Escaping a crumbling empire is inevitably reminiscent of a hasty evacuation operation. Terrified people are running toward the airport terminal in Hatshri Dashar. Their hope is that they can somehow board an emergency flight to save themselves from the chaotic situation.
This is this week’s photo of Niamey, the capital of Niger. Hundreds of French citizens have left the West African country in a rush, along with citizens of other European Union countries.
Just days before Niger’s National Day, a section of the country’s military overthrew the government of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup. This year, Niger celebrates 63 years since its nominal independence from France in 1960.
Last week, angry mobs stormed the French embassy chanting ‘Down with France’. They pelted stones, broke the glass windows of the embassy, and set fire to the boundary wall.
There will be no compromise in this matter
This statement by the French President sounded like a stern warning from an imperialist master to the disobedient subjects of a colony two thousand miles away.
An entire French garrison of 1,500 troops is still stationed in Niger. It also has an airbase with fighter jets and drones. All of this reminds us that despite a long and bloody history of decolonization, France has secretly maintained a semi-colonial system in Africa and is now facing a threat it has never experienced before.
The current crisis in Niger is linked to France’s former colonial relationship. Post-colonial France reintroduced the Franco-African concept. This means building a powerful neo-colonial sphere of influence in the economic, political, security, and cultural spheres of sub-Saharan Africa centered around the language and values of France. They maintain economic control over energy resources and all trade agreements that favor them.
French leaders consider Africa to be France’s backyard.
Niger is a prime example. Niger ranks seventh in the world in terms of uranium production. And France relies on nuclear power for 70 percent of its total energy. France is the main importer of Niger’s uranium.
Military and government advisers in Paris have been very successful in influencing the Niger administration. It is true not only of Bajom’s government but of all previous governments. Most importantly, French is still the official language of two and a half million Nigeriens.
Apart from this, reckless corruption is one of the bases for the survival of the post-colonial regime in the former colonies of France. Countries in France’s sphere of influence in Africa, including Niger, are notorious for human rights abuses. In exchange for huge aid programs, the submissive puppet leaders there did not advance the democratic process. Bribes are being traded in the name of arms deals and security assistance. And the bribe money was smuggled abroad.
This transaction of illegal money has always been from two sides. Top French politicians have also been given suitcases of money from Africa. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a convicted felon in this case. He is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Sarkozy, however, denied the allegations.
The CFA (African Financial Community) franc was introduced in the sub-Saharan region, related to the franc, the currency of France. Now there is the Euro. As a result, France has been able to establish economic dominance in some African countries including Niger.
The United States has always supported this exploitative system. The reason for this is that during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, these former colonies of France served as Washington’s geopolitical and ideological strongholds. The biggest problem facing France is that the people of Niger, like many other Africans, are now rejecting the Franco-African idea. This means they are rejecting the French Empire.
Despite receiving two billion dollars in development aid over the past two years, Niger remains the world’s poorest country. The literacy rate there is only 37 percent.
Niger is not the only country in the region to experience a military coup.
There have been two military coups in Mali in 2020 and in Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022. Both these countries gained independence from France in 1960. All say Russia, Turkey, and China are looking to exploit the growing resentment against France (indeed the West) in the region. Russian mercenary forces of the Bhagnar group are operating in Niger’s neighboring countries. Only then will the process of complete decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa begin.