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Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger at the forefront of the African Revolution

Feature Article Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger at the forefront of the African Revolution
THU, 24 AUG 2023 LISTEN

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future”. - Thomas Sankara

Niamey, Niger, August 19, 2023: Thousands of young people queue to register to volunteer to defend their country as part of a volunteer initiative. General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of the Presidential Guards Unit, has repeatedly warned ECOWAS and unnamed Western nations against stepping in. “We once again reiterate to ECOWAS or any other adventurer our firm determination to defend our fatherland”.

History is a great teacher. If we do not learn from it, we are doomed to repeat mistakes made. Early post-colonial African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita and Marien Ngouabi spoke of economic independence and the ongoing struggle for true independence. Well aware of the trap of bogus independence, what Walter Rodney referred to as "brief- case independence", or what I refer to as “flag-and-anthem independence”, these leaders mobilised and organised their people for the completion of their respective national liberation struggles. However, Western imperialism and its stooges, or "running dogs of imperialism", as the Chinese revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong called them, either overthrew or assassinated these visionaries. Like so many conquerors throughout history, the imperialists enlisted the support of reactionary regimes and Western assets in the military to achieve their diabolical agenda, that is to keep Africa in a state of permanent dependence and servitude, so they could continue their rape and plunder of the continent.

Frantz Fanon's observation in his seminal work, Towards the African Revolution' remains as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1964. Fanon observed that "the great success of the enemies of Africa is to have compromised the African themselves. It is true that these Africans were directly interested in the murder of Lumumba, Chiefs of puppet governments, in the midst of a puppet independence, facing day after day the wholesale opposition of their peoples, it did not take them long to convince themselves that the real independence of the Congo would put them personally in danger".

Fast forward to 2023, and as if to confirm his status as a compromised African, ECOWAS Chairman, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, is expressing his concern that the emerging trend of coups in West Africa had reached alarming levels. Of course, alarming for him as he wonders if he will be the next neo-colonial leader to be swept aside.

As a multipolar world emerges, all over Africa the people are rising up and challenging decades of neocolonial rule, exploitation and fake independence, favouring relations with Russia and China over the US and West Europe. Regardless of what takes place at the political level, it is when the masses rise up that real and meaningful transformation occurs. It is the masses who make history. They are just waiting for the moment, for the tipping point and the moment is here.

In Africa, here in the Caribbean and South America, and throughout the Global South, people at the grassroots are often clearer about what is taking place globally than many who are located in the ivory towers of academia, who so often become confused. In the poorest areas of Guyana, people who have never travelled far from their area or had access to books, or even in some cases internet, are very clear about why Muammar Qaddafi was killed, while we had the globally renowned Guyanese economist and dependency theorist, Clive Thomas, regurgitating the imperialist narrative “Qaddafi must go!” For the masses, knowledge is not gleaned from books and other people’s stories and therefore it is not disembodied. Knowledge devoid of an experiential dimension becomes an abstraction and this precludes an authentic understanding of the immense pain suffered by the peoples of the Global South, and the devastating impact that the injustice we experience has on every aspect of our lives, including whether we and our loved ones even get to live.

Thus, the only people who truly understand the suffering that inflicts millions on this earth every day are the sufferers themselves. As we say in Guyana, “who feels it, knows it”. Those who have been forced to reckon with it, and to fight it themselves, are the ones who will eventually make the change. These are the people who filled the stadium on August 7th to support the revolutionaries of Niger as they closed Niger’s airspace and refused to surrender. These are the people who are signing up in their thousands to defend Niger as I write this article. These are the people in Nigeria and Ghana who oppose their country’s proposed military intervention in Niger because they understand all too clearly that this is a proxy war hatched by the imperialists, especially the US and France. These are the ones in Haiti, who understand and support Jimmy Chérizier, while Haitian activists residing in the US and France and commenting from their ivory towers are falling for the Western narrative which insists on criminalizing those from the Haitian streets who have become conscientized, and now, instead of fighting each other, are fighting their oppressors.

When the people stand up, imperialism trembles.

Thomas Sankara
The political heirs of the traitors who stood in the way of the post-colonial revolutionary African leaders are now plotting and planning ways to thwart and kill this new generation of African revolutionary leaders, Ibrahim Traore of Burkina Faso, Assimi Goita of Mali, and Abdourahmane Tiani of Niger, all in the name of ‘democracy’ - liberal democracy, a Western colonial imposition, an illusion of democracy, a trap that has left the African continent in chaos, persistent poverty and chronic dependency – the hallmarks of the neo-colonial arrangement. It is the chains of this enslavement that the revolutionary coup leaders in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are determined to break. The same chains that Imran Khan is determined to break in Pakistan.

