by Minister of Information JR Valrey
As the NATO-Russia war rages on in the Ukraine, the African nation Niger just had a coup d’etat, and overthrew the Western backed president and his regime. The new government of Niger has announced that it has stopped shipments of gold and uranium to France, their colonial and neocolonial master.
All of France’s gold reserves come from its colonies, like Niger, considering that France does not have one gold mine within its borders. And France depends on nuclear power for 70% of the country’s energy needs, and one third of that comes from Niger’s uranium.
Claude Gatebuke is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, a longtime correspondent to the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, and the co-founder and executive director of the African Great Lakes Action Network. Check out what he has to say about what was initially a coup d’etat in Niger and has now ballooned into a regional Pan-African battle against neo-colonialism with Niger, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso on one side and the West African puppets governments including Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and others, aligned with France and the U.S, on the other side.
JR Valrey: Can you tell us a little bit about what is happening in the country of Niger, which used to be a French colony?
Claude Gatebuke: At the end of July, presidential guards of U.S.- and France-backed Mohamed Bazoum carried out a coup and removed him from power. He has been detained since. While the military coalition that removed him has experienced popular support with thousands demonstrating in Niger in support of the coup leaders, Bazoum has in contrast received support from Western nations and institutions. At the head of Western governments calling for the return of Bazoum to power are the U.S., former colonial master France, the European Union, the United Nations (UN) and much of the Western world that formed the coalition with NATO that invaded Libya, assassinated Libya’s president at the time, Muammar Qaddafi and set the region into a violent tailpin with terrorism rising in the Sahel region of Africa.
The West is not alone in pushing to restore Bazoum to power. Leaders of some member nations of the West African regional block known as ECOWAS have also spoken against the coup leaders and threatened invading Niger. The West African presidents aligned with the stance of the West are Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu, Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara, Benin’s Patrice Talon and Senegal’s Macky Sall.
On the other hand, the Russian mercenary group Wagner Group has reportedly been asked by the coup leaders to help. Two other countries in the region, Mali and Burkina Faso, also had coups and have hired the Wagner Group to fight terror groups in those countries – preferring Wagner Group over the French. In fact, both countries have expelled French troops from those countries. Similarly, in Niger an anti-West, anti-imperialism, anti-neocolonialism prevails and more particularly an anti-French sentiment. This is not confined to Niger, but spreads across much of West Africa and Central Africa.
Demonstrators have burned a French embassy and demonstrated at the French military compound in Niger demanding that they leave. It is not just the French who have troops in Niger. The U.S. also has over 1,000 soldiers stationed in Niger.
Under Bazoum, Niger was considered the last remaining U.S. and Western ally in the region. Niger is one of the largest countries in Africa and is of strategic importance in the region and globally. Niger has Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores and accounts for about 5% of global uranium output. The region is also rife with terror groups, many of them Islamic groups. The situation in the region became worse after NATO and the U.S. invaded Libya.
The global attention on Niger, unlike other countries that have experienced coups, and the involvement of U.S. Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, ECOWAS, the EU and others are all because of changing global geo-politics, the diminishing Western influence in the region, and the rise of Russia and China on the African continent and in the Sahel region in particular.
What is striking and at the center of these changes on the continent, though, are a youth that no longer wants to be subjected to neocolonialism, unlike many of the leaders who are happy to sell out the people to foreign interference, imperialism and neocolonialism in order to maintain themselves in power. In my opinion, this is what Bazoum and other Western puppets such as Ouattara, Talon, Sall and Tinubu in ECOWAS and on the continent of Africa are banking on.
JR Valrey: Who is ECOWAS? Can you talk about how the nations of Mali and Burkina Faso have backed the military coup in Niger and threatened the ECOWAS nations with war if they tried to restore the former president that has been deposed of power?
Claude Gatebuke: The Economic Community of West African States is a regional political and economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa. There is a population of nearly 400 million people in this region.
Niger as well as both Mali and Burkina Faso are all members of ECOWAS. It is currently led by Nigeria, and the Nigerian president Bola Tinubu was overzealous in announcing that military action will be taken against Niger coup leaders. ECOWAS gave a seven day ultimatum to the coup leaders in Niger to restore Bazoum to the presidency and the demand was ignored. The deadline has come and passed. He has since experienced opposition from his senate in the use of force. However the Nigerian president has received the support of Senegalese president Macky Sall, Beninese president Patrice Talon, and Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara who all stated that they would contribute troops to any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger. Others have not committed on military intervention and instead want a diplomatic solution.
