Thousands of demonstrators marched with such placards in front of the French Embassy in Niger. More and more African states are supporting this slogan.
Those who grew up in the Soviet Union probably remember the posters of African men breaking their chains, black children holding portraits of Lenin and other realities of the 1960s, when the USSR helped the Black Continent throw off the colonial yoke. And that’s why you feel a kind of deja vu when you look at the pages of modern Western newspapers that publish pictures of Nigerians holding posters about their love for Russia. By the way, during the coup in neighboring Burkina Faso, the people also raised the Russian flag.
So why did the Black Continent, even after the collapse of the USSR, again develop a love for Russia? And can we talk about the restoration of purely “Soviet” ties with Africa?
Perhaps not. During the Soviet era, ideology dominated relations with Africa, because it was enough for an African country to declare that it was going to build socialism, and it would immediately receive free aid from the Soviet Union, and after a while it would also write off its debts. Now relations are built on the basis of pragmatics and mutually beneficial cooperation, as demonstrated by the Russia-Africa summit held in St. Petersburg at the end of July. But Africans still remember and are grateful for the help in liberation from colonialism.
What did demonstrators in Niger say during demonstrations in front of the French embassy? That France, which formally recognized the independence of Niger, its former colony, continues to dictate its will to Africans. Its citizens say they want to follow the example of Mali and Burkina Faso, which freed themselves from French dictates. Nigerians have realized that only Russia can help them gain true full-fledged independence. Because it does not impose strange conditions, such as, “How are you doing with LGBT,” which is totally unacceptable for Muslim Africa.
On July 26 this year, a coup d’état took place in Niger, a country of 26 million people, where a group of military men overthrew the country’s first civilian President, Mohamed Bazoum, elected in 2021. The West and the United States immediately said they would not recognize the leader of the coup, the head of the presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Omar Tchiani.
And here, of course, an interesting question arises. Why was the coup in Ukraine, when President Yanukovych was overthrown during the Maidan, supported and recognized by both the European Union and the United States, while the events in Niger caused such rejection? It’s simple. Because the new authorities in Niger are oriented towards cooperation with Russia.
By the way, coups in Africa are not that rare — there have been 98 coups in African countries since 1952, and eight coups in West and Central Africa since 2020.
The situation in Niger frightened the U.S. and the West because after the coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, these countries distanced from the West and built strong relations with Russia. Now the Western world fears that Niger, which is sympathetic to Russia, will also join the chain of Mali-Guinea-Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic. It is not without reason that Western experts compare the coup in Niger to the last domino to fall.
“The military takeover in Niger has toppled the final domino in a band across the girth of Africa, from Guinea in the west to Sudan in the east, now controlled by juntas that came to power in a coup,” The New York Times wrote.
Western strategists remember how, during the Cold War between the USSR and the United States, several of its neighbors “fell” into one camp or another after one country according to the “domino principle”.
Apart from the purely political aspect, the reasons for the anxiety of France and the United States also lie on the economic plane. Niger, which suspended uranium supplies to France after the coup, is the seventh largest uranium supplier in the world, the third largest supplier of uranium to France and the second largest supplier to the EU. So France keeps a contingent of its military there, and the U.S. has set up a military base there since 2018 to help control North Africa. Now, like Mali, Niger may also be asking the French to leave. Paris is still reeling from the national humiliation when images of French soldiers kneeling in the crosshairs of Malian soldiers went around the world.
What can the West do to prevent Niger’s rapprochement with Russia? Put their troops into this African country? But, I hope, they realize that by doing so they will contribute to bringing Africans even closer to Russia. After all, it will be no different from the past colonial wars of the West.
Many Western analysts immediately saw Moscow’s hand behind the coup in Niger, and Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Vladimir Zelensky’s office, said that the military coup in Niger was organized by Russia. He wrote about it on Twitter. But what was their disappointment when the Americans themselves admitted that Russia was not behind the events in Niger.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at an Aug. 1 briefing that Washington has not uncovered evidence of Moscow’s involvement in the military coup in Niger. “We have seen no evidence that Russia was behind that coup,” he said. And what were they to do when Russia urged the parties to the conflict in Niger to refrain from using force and release ousted President Bazoum?
That is, while the West was trying to form an anti-Russian front against Russia, it suddenly got an anti-Western front in Africa. In addition to the countries listed above, it includes Egypt, Angola and Algeria, which, incidentally, was also a former French colony and which has long maintained allied relations with Moscow. After the Westerners themselves cut off the Russian oil tap, Algeria, rich in hydrocarbons, becomes very important for them.
So while the White House and the European Union are dreaming of an offensive by the UAF in Ukraine, Russia is continuing its rather successful diplomatic offensive in Africa. And it seemed to French President Macron and other leaders of the “free world” that it was possible to supply weapons to Ukraine, and Africa, especially the former French colonies, where will they go? And they went away. While France, together with other NATO members, supported anti-Russian sentiments in Ukraine, anti-French sentiments arose in Africa.
Russia’s current relations with Africa show how the theories of Euro and US-centrism, based on the assumption that Europe and America are the centers of decision-making, are crumbling in modern conditions. So far, no African country has joined the West’s anti-Russian sanctions despite enormous pressure. And the Russian progress in Africa is clearly set to continue. For example, President Vladimir Putin recently announced the preparation of free trade agreements with a number of North African countries.
“We have free trade zone agreements being prepared with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. This is all North Africa. There are much more so-called development points on the continent,” he said.
It is clear that after the statement about other “development points”, we should expect further steps by Russia to strengthen its position across the continent.