flag map of Niger (image:courtesy of Pixabay)

The military coup that shook that West African country on 26 July added to the number of military actions in West Africa. Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and now Niger, have all toppled civilian regimes that were called democratic. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was heavily criticized in each case since the organization applied its modus operandi in countries with different realities as well as similarities. The heads of state who lead the organization visited the countries affected and in certain cases put in place heavy economic sanctions against the new military powers, and then left. This “blanket procedure” reinforced the views of those who feel that ECOWAS is the puppet of Western powers, especially France. The coups have all taken place in former French colonies.

Each of these four countries had been facing severe economic and security crises, with the Al-Qaeda backed Jihadist attacks. France sent troops that were conspiring with the terrorists, and reliable sources contend that, in several cases, French troops provided logistical support and vital intelligence to the terrorist groups. The current Mali President, Colonel Assimi Goita, said, in an interview, that one of the reasons that urged him to topple the civilian government in power was the overt betrayal that the French troops displayed on the battlefront against Islamic insurgents. He described an instance in which he was leading a group of soldiers towards insurgents whom they were almost about to overpower, when French troops commanded, “You move one more step towards the Jihadists and we shoot you”. Goita adds that he cried like a baby that day.

The following questions arise. Why is it that only French-speaking West Africa is overthrowing their civilian governments? Why are Anglophone countries like Ghana, Nigeria and several others not following suit, although they are also experiencing severe economic and security crises, especially in the case of Nigeria? In Ghana, the current economic hardship leads many citizens to think about the ideal solution. But Ghanaians are known to stick to the rule of thumb of the four-year term. They generally say, “after four years, we will have a choice, through the polls”.

The French-speaking African country which is currently living in fear of a possible military takeover is Côte d’Ivoire. President Alassane Ouattara is said to have embarked upon a positive economic transformation, with the improvement of tangible infrastructures. But the close ties between that quasi-backyard of France and the Paris government are obvious.

In the specific case of Niger, the coup of last week unveils many hidden details, when one examines it carefully. Niger is known to have one of the largest deposits of uranium in the world, a key ingredient in the nuclear industry and France always struggles to remain the main exploiter of the mineral resource, through the firm Orano, previously Areva. While the extraction of uranium started several decades ago, the economic woes of Niger have never lessened, but rather to be increasing. France keeps amassing the precious mineral, while the workers in the mines and the surrounding populations are suffering from several diseases caused by the mining of uranium. The toxicity rate of uranium extraction is high yet reports state that no one has been reported to be sick, as a result of the industrial operation. They further state that “only one French citizen was repatriated, when he fell sick while on duty on the uranium site”. The truth, according to studies and statistics, is that almost everybody working on the sites and around them develops complicated illnesses, but the colonial master does not care, all that France cares about is the extraction of uranium.

Another truth faces us, openly: how is it that certain presidents have been in power for more than a quarter of a century in some French-speaking West African countries and their rules are still called democratic by subregional institutions that pride themselves as being defenders of democracy? In Côte d’Ivoire, Houphouёt Boigny governed from the “independence” of the country in 1960 up to his demise in 1993. ECOWAS had never called such a rule non-democratic. In Cameroon, a country which is strategically situated in both West and Central Africa, the reign of President Paul Biya who is 90 years has been president since 1982 still has the staunch support of France. Are we saying that certain democracies in Africa are more democratic than others, to paraphrase a line in George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

Two other facts emerge in the case of the Niger coup. One of them is the juicy benefit that European Union was obtaining from the exploitation of natural gas, through the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline (its length is 4,128 kilometers) that runs from Nigeria through Niger to Europe, via the Mediterranean Sea. The military take over which has generated a pro-Russia fever will certainly affect this parasitic operation. The Nigerians on the streets were seen shouting “France out and Russian/ Wagner in”. Russian’s golden age seems to have started, with the military coups in West Africa. In each of the four countries where civilian governments were toppled, Russia and the Wagner paramilitary group have been embraced and France kicked out. Mali went further to reduce the influence of France in the country by elevating 13 languages spoken in the country to the status of official languages and dropping French. During the recent Russia-Africa summit, Burkinabè president Ibrahim Traoré asked President Putin to facilitate the installation of a Russian private firm that will put in place nuclear thermals which will supply electricity to the West African subregion. The project seems to have been taken seriously by Moscow.

