Western imperialism’s friends in Africa last week hesitated about implementing their threat to launch a military invasion of Niger.
But a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) agreed to mobilise a standby armed force and said that “no option had been taken off the table”. Ecowas is a coalition of 15 countries allied with Western powers.
A recent coup removed Niger’s pro-Western leader president Mohamed Bazoum. France and the US, who have considerable military forces in the country, are at the head of Nato members who want him restored.
They will depend particularly on the military and economic strength of Nigeria, which borders Niger.
The Nigerian Socialist Workers League (SWL), the sister organisation of the SWP in Britain, has made the following statement.
SWL is deeply concerned about the situation in Niger. We are unwavering in our commitment to peace and the rights of working people in Niger to their self-determination. But we state that the people of Niger must achieve their own liberation from oppression and imperialism by themselves.
No section of the ruling class, be these military or civilian, can do this for them. With the history of military rule on the continent, we see no good coming out of coup d’etats.
SWL notes the intervention being taken by Ecowas led by president Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, whose emergence as the president of Nigeria remains illegitimate.
Ecowas’s measures include sanctions, cutting off the electricity supply to Niger, and a threat of the use of force. This could spark a regional war as the governments of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali have vowed to support Niger in the event of attacks by Ecowas forces.
These measures will exacerbate the hardships faced by the population of Niger, which is already mired in a state of pauperisation. This is due to the corrupt enrichment of its ruling class and the country’s exploitation by imperialist forces, particularly France its former coloniser, and the US.
There is a fundamental error in the assumption that the military coup is the root cause of the failure of democracy in the country. The reality is that it is the other way around—the civilian government’s failure paved the way for the military takeover.
The civilian government failed to live up to its promises of democratising the polity, addressing the state of insecurity and improving the economic situation of poor Nigeriens. This is what led to the dissatisfaction and reflected in popular support for the coup.
Economic sanctions or military interventions may not impact the coup leaders significantly. But they will harm the poor working people in Niger.
The intervention by Tinubu/Ecowas is not in defence of democracy. It is more aligned with defending the interests of France/Western imperialist powers.
The imperialist role of France in its ex-colonies in Africa cannot be overemphasised. It has held these neocolonial states in an exploitative grip, extracting their natural resources and constraining their fiscal policy space in the most rabid manner.
We thus welcome the coupists breaking of colonial accords with France. However, the key players in the junta have been in governments that upheld these accords for decades. It is legitimate to see this step in the right direction as a populist effort at building a mass base of support, rather than part of a sustained anti-imperialist agenda.
The coup leaders, just like the ousted government, are representative members of the ruling class of exploiters and oppressors in Niger. The true power to ensure social progress and radical democracy from below lies primarily in the hands of the working class people of Niger.
Our goal remains a workers-led, democratic Niger, where the way forward is determined by working people’s power. The path to this is through organising and fighting by the workers and youth of Niger for revolutionary democracy and socialism from below, not putschist politics or imperialist interference.