"Quiet Americans" are being quietly squeezed out of Africa


Senegal's new president Bassirou Diomaye Faye

On April 2, the inauguration of Senegal’s new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a staunch «anti-Westerner», took place. The 44-year-old Faye, who won a convincing victory in the March 24 elections, first made a policy statement: it is time for France to leave his country, which, in turn, should renegotiate all previous agreements with the former metropolis. Faye did not hesitate to choose his expressions:

«It is time for France to take its knee off our neck and put an end to unjust oppression…»

What, one might ask, does this have to do with the United States? In fact, the accelerated process of new decolonization is directly concerned with the ideologues and strategists of the «American way of peace» in Washington, who regret that the United States was too late to participate in the division of the African pie among the European powers.

The hidden gloating of the Americans over the fact that the French are being increasingly pushed out of Africa needs no proof. Meanwhile, the heirs of the slightly inferior British francophone empire managed to extend their colonial rule for more than six decades (17 countries gained formal independence in 1960).

To achieve its goal, the French skillfully used a system of oppressive agreements, the consolidation of monocultural specialization of the local economy, which created dependence on the supply of many essentials from the former metropolis, attachment to the «African franc» (the monetary unit of their former possessions in West and Equatorial Africa), military bases and well-paid agents of influence.

But even this well-oiled mechanism failed. Especially after the seconded French military brilliantly failed a mission to destroy or at least neutralize Islamist militants in the Sahel region of West Africa, who have dominated there since the Arab Spring in 2011.

The revolt of former slaves is growing. And this is a message to Washington that the geopolitical environment is rapidly changing. All the more so because they are also getting a hint: their continued presence on the Dark Continent is undesirable.

In March, Niger tore to shreds an agreement with the United States that allowed the Pentagon to maintain a military unit in the capital Niamey and to use air base №21 in the city of Anades, where MQ-9 Reaper heavy drones were based. There, the runway can accommodate transport aircraft of any category, which turned the facility into a strategic «jump airfield» for moving U.S. military units anywhere in the region.

When nationalistic (in a good way) men in army uniforms came to power in Niger last year, and the commander of the presidential guard, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, took over as head of state, the first people who were asked to return home were the French. At first they were desperate, since uranium supplies from Niger provided more than half of France’s electricity generation, but then they were forced to pack their bags and go into hiding.

Now it’s the Americans’ turn to hear the familiar «Yankee, go home». Sources of the French radio station RFI say that there was a chance to find a balanced compromise, but the U.S. administration was let down by the inherent arrogance of its functionaries. US Undersecretary of State for Africa Molly Phee, who arrived for the talks, apparently did not predict the degree of psychological rejection by Africans of the arrogant behavior allowed by representatives of former and now renewed empires.

The scheduled audience with General Tchiani did not take place. According to the press, the “threateningly condescending tone of the talks» chosen by the Joe Biden administration delegation had the opposite effect. Niger put an end to the presence of a foreign military contingent on its territory.

The reference to the fact that «they did not agree» is clearly intended for the unsophisticated tabloid press. In reality, the claims of the new authorities of Niger against the United States are more substantial and well-founded.

Among the reasons that led to the breakdown of the military agreement are: Washington’s false accusations against Niamey of supplying uranium to Iran; direct threats in response to increased Niger-Iranian and Niger-Russian (! ) cooperation; Washington’s unfair treaty with Niamey on the operation of the US military base, which imposed part of the costs of its maintenance on the Republic of Niger; lack of US assistance in the fight against terrorism; Washington’s unwillingness to inform Niamey about US military activities in Niger, their composition and plans; unauthorized by the authorities of Niger reconnaissance flights of US aircraft.

Niamey’s arguments are reasonable and sufficient to escort impolite guests out the door. Just as Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Idriss Déby, did in March 2023, issuing a decree:

«All assets and all rights of any kind arising from conventions, research permits, exploitation permits and hydrocarbon transportation permits of Esso Exploration and Production Chad Inc. are to be nationalized».

This company was a subsidiary of the largest American oil and gas major ExxonMobil. The latter was making huge profits from pumping oil out of the Doba field and from a partially owned pipeline linking Chad and Cameroon.

President Déby’s motivation was to stop the plundering of Chad’s natural resources. The African leader’s initiative echoes the history of the Sakhalin-1 project, which operated on the basis of a production sharing agreement (PSA). The agreement, concluded in the 1990s, allowed the same American ExxonMobil to earn 3.2 times more from Sakhalin-1 than from its largest project, Kashagan in Kazakhstan, and 4.4 times more than from its largest LNG project, Gorgon in Australia.

In announcing the termination of the PSA for the Sakhalin field in October 2022, Vladimir Putin delivered the final verdict: «This is a colonial contract that has absolutely nothing to do with the interests of the Russian Federation».

Six months later, the small African country followed the same path and annulled ExxonMobil’s hegemony.

No less significant coincidence was the fact that in late February of this year, Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin with transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby. There can be no doubt that among the topics of mutual interest was the prospect of Chad, as well as other African countries, gaining true sovereignty and transitioning to stable development.

In late 2022, the Obama-Clinton-Biden administration held a U.S.-Africa summit, overloading it with aggressive attacks on the two nations. Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, accused China of «non-transparent lending» and unwillingness to «ease Africa’s debt burden», and Russia of “bringing untold suffering to developing nations”.

The inconvenient truth about the US imperial claim to Africa’s mineral wealth was revealed by Ebenezer Obadare, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an interview with The Hill:

«How we have failed to the extent that we have allowed China and Russia to gain such a strong foothold on the continent».

When and if any American politician argues that U.S. interest in Africa is motivated by the overriding goal of establishing the principles of liberal democracy there, smile indulgently. Even when Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew President Mobutu Sese Seko, who had ruled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) for 30 years, and then declared himself a Marxist and a follower of Mao Zedong, it was not a conflict between ambitious alpha males, or an outbreak of tribal and ethnic strife, but the vested interests of outside players that were at work in this complicated story.

In the news publication Foreign Policy, journalist Howard French bluntly identified someone who was looking out from behind the shoulder of Kabila:

«There was so much talk at the time about the incredible profits for Western mining companies once Mobutu’s era of corruption and chaos was a thing of the past — that many people in Zaire and Central Africa believed that the U.S. was sponsoring Kabila’s takeover of the country».

One cannot help but associate with the image of Alden Pyle, the «Quiet American» from the novel of the same name by writer Graham Greene, who told with knowledge of how such guys nonchalantly staged terrorist attacks with many victims in Vietnam.

Howard French puts his hunch mildly: criticism from the mouths of American politicians of China’s actions in Africa «today often seems to be a mixture of envy, annoyance, and bad faith». Washington is understandably biting its elbows: loans issued by Chinese banks to African businesses between 2000 and 2019 were estimated at $153 billion, and by the end of 2020, China’s direct investment in African states exceeded $43 billion.

What can the US administration do to counter this? Unless the 6,000 American GIs stationed at 29 bases in Africa. General Stephen Townsend, who heads the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), in March 2022 named four tasks for the command, where the third place is «Countering strategic competitors — China and Russia».

This is a typical manifestation of cowboy thinking, typical of adventurers with a «Trigger Happy» complex, when the first reaction to any challenge is unprovoked aggression. Coupled with arrogance, this leads to the fact that Africa is increasingly pointing the unrepentant imperialists to the door — «take your stuff and get out».