The last analyses that were made after the Niger coup addressed the ethnic factor and the surprising case of the Middle East monarchies. Sources have it that the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, did not consider the ethnic factor when appointing commanders of the various sectors of the army. Also, his Arab origins made the President Bazoum unpopular. The monarchies in the Middle East present a sharp contrast when compared to Niger. That country has resources of uranium, natron (hydrated sodium carbonate), oil, iron, gas and many other precious minerals, and, paradoxically, it remains one of the poorest nations on earth. The monarchies in the Middle east like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and others produce only oil and gas, and they are among the wealthiest nations on the globe. What is the reason behind such a paradox? Many point out the neocolonial influence that still reigns in Africa, especially the French and their grip on Niger. President Emmanuel Macron is said to have reprimanded the foreign military intelligence service of his country for failing to predict the Niger coup. To Macron, after Mali. Guinea and Burkina Faso, his intelligences services should have been alert enough, to predict the Niger coup.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast.

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  1. Very good article but though not written as a scholarly treatise, it suffers from an unfortunate and quite avoidable absence of referencing a least a few of the sources of crucial info to bolster and secure the article’s power to shape opinion and win hearts and minds (the whole point of the exercise methinks). Where can one find the interview of Colonel Assimi Goita and the comments he made? Also reports (studies and statistics) relating to sickness resulting from working at the uranium sites? The point made about the democratic dictatorships is incisive and insightful, as Fela Kuti famously sung…”democrazy…demonstration of craze.


    I consider myself a kindergartic pupil in the school of literary criticism, and therefore, a critique of a pen that has been as tireless as the unwavering pen of Musa Traore is as herculean as turning a triangle into a circle. Nevertheless, the subject at the heart of this week’s article, the Nigerien Coup is worthy of every literary commentary. Over the years, the pen of Traore has been a therapeutic tool in nosing and diagnosing the ills of African societies.
    The Nigerien Coup is only a week old, however, it’s naming ceremony has attracted global popularity.
    Militarism in Africa is as old as independence. However, the resurrection of coup d’etat Africa in the past few years and months is not only tiring but worrying. Questions begging for answers include but not limited to: Is the Niger coup d’etat a decolonizing of French colonialism? is the coup d’etat a change of colonial supervisor for the geopolitical thesis of Niger’s uranium? is the coup d’etat a testament to the toothless dragon called ECOWAS? Is the coup d’etat once again an invitation of the growing Russian presence in Africa through Wagner? or is a general discontent about the undemocratic practices associated with democratization in most African countries?
    Which ever way one wear his or her lens towards the coup, I am disheartened by the irresponsible nature of ECOWAS. To say the body has outlived it’s usefulness is an understatement. May the corpses of Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kaunda and Sekou Toure forgive me if I humbly consider their good initiative as ECO -WAS, to ascertain how it’s relevance is in the past. ECOWAS has been a past tense of the present. It has become a dog that barks but cannot bite. ECOWAS has watched on while many military takeovers have happened. The usual shamefacedness of sanctioning of the junta that takes power only to later make them one of their own is suicidal. Many of the military arrowheads who were demonized upon engineering coups are now praised by the ECOWAS. Mentioning can be made of Dumbuyah of Guinea and Goita of Mali. Why will ECOWAS issue ultimatum to the junta in Niger when they have embraced other military classmates? Is ECOWAS under the influence of Western influence?
    The time is now for EWOWAS to walk their talk else the leadership of ECOWAS should embrace themselves for more coup d’etat.

  3. In the early 2000, it was general wisdom in many North American university lecture rooms that coup d’états in Africa is a thing of the past. The most surprising coups was when the African Union unanimously fired its former Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao. This happened without mass revolts across the continent. Such niggardly action on the part of the A.U signaled to the world that there will be many more coups, since African leaders are spineless and will crawl to the dictates of euro-Americans, those in and out of political offices. The recent coup in Niger, might yet represents a sign of Africa’s growing strength in telling the white west, in Niger’s case, France and America to get out! Niger has the world’s fourth-largest uranium reserves – around 7% of the global total. Owned mainly by France. However, the black people of Niger are living in squalor. This situation is the same wherever black people live. Lets hope that the new leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani can use his relationship with Russia as a strategy for national development and not as another case of master slave relationship.

  4. Then again, I think people should begin to understand that military takeovers years back is not the same as military takeovers now. People would have been executed and what have you, but this is no longer the case in recent times. The fact is that people have endured the suffering inflicted upon us by politicians for a very long time and have begun to rebel.
    If a coup would solve the hardship we are facing in Ghana, it should be the “necessary evil” that Ghanaians would embrace.
    It is so pathetic and disheartening 😭😭

  5. Failed and vailed agenda of the French. Democracy is more than ever questionable in the case of French speaking Africa. Is democracy the only soul governing system that African ought to embrace in order to achieve economic development?