The coup leaders in Niger have held steadfast. Additionally, the presidents of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso – two countries who are members of ECOWAS – have responded to the ECOWAS threat by saying that they will intervene in support of the Niger coup leaders who are proving to be popular, not only in Niger but also across Africa and the diaspora. The threat to invade Niger is seen as these African presidents playing mercenary for the West, which has exploited Africa and these regions for hundreds of years dating back to slavery, colonialism and on into today’s neocolonialism and imperialism.
If ECOWAS proceeds with this foolish threat against Niger and what seems to be a popular move in Niger, a coup that shed no blood; and if ECOWAS in fact begins shedding blood in Niger on behalf of Western imperialism, they will not only be fighting against Niger but also with much of Africa’s youth who are tired and vocal against imperialism and neo-colonialism by the West. Africa’s youth is tired of the decades and hundreds of years of exploitation by the West with the help of African puppets. Shedding the blood of the people of Niger by ECOWAS will result in a revolt against the leaders who are supporting such neocolonial moves all across the continent and the diaspora.
JR Valrey: What has been happening in Mali since the Western backed assassination of Libya’s Qaddafi. What has been happening in Burkina Faso over the last decade?
Claude Gatebuke: Both Mali and Burkina Faso are in the Sahel region of Africa as is Niger. Since the invasion of Libya by the West and the assassination of Qaddafi, there has been a spike in terrorism and a spike in violence. The French military deployed troops to both countries to supposedly help in the fight against terror in the Sahel. They did not send troops only to Mali and Burkina Faso; they also sent troops to Niger. The U.S. also has troops in Niger.
For over a decade, these missions have been ineffective and have not reduced the violence. The recent coups in both Mali and Burkina Faso have expelled the French soldiers out of both countries. Like Niger, both countries are former French colonies. Both Mali and Burkina Faso have hired the Russian Wagner Group to help fight against terrorism in both countries and have become stronger allies of Russia than they are of the West.
JR Valrey: Although the Niger coup is a military backed coup, do you believe that it will serve the people better than French neo-colonialism has been doing since Niger’s so-called independence? Why?
Claude Gatebuke: It is too early to tell, but I am cautiously optimistic. It’s hard to know what any leaders, whether military or civilian, will do for the people. But for a start, it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT and DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to outdo the harm caused by Western imperialism, neo-colonialism and their puppets on the continent.
If we simply look at some of some of the West’s favorite puppets on the continent, such as Kagame of Rwanda and Museveni of Uganda in Central and East Africa, and we look at the Western backed TPLF in Ethiopia and the horn of Africa, Salva Kiir in South Sudan, the many Western backed dictators on the continent, we have more than 10 million Africans killed by those regimes inside their own countries and outside.
I believe the Niger coup leaders wouldn’t be able to match such a horrible feat. The reaction of the people of Niger and across the continent is also telling on where the people stand. They are embracing the coup leaders. But, as always, I remain cautious as these soldiers could also sell out the people or become major abusers of the people.
JR Valrey: What do you think about Russia’s Putin recently forgiving $23 billion of African countries’ debts and an additional $684 million of Somalia’s debt?
Claude Gatebuke: It’s about time the world outside of Africa stop the crippling debts on African countries. I think debt forgiveness for poor countries is essential. This is obviously opposite of what the World Bank does, which is to come up with every possible scheme to perpetuate the debt. I also think African leaders should stop foolishly pursuing debt and find ways to use the resources on the continent to benefit the people.
JR Valrey: What do you think about Russia donating 25-50 million tons of free grain to financially strapped African nations including Zimbabwe, Somalia, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Mali?
Claude Gatebuke: First of all, I hope the grains are not genetically modified (GMO). The push for spreading GMO on the African continent has been in practice for a while. Monsanto has been pushing GMO to Africa for a while. I hope what Russia is donating is not Russia’s version of Monsanto and GMO to these African countries.