Imperialism is a system of exploitation that occurs not only in the brutal form of those who come with guns to conquer territory. Imperialism often occurs in more subtle forms, a loan, food aid, blackmail. We are fighting this system that allows a handful of men on earth to rule all of humanity.

Thomas Sankara
In the words of Kwame Nkrumah: “Neo-colonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather of its last hideous gasp”. The Empire knows that it has come to the end of its reign, even if they refuse to admit it openly. The power and influence of the Empire is fading faster than could have ever been imagined even a year ago, it is indeed taking its last hideous gasp. Although in the open, the US and West Europe are still strutting on the world stage with their usual arrogance and bravado, behind closed doors they are in panic mode.

This new set of compromised Africans, under the umbrella of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), continue to push for a military intervention in Niger, backed of course by France and the US, but as I write, are still retreating from making that fatal mistake as they realize it would be doomed to failure. The Western Corporate media continues to bleat about restoring ‘democracy’ to Niger, despite the fact that the coup leaders have the overwhelming support of the people - isn’t that democracy? BBC repeats the same thing over and over, that the US and EU are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to Niger’s “political turmoil”, despite the fact that there is no turmoil as the people of Niger express their overwhelming support for the coup. It is the imperialists that are in turmoil as they realize the extent of the support the coup leaders and Russia have, and the extent of the hatred that is being directed towards them.

The people make history - coup supporters in the streets of Niger, “Down with France, Long Live Putin”

ECOWAS is a neo-colonial body that colludes with the imperialists to keep the existing political and economic arrangement intact. It's the Black face of White supremacy. Obviously, the coup leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are well aware of this. All three countries are members of ECOWAS. However, unlike the pro-Western puppets they removed, these revolutionaries are determined to move beyond sham independence and bogus liberal democracy. Those useless neo-colonial States like Nigeria should pay attention to the suffering of their people, rather than talking about invasion. Where were these "running dogs of imperialism" when NATO was bombing Libya into dust. Truth be told, some of these cowards, who call themselves African leaders went along with the imposed decision to destroy Libya. The good news is that it is only a matter of time before they are swept away by the rising tide of the African Revolution.

Why did the ECOWAS proposed invasion, backed of course by the French and the US, not eventuate when the first deadline they imposed on Niger expired? The reason is that they realized then, and are realizing even more so now, that they would not only have to reckon with the military but also the people of Niger who have already had a taste of the dignity that comes with true independence and real sovereignty. In addition, these compromised Africans are afraid that their shameless and traitorous behaviour will be even further exposed than it already is, and that this will cause greater unrest in their own countries.

The Niger coup leaders took the courageous and imperative step of not only kicking out their French neo-colonial masters but have threatened sanctions, withholding the supply of precious raw materials such as gold and uranium. This has sent shock waves throughout the imperialist world. The withholding of uranium is especially terrifying for the French government since uranium from Niger in part powers French nuclear power plants. The French State is the major shareholder in the multi-national mining company Orano (formerly known as Areva), that has been mining uranium in Niger for almost 50 years. According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), Niger is the world's seventh-largest producer of uranium and has Africa's highest-grade uranium ores. Although Orano has already depleted some mines, they are determined to remain in the country, having set their sights on Niger’s Imouraren mine. Listed as the one of the world's largest uranium deposits, Orano refer to it on their website as “Imouraren Project, the mine of the future”. Despite this wealth of resources, Niger remains one of the poorest countries in the world, which tells you everything you need to know about France’s ill-gotten gains. In France, one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium, while in Niger, nearly 90% of the population has no access to electricity. Is this the democracy they want to restore in Niger?

To operate the fifty-six nuclear reactors in France's eighteen power plants, an average of approximately 8,000 tons of uranium is required every year. This uranium comes mainly from three countries: Kazakhstan (27%), Niger (20%), and Uzbekistan (19%). Although Niger only accounts for 5% of global production, well behind Kazakhstan (43%), Canada (15%), Namibia (11%), and Australia (10%), and even though France could manage without Niger’s uranium, it is the precedent that Niger is setting that is most alarming for France and the entire Western world. Not since Muammar Qaddafi nationalised Libya's oil companies in 1973, leading to a global oil supply crisis that resulted in desperate measures including carless days in major Western cities, have the imperialists been so afraid. As Francois Mitterrand boldly admitted in 1957, "Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century”.

Africa is the world’s true superpower

As I have written in previous articles, there is nothing that the US and Western Europe fears more than a united Africa that is free and independent, and whose resources can no longer be extracted in an exploitative manner. We must never forget that the Western world’s development was possible as a result of hundreds of years of the free labour of captured and enslaved Africans, and the plunder of African resources since the onset of the colonial project right up to the present day. They know that a united and independent Africa would completely alter the balance of power globally. It is a well-documented fact that if Africa stopped the flow of all raw materials to the Western nations for just one week, these nations would grind to a halt.