  6. This is another heart breaking issue.
    Common on! The president of Niger cannot be pretending. During the colonization era,the primary objective (s) of both the Francophone and Anglophone masters were to gain sovereignty over many colonies to show how victorious they were.
    Good forward, neocolonialism had led to the French dominated all French speaking countries in the African subregion.
    The use of gun to take over had been a practice of Francophone countries since time immemorial.
    The coup d’etat in Cote d’ivoire, Burkina faso,Mali stc during political ambitions can be traced to the French introduction of the use of gun to gain power.
    Niger as a colony of France cannot continue to surrender to the French commands unless they want to tell the world that, they’re not a democratic country.
    It’s a plus to the Anglophone colonies in West Africa because, there’s a clear and full practice of democracy. This is the antithesis of Niger for example.
    How can you allow your mineral resources to be exploited by your former colonial masters?
    You see, I partly blame them. The president’s ambition to hold on to power for long motivated the embracement of the French treacherous acts in that county.
    ECOWAS has virtually nothing to offer as a remedial measure to the Niger situation because,the leaders themselves are in bed with the French.
    The coup d’etat in those West African countries did not yield any good dividend except leaving their citizenry into disarray.
    During that bloody fray,lifes were lost and economies drained due to the use of resources for military reinforcement.
    So, it’s disgusting to hear that,Niger is back to the use of gun for power.
    Ive said some time in the past that,the whites use various means of penetrating into Africa because of our rich natural resources.
    The International Community must hear this and bring France and Niger to order.
    The era of coup d’etat is over. Civilians are suffering because of some few political heads? No!
    Let me conclude by saying that,Niger’s president should act swiftly to curtail any further insurgency or be responsible for any evil act in that county.
    In the abundance of water,the fool is tasty. So Niger lacked the necessary expertise to mine Uranium? It’s a shame.
    Francophone countries should eradicate the idea of gaining power through arms. We have gone pass that age.
    Thank you so much Traaro for your concern.
    I believe,it things are becoming worse,the ICC must intervene to salvage the innocent citizens of Niger.

  7. African leaders must unite and fight for independence, instead of fighting their own because they want to please the colonial masters.

  8. A comprehensive write up. You brought the reason why French and in truth the West sentimentally want to keep to Africa like a leech that has smelled blood, to better their own and not that of Africa.

    Mohammed Baazum wasn’t getting his terms, not even the first. The reasons were all over. The reprimanded French security capos should have gotten that.

    Baazum came in through what looked like a rigged elections backed by the Hausas of the South East which was never forgiven by the Djerma (the second most populous people in Niger after the Hausa) of the South West where Niamey the capital is situated who backed the opposition.

    Beyond this the Djerma also see Baazum as a Tuareg rebel who led the Azawad Homeland struggles ending in a truce which brought him into mainstream politics but with a plan of his own to establish the Azawad nation in the enclave between Mali, Burkina and Niger through the land of the Djerma.

    I understand Djerma. I talked a lot to those in Ghana here.

    They have been accusing Baazum of aiding the Azawad to kill a lot of the Djerma and rustling their livestock to the extent that they cry they can’t live in their Homeland.

    Then is the French or the Western connection.

    One would expect any president in Africa coming in to tear down all agreements signed by their predecessors down the years as there isn’t a single agreement that isn’t fraught with issues designed to give the French or West advantage.

    Once Baazum came in and couldn’t do that he was seen as doing the bidding of the French allowing the exploitation of their resources to his and cosmopolitan France’s advantage and with all the hate of anything France around in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and the rest of French West Africa he was bound to go.

    Baazum is gone. What ECOWAS should do is to reflect. What were the causes of the revolts against the French or anything the West gaining hold in the ECOWAS region. Each of the countries have same issues. They should reach out to change their ways and resolve to give their people better governance and not to flex as this wouldn’t bring any result apart from angering more people, of course in the ECOWAS sub region.

    This is the time they should give proper leadership to the countries that have toppled France not to revert to Russia and China but to create their own home grown development as falling on these countries is like jumping from frying pan into fire. These outsiders are the same.

    Let’s see ECOWAS leading the way if they want the betterment of their citizens and not the glorification of some few propped by the West/France.

