A convenient coup in Africa’s Niger

The Russian mercenary group Wagner has hailed the coup as a slap in the face of colonial loot of Africa.
Last Updated : 06 August 2023, 05:04 IST

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The military coup in the landlocked West African nation of Niger seems to confirm the worst fears of a section of the academic and strategic community worried about the escalation of the US-Russia proxy war turning into a Cold War 2.0, with Africa as its epicentre.

The coup that dethroned the elected government, citing mismanagement, under-pricing of valuable resources, inability to tackle rising Islamic extremism, pandering to the West, especially France, which had a significant hold over the political situation there. No doubt, the simmering discontent was brewing for some time and there were sufficient evidence pointing to instability. France has dismissed Niger’s cutting off diplomatic ties with Paris, saying action by an illegal administration is not valid according to international conventions. But no one seems to be talking about US handing over governance to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Russian mercenary group Wagner has hailed the coup as a slap in the face of colonial loot of Africa. The coup leaders have reportedly signed a contract with the Wagner group for troop deployment in Niger’s capital Niamey. Russia, and some African countries, have warned the West against initiating military action against the coup leaders.

Meanwhile, an American C-17 military transport aircraft has reportedly landed in Benin, Niger’s French-speaking neighbour with a port opening to the Atlantic Ocean. The Benin port and military air base nearby will be strong outposts for Western forces in any military operation.

Many African countries have sufficient populations of various denominations of Christianity and Islam. The mercenary groups operating out of these nations are actually local private armies funded by those countries who are providing technical assistance to mine natural resources and then take away the entire raw material to the processing plants in their countries. Private armies are paid to keep rivals at bay and at times to keep the standing army of the nation concerned away from the resource centres.

The loot game turns dangerous when the private armies run out of money and ammunition. It is then that they turn to international mercenary groups, including the Al Qaida and Wagner. Once these mercenaries move in, the Americans and the French get their reason to overrun the place and resort even to carpet-bombing these places. The US and France have incidentally already vacated their missions and asked their citizens to leave Niger immediately.

Another time-tested intervention method is to ignite local riots and anti-government protests, normally violent. One such riot has already begun in Senegal where, for the last four days, violent protests have been reported against the government for siding with the West to take military action against Niger. Other West African nations may also witness riots soon. In such a chaotic situation, it becomes possible for US and European intelligence agencies to force the respective governments to allow foreign armies to take over and quell the riots. The private Western “peace-keeping” forces will then go over to Niger and to reverse the coup.

Africa is home to some 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 8% of the world’s natural gas and 12% of the world’s oil reserves. The continent has 40% of the world’s gold and up to 90% of its chromium and platinum. The largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium in the world are in Africa. It holds 65% of the world’s arable land and 10% of the planet’s internal renewable freshwater sources.

But the sad part is the total lack of an effective unified pan-African institution to manage the resources, build institutions, and keep the predatory West, Russia and China away from the resource-looting business. The African Union (AU) announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya, in 1999 and formally founded in 2002, is a 55-nation organisation, but not very effective in tackling the issues the continent is facing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strongly put forward the case for enrolling the African Union into the G-20. If the September summit under Indian presidency succeeds in granting membership to the AU, it will surely add strength to the African nations.

India also needs to speed up projects under the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) with Japan and rope in India’s private sector to undertake more projects and investments in Africa. India’s principle of developmental partnership, in contrast to the exploitation and aid-related political control and debt trap of the other powers, will surely bring much-needed peace and progress for the troubled Africa nations.

Published 06 August 2023, 05:04 IST

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