In 2007, in Conakry Guinea, Qaddafi made a simple observation to a cheering crowd of thousands: “Whenever I ask people about Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola people immediately say it’s an American or European drink. This is not true. The kola is African. They have taken the cheap raw material from us, they’ve made it into a drink, and they sell it back to us for a high price. We should be producing it ourselves and selling it to them.”

This is exactly the point that the revolutionary leader, Ibrahim Traoré is making as he implements projects to increase the manufacturing and processing of raw materials in Burkina Faso. This is of course a fundamental step in the struggle to free any country from persistent poverty and dependence. You can only achieve economic freedom and prosperity for your people when you halt the export of raw materials and start to produce the final product locally.

At this critical juncture in history, Africa is finally realizing its immense power. These times represent a new opportunity because global events are transforming the balance of power and China and Russia are backing Africa's attempt to take its rightful place on the world stage. This is a moment we cannot afford to miss or to be robbed of. Realizing our power is primarily a psychological transition, it is quite simply a matter of liberating ourselves from our mental incarceration. Almost every known natural resource needed to run the contemporary industrial/high tech economies—such as uranium, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan (for cell phones, video games, laptops), platinum, diamonds, bauxite, and especially large reserves of oil are located in Africa. Azania (South Africa) alone contains half the world’s gold reserves. Democratic Republic of Congo contains half of the world’s cobalt and 80% of the world’s known coltan reserves. One quarter of the world’s aluminum ore is found in the coastal belt of West Africa and the continent is awash in petroleum reserves.

A defining moment for Africa and Africans all over the world, we are getting a glimpse of the kind of power that Africa possesses. Ibrahim Traore, Assimi Goita and Abdourahmane Tiani embody the ideas of Garvey, Nkrumah, Sankara, Qaddafi and every great African freedom fighter who envisioned an Africa free from the bondage of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. We must rally to support them as they face the age-old imperialist arsenal of weapons. The usual all-out campaign to demonise them has already been launched, their entire psych-ops will be based on a sophisticated program of deception. If that fails, which it will, given the current awareness worldwide that the emperor is indeed naked for all to see, the next move will be military intervention, using the neo-colonial satraps amongst us, such as President Tinubu of Nigeria, just as they have done in the past.

Compromised Africans come in many guises. Bola Tinubu is an obvious case, openly working in tandem with the imperialists and therefore easy to spot. However, I have seen many who should know better getting excited over the speeches of African leaders who remain conceptually incarcerated, and therefore also compromised, such as President William Ruto of Kenya. He is a good orator and his speeches are full of promise, much the same as Barak Obama’s speeches were. In fact, the vision of a free and independent Africa articulated recently by President Ruto sounded nothing short of revolutionary. I don’t wish to be a pessimist, but a good talker is one thing and decisive action is another, and sadly, there are so many contradictions with regard to President Ruto that I know he inevitably falls into the first category.

President Ruto is calling for a new financial arrangement but says nothing about dismantling the neo-liberal capitalist arrangement that the present financial model is based on. Why? Because the ideology that his center-right party, the United Democratic Alliance adheres to is neo-liberal capitalism. He wants to have a fair financial arrangement within an unfair arrangement. Totally impossible. He uses the word 'Afrocentric' but I’m certain he uses it as a substitute for 'African' rather than as an ideological concept. He is calling for betterment for our African homeland within a system that colonised and enslaved our ancestors and is still ravaging Africa to this day. This same system got rid of the leaders I mentioned above and frustrated every attempt they made to bring about a new and just economic and financial order. And it is the defenders and enforcers of this same system that are lining up against the revolutionary leaders in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Herein lies the contradiction that renders his speeches nothing more than empty rhetoric.

Time for ‘us’ to put sanctions on ‘them’

It is time for Africa to finally rid itself of the last vestiges of colonialism and neo-colonialism. If we have to stop the flow of strategic resources to the Western capitals until they comply with our demands for self-determination, then so be it. It is time for us to apply sanctions on those Western capitals that refuse to respect our God-given rights. The way in which Western sanctions against Russia have completely backfired, resulting in an economically stronger Russia and an isolated West, now teetering on economic collapse, has shown the world that the pendulum has already swung. Western hegemony is over. Africa has never been in a better position to finally take its place at the global table as an equal partner and demand prosperity for its people. The Worldwide Pan-African Movement and the African masses are crying out for this – the time is now. Africans everywhere must exert maximum pressure on their leaders to realize this power; we owe this much to all those who have gone before us, who have fought and died to realize this dream. Those African leaders who cannot get on board must be moved out of the way. An ECOWAS invasion of Niger must not be tolerated.