  9. The Anglophone countries are timid. The majority of them want to take action but none of them has the urge to lead the campaign. African leaders are taken their people for granted and it’s sickening.

  10. Why would ECOWAS wait till a coup before they intervene in member state needing great economic intervention? Is the organization existing as a class of decorated democratic leaders?
    I pray Mr Traore and Mr Goita help Niger and collectively, the bring progress to their states like we’re seeing in president Kagame’s Rwanda.
    Africa deserves better!

  11. I think you mean “Nigeriens” instead of “Nigerians” in the following sentence: “The Nigerians on the streets were seen shouting “France out and Russian/ Wagner in”.”

    The piece discusses the most important aspects of the ongoing coup d’état that are stretching over French speaking African countries.
    As comment, there is no hope for the French speaking African countries to rely on the thumb of the “four years term” to be even a little moving forward solution for their development. In fact, France is deeply involved in the election process of these countries in a manner to always ensure that the voted president in these countries is a security for its interests. Thus, the voted presidents in these countries serve their own interests first and then the one of France while their population are suffering. The people of these countries are then fed up France involment in the governance of their states. So, eliminate this France involment is the main reason of these coup d’état. Since any temptation to topple out France was seriously hampered and difficult to achieve due to the several formal rules France has established with the formal governments and the international institutions, the current geopolitical world situation (Russia and Ukraine ware) becomes an opportunity for these countries to throw away France with its influence from their governance.
    The challenge now is these countries should rely on their own capacity to embrace their development. In this respect, they should accept to recommence everything from the starting point. They should refund their education system, go for adequate knowledge, drop down the strange language in a real manner (totally abandon it), forget about all financial aids from any strange states, rely on their natural resources and their capacity to build their own development system in line with their culture. This should be the real way for them to start their development.

  12. Could it be said that Anglophone African countries experience fewer coups as compared to Francophone African countries due to the fact that Anglophone African countries have stronger democratic institutions?

  13. This is indeed the truth behind the Niger coup. France should leave this countries alone as independent States.
    Thank you.

  14. The military coups in West Africa are a concerning trend, especially given the economic and security crises that these countries are facing. However, it is important to acknowledge the complex historical and geopolitical factors at play, including the legacy of colonialism and the involvement of Western powers like France. The allegations of French troops conspiring with terrorists and benefiting from the exploitation of uranium in Niger are particularly troubling and require further investigation. It is crucial for regional organizations like ECOWAS to address these issues in a nuanced and effective manner, rather than simply following a blanket procedure that may not take into account the unique circumstances of each country. Ultimately, the priority should be to promote stability, democracy, and human rights in West Africa, while also addressing the root causes of the economic and security crises that are fueling these coups.

  15. Hmmmm
    It is a very bold step taken by these military men to seize power from these unrepentant cheats called politicians.
    It is rather unfortunate that, in Ghana, politics has penetrated deep into our military. The military is no longer neutral as it is supposed to be. A lot of party people are in the military, so where do they begin from.
    How can the citizens be suffering while government officials are keeping large sums of money in their homes, and the military doesn’t see anything wrong with it. To crown it all, the politicians will say that investigations are ongoing. What investigation??
    For we all know nothing tangible will come out of it.

    Is Ghana a cursed country???😭😭

    Sometimes I just think about it but I’m not to get an answer.
    A coup is not the way out, but as it stands, I think that is only solution to end the mess that has been ceated and that will be created again in the future.
    This is so unfair 😭😭

    Thumbs up to the military of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  16. Thank you for this remarkable article.
    However, there are now questions about the true nature of ECOWAS. Is it really there to defend the interests of West Africa or rather those of the West?
    In light of this excellent article, it would seem that ECOWAS is more of a “FRANCEDEAO”. An illustrative example would be the unanimous support of European countries for Ukraine during the war, while at home we observe the opposite, because of the leaders at the orders of their masters.
    It is true that France, America and many other Western countries have carried out their own revolutions without noise or sanctions. However, as soon as it concerns our region, another reality emerges. The actions taken are justified by the defense of their own interests. Leaders who submit to their unscrupulous masters are seen as good leaders, which drives them to bring the sub-region to its knees and exploit our resources and wealth.
    This notion of “FRANCEDEAO” must be examined closely and in its true meaning. The examples of countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso have clearly shown that the West is largely dependent on Africa. Unfortunately, our leaders, acting like puppets in the service of their masters, are blinded by their selfish interests.
    Your attention to rewrite the text is greatly appreciated.

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