A new anti-imperialist wave in Africa?
Africa, became one of the hot spots of imperialist competition while the imperialist war was going on in Ukraine. The China-Russia-US escalation, embodied in the imperialist aggression around the strategy of encircling Asia, would inevitably reflect in other peripheral and allied countries. There is a phase of this conflict going on in Africa these days.
There have been six consecutive coups in the Sahel Belt of Africa in the last three years. The coups in Mali, Sudan, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, and most recently in Niger on July 26 point to a new era on the continent. The coups that created a domino effect and encouraged each other in the Sahel and West Africa were fed by the fundamental failure of the order in Africa. There is a historical breaking point for the imperialist powers, which continue their existence by relying on complex internal contradictions, ethnic problems, sectarian fanaticism, and tribal rivalries, and in this way recklessly exploit the wealth of the continent, especially its uranium and gold resources, the latest situation on the continent means alarm bells are ringing for the Western powers. Western countries, especially France, threatening invasion, military attack, economic sanctions, and cutting humanitarian aid, will not let their privileges go. For the Western powers, which positioned their military forces in Niger after the military coups in the region and fed off the rich uranium and gold mines of the region, the Niger coup may mean that the ruling classes gave up their historical interests. It is a question mark how far the coup governments, which are content to expel the military forces from their countries for now, can go.
The Return of the Colonizers
To understand today's coup dynamics, we need to go back to 2013, when former colonialist France re-assembled military forces in the region. NATO countries, which waged bloody wars to overthrow the regimes in Syria and Libya, gifted these regions the most reactionary forces. The US, UK, France, and NATO used these groups to wage proxy wars in Libya and especially in Syria. After fighting in the NATO-led war against Libya in 2011, Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups took refuge in countries in the Sahel region. Imperialist powers such as France, America, and Germany used these wars as an excuse to return to the continent. In October 2021, Mali Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accused the French government of secretly arming Islamist terrorists to continue the conflict in the country and justify the French military occupation.
France was boasting about being the first country to bomb Libya and said that it would not leave Africa to its own fate. Invaders, gangs, tribes, warlords, jihadists… Al-Qaeda and ISIS derivatives in the old and poor continent have channeled the great social anger created by the terrible backwardness in the region to sectarian-tribal-ethnic tensions. Assassinations, kidnappings, and bloodthirsty actions in the affected areas have become systematic. ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram are still fighting for influence in the region. Attacks on expelling villagers from their lands, burning homes and businesses, mass abductions, killings, and crashing power lines are taking place incessantly. The endless power wars between the groups have turned countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali into chronic war countries. Rebel Salafi groups seized control of northern Mali in 2012.ISIS and Al Qaeda-related groups in Ivory Coast, Benin, and Togo are trying to make progress to reach the sea, and guess who wanted to resolve the escalating issues? Western imperialist powers, especially France, re-entered the West and Central African countries with their military presence under the name of the war on terrorism operation. A total of 5,500 soldiers were deployed in Mali, Niger and Chad in 2014. After Operation Serval organized by France, Salafi groups began to reorganize into scattered groups in the "neglected" regions of Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as in Mali. Thus, by reducing the risk of losing the resources it had seized, France repelled the imminent threat to its interests and saved its collaborationist regimes. However, the organizations dispersed in the countryside continued to inflict blood on the people and continue their struggle for power by fighting among themselves. This part was not very important for the Western powers. Despite the military presence and operations of the Western powers, jihadist terror has escalated. The intertwined dirty relations of warlords and local rulers turned into justified indignation among African peoples. Not being able to perform any "success" stories in the countries where France returned, the historical hatred of African peoples of the French state escalated, and a political movement appeared around the pan-Africanist energy. This political dynamic directed a wing of the ruling class towards Russia, which preferred to approach other great powers as an alternative to French colonialism due to their failures. For example, Mali, immediately after the coup, expelled foreign powers, especially France, and summoned Russia's Wagner.
Character of the Coups
The military coups that have taken place in Africa in the last three years are aimed at Western-supporting or even puppet governments. The African continent is a battlefield where imperialist capitalism and semi-colonial relations are exhibited in their purest form! Extreme poverty, epidemics, underdevelopment, jihadist terrorism, tribal wars, warlords, dictators, mass murders! The cause of these coups in African countries is the political internal tensions created by the hated presence of France's colonial tradition in Africa, rather than the anger felt towards them. The split between pro-Russian or pro-French elements of the African ruling classes is the main determining dynamic. Putin appreciates the incompetence of the West on the continent very well and portrays a legitimate and friendly power by supporting Wagner, not directly on behalf of the Russian state. This form of political intervention brings the putschist forces, which also have an African independence character, to act more decisively.
The African peoples, who fought for independence and established their own bourgeois states in order to expel France from the lands it had been exploiting for centuries, never really got rid of imperialism. In addition to the strong presence of Western powers, Russia and China have also gained significant influence in this region. While Russia comes to the "aid" of African states in the field of weapons and war, China, which has made huge investments to connect these undeveloped large lands with all kinds of infrastructure problems itself through "investments" and debts, is also showing its economic power. This is not the first time in Africa that this competition between old imperialists and their new rivals has turned into a hot conflict. Latin America and Asia have experienced countless examples of this. In addition, African countries experienced a similar wave during the Cold War years.