I also think it’s important for African countries to work on becoming closer trade partners given the resources found in their soils than to continue receiving aid from countries that generally do not have Africa’s best interests at heart.
Having said all of the above, the countries named above are countries that have run afoul of the West and their relationships soured. Many have experienced harsh sanctions from the West. In some of these cases it is evident that countries like the U.S., U.K., France, Israel, Canada, the EU in general do not have the people’s best interests at heart as they often claim to.
Zimbabwe for example has suffered decades of sanctions, not because of human rights abuses committed for decades before the sanctions began but because Zimbabwe embarked on a land reform that was part of its independence agreement with the British. During colonialism, large communities of Black Zimbabweans were displaced in order for the British colonial masters to take up the best and most productive land in Zimbabwe.
By the year 2000, 70% of the best land in Zimbabwe was owned by Whites whose whole population was around 3%. When Zimbabwe gained its independence from the British, an agreement known as the Lancaster Agreement was signed. It included land reform. When then president Mugabe of Zimbabwe pushed for the implementation of the land reform, the West turned on him and Zimbabwe was put on sanctions.
JR Valrey: Historically has Russia been a better friend to Africa than the West, which consists of the U.S., France, the UK, Israel etc? Why or why not?
Claude Gatebuke: During the fight against colonialism, the relationship with the USSR for many African liberation movements was key. I don’t know if I would go as far as calling it friendship, since there was politics and money involved. But it was evident during one of the most notable fights against colonialism on the continent, which is the fight against Apartheid in South Africa and the liberation of multiple countries in Southern Africa against colonial rule.
The West was a big time supporter of Apartheid South Africa and the colonialists. They provided weapons, funding, political and diplomatic support to colonial forces. Often, countries aligned with the USSR (Russia) were on the side of the African movements trying to liberate Africans from colonialism. One of the most notable ones was Cuba, which sent troops to multiple countries to fight against colonialism. While the U.S. had Nelson Mandela on the list of terrorists, Cuba, which was a close ally with the USSR (Russia), was contributing all the resources they could to end Apartheid in South Africa. They also did this in multiple African countries.
JR Valrey: What are your views on BRICS new currency that will be backed by gold that will most definitely sink the dollar and the economic power of the U.S.?
Claude Gatebuke: I love having balance of power. I also love seeing the underdogs rise. While a strong U.S. dollar may benefit me personally, being in America, I think the liberation of people and people’s freedom is much more important than that. To that extent, I think any time there is a choice in the world, it prevents abuses. The de-dollarization taking place around the world is going to even the playing field with time. I also think a currency backed by commodities is a good thing. I hope the BRICS countries will get it fully rolled out. I think an even playing field will bring about a change where more countries become trade partners instead of master-servant relationships.
JR Valrey: Why is it important for Black people from the U.S. to speak up on international politics? What effect does our opinion have internationally? Why?
Claude Gatebuke: Black Americans are one of the largest populations of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. Black opinion is also important in U.S. politics and global politics. Black Americans and Black people in America were key players in the independence movements in Africa and in raising the profile of the plight of African descendants all over the globe. From Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Muhammed Ali and many others, they pushed for the liberation of African nations from colonialism. They spoke out against Apartheid and the exploitation of Africans.
The voice of Blacks in America raises the profile of global issues. During Apartheid, the late Randall Robinson led the anti-Apartheid movement in America via TransAfrica Forum. It was also TransAfrica Forum that was at the forefront of bringing former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide back to Haiti after U.S. President George Bush’s administration banished him from the Western Hemisphere, something that was maintained by the Obama administration. In spite of Obama objecting to Aristide’s return to Haiti, he came back to his home country. This is one small example but a recent one.
Given the Black population in America, the availability of technology that allows marginalized Black people’s voices to be heard, the refusal for many in the Black community to sell out, the buying power of Blacks in America, it makes it difficult for the U.S. and in turn the Western world from carrying out imperialist and neo-colonial projects unbothered.
Coupled with the fact that a number of U.S. politicians count on the Black vote, U.S. policy can be kept in check by Black people in America. The voice of Black people in America has made it difficult for Black people around the world to be lynched in “peace” for perpetrators. It has also been instrumental in the liberation of Blacks all over the world.
It is important that this voice be used to carry out the will of the people in Niger and the descendants of Africa all over the world.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.