The global shift that is happening before our eyes is not a recent phenomenon, it has been building up for decades. The US and Western Europe have been in panic mode behind closed doors for a very long time. They thought that bombarding the world with anti-Russia and anti-China propaganda would work, but it has failed dismally, and much to their dismay, African youth are taking to the streets in greater and greater numbers waving Russian flags. The experience of the people throughout the Global South, especially in Africa, has of course run contrary to Western propaganda. Having experienced centuries of exploitation and genocidal policies by the West, they have never forgotten the fact that both Russia and China, who never had colonies in Africa or anywhere in the Global South for that matter, assisted them in their struggles to free themselves from Western domination and Apartheid in South Africa.

In an article that appeared in the Financial Times as far back as 2007, authors W. Wallis and G. Dyer, wrote: “Western powers real concern is that African States will opt for Chinese deals to free themselves from the punitive conditions of IMF/ World Bank loans and other forms of financial dependence on Europe and the Unites States. As the second largest source of oil in Africa, Angola is now in such a strong position that it is rejecting IMF loans completely. As one consultant put it, with all their oil revenue, they don’t need the IMF or the World Bank. They can play the Chinese off against the Americans.”

In another article titled, ‘China and USA in New Cold War over Africa’s Oil Riches. Darfur? It’s the Oil, Stupid…’ author William Engdahl points out: “Today China draws an estimated 30% of its crude oil from Africa. That explains an extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives which have left Washington furious. China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and IMF out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?

What does all this mean for Africa? Quite simply it means that we now have a choice in trading partners, and although all trading partners drive a hard bargain – some are giving better deals than others and in addition, respect our right to self-determination.

Black Power – African Power!
This is the moment to put all our efforts into the realization of Nkrumah and Qaddafi’s grand plan for a United States of Africa. As I write, I am heartened by news that Algeria has refused France’s request to use its airspace for a military operation in Niger. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune stated that “a military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbours”. Only when we can achieve this level of unity and power, will we be able to take our rightful place in the world. At last, we will be able to engage with the rest of the world on our own terms and in our own interest. Backed by a population of 1 billion people, Africa will then be able to make demands that cannot be ignored.

In 2009, at a meeting of the AU in Addis Ababa, Qaddafi, commenting on West European and US attitudes to Africa, and had this to say: “If they do not want to live with us fairly, then they should know it is our planet and they can go to another planet.”

Fair and just is all we are seeking – only the unfair and unjust have anything to fear.

Imperialism can only be buried in Africa…

In an article in 2011, I invoked as its title Sekou Toure’s bold assertion: that imperialism will be buried in Africa. To Western commentators this might have seemed optimistic, and indeed some commentators asserted that it was not grounded in reality and that we were, if anything, being crushed by imperialism’s might. However, looking at it from a revolutionary Pan-African perspective one simply sees it as inevitable. Imperialism can only be defeated in Africa. Although there is a revolutionary fightback globally, and most notably throughout Central and South America, it is only when Africa is free that imperialism can finally be buried, since it is Africa that fuels the imperialist’s existence and their space age. The onus is on revolutionary Pan-African organizations/movements, on the continent and in the Diaspora, to provide clear analysis and strategies capable of thwarting the enemies’ plans at every point. We must rid ourselves of the evil scourge of US and West European imperialism, their created, funded and facilitated so-called ‘jihadists’ (aka NATO’s foot soldiers) and the confusion and havoc they are spreading, and their neo-colonial regimes. There is no room or time for indecision leading to inaction. We must bury imperialism in Africa once and for all or we will surely perish.

Following the destruction of the Libyan Jamahiriya and the assassination of Muammar Qaddafi, veteran African freedom fighter and former president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, was extremely critical of the African Union’s weakness, stating that they “had woefully failed to mobilize militarily to stop the bombing of Libya and that the African Union should have mobilized their forces in order to fight and defend the territorial integrity of Libya”. He offered the following advice: “Africans should talk war – the language best understood by Western countries…The imperialists understand no other words than fighting. We dislodged them from our continent by fighting them. If we did not fight in Namibia or in Zimbabwe or elsewhere, we would not be free today. We must now prepare to fight them again…”

Certainly, the courageous revolutionaries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have heeded his call and are leading the way. We salute them and pledge our support on every front. It was no coincidence that the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) theme for African Liberation Day, 2023, was "Smash Neo-colonialism, African People are Ready for Revolution".

I end with the immortal words of Kwame Nkrumah: " We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world".

Gerald A. Perreira is a writer, educator, theologian and political activist. He is chairperson of Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP) https://www.ovpguyana.org/ based in Guyana and an executive member of the Caribbean Pan African Network (CPAN). He lived in the Libyan Jamahiriya for many years and was a founding member of the World Mathaba, based in Tripoli, Libya. He can be reached at [email protected] .

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