The fact that African rulers are weak and divided within themselves, and therefore powerless in terms of bourgeois development or management, means that imperialist dependence will never end. As long as the fate of the continent remains in the hands of the bourgeois ruling classes, one or another great actor wins.
Niger and France
Niger was a French colony until 1960 when it became a capitalist semi-colony dominated by France and other Western powers. One of the poorest countries in the world. However, it has some of the world's largest uranium deposits and other raw materials controlled by French companies. European leaders are keenly interested in keeping Niger under their control, as France and other EU countries buy from Niger 15-30% of the uranium imports required for Europe's nuclear power industry. Also, Niger is the last country in North and Central Africa where a significant number of Western troops (1,500 French and nearly 1,000 US troops) are deployed under the pretext of the "War on Terror". There is also a US drone base in Niger. In short, "losing" Niger would be a strategic setback for EU and US imperialism when considered together with the coups in other countries. Being kicked out from here would mean a significant reduction in military assets on the continent. However, it is important to remember that the USA has 29 separate bases across Africa. In other words, there is no truth in the pro-Russian propaganda that the Western powers expelled from Africa with a few coups.
Wagner and Russia
Wagner forces were stepping in with the need for security or defense in the region, which had been destabilized by the organizations and groups supported by Western imperialism until today, and were reaching decisive points in these countries, increasing their influence in the continent through bankrupt and corrupt state structures. However, Wagner, which does not have any legal status in Russia, is a practical tool to intervene in Africa to increase political and economic influence.
Wagner, for example, has an influence on army training and gold mining in Central Africa. It supports Haftar in Libya and wages a "war" against Al Qaeda by taking the place of the French army in Mali, Africa's fourth largest gold producer. These conflicts are effective as far as Burkina Faso. By carrying out bloody massacres with the RSF forces in order to suppress the Sudanese revolution, which overthrew Omar Al Bashir with the great popular revolutionary uprising, it provided a lifeline to the ruling classes and took its share of Sudan's gold fields.
Wagner leader Prigozhin, for the first time after his mutiny against Moscow, appeared in the African Summit of 49 countries from Africa in St. Petersburg, right after Russia's coup in Niger. Prigozhin applauded the coups as "a new era of decolonization". After the mutiny, he said that he would increase his presence in Africa and spoke openly about realizing the strategic goals of Russian oligarchs.
During protests supporting the coup in Niger, the French flag was burned and the Russian flag was unfurled. The USA made a statement stating that they did not detect any obvious Russian intervention in the coup, but that they would investigate. For Russia, the timing of the coup process was critical. The Wagner uprising is on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Ukrainian counter-offensive was not as effective as expected, but Putin could not make any progress. In exactly such an environment, Putin sent the message of a political counterattack to the NATO block. Julius Malema, leader of the South African Economic Freedom Fighters Party, said, "We are Putin, and Putin is us," giving the message that Russia's political isolation over Africa has been broken. At the same summit, Putin played the grain trump card and decided to send free grain to Africa.
In short, for Africa's poor and oppressed millions, imperialist competition once again stands out as a factor that will determine their future. This future will mean that the fate of the people of the continent will be written again with blood and tears.
All Imperialists hands off Africa!
We revolutionaries see life through the interests of working people and poor African people. The only way for the national liberation of former colonial countries to mean real freedom is through a line of struggle that unites around a worker-peasant struggle in which all resources are seized by the workers and raises class consciousness against sectarian wars. The fact that the poverty, underdevelopment, occupations, and imperialist competition experienced by African people with rich resources cannot be broken is fundamentally related to this. The fact that bourgeois development followed a weak and dependent line revealed that the African ruling classes were always around the interests of imperialist power and were incapable of solving even the most basic problems of the working people. Tens of millions have neither bread nor water nor future nor security. If this or that wing of the local rulers takes a pro-Russia or France/USA stance, it only means a change in the name and the colors of the exploiters. Destiny will not change as long as the African people, who had fought their national wars by paying great prices, continue to be governed by capital. African rulers feed on the backwardness and are themselves an obstacle to development because they will not hesitate to cooperate for their own interests, whether it is France or Russia. Let's not forget that what all those in power fear most is that workers, who have the only capacity to expropriate the imperialists, coup plotters, their political puppets, and international monopolies, and create fraternity around Africa. Otherwise, the wealth that is already the source of these reactionary forces will continue to feed them.
We understand that millions of people happily welcome steps such as the removal of the military assets of the French colonialists from the continent and the removal of the French language as an official language. Of course, every popular movement against the French colonialists is legitimate. However, we have to point out that today's anger towards the French colonialists has been turned into a tool by the ruling classes for new masters such as China and Russia to settle on the continent. It is a revolutionary duty to oppose the imperialist existence of China and Russia in the same way as we say no to France.
ECOWAS, the organization of Western countries and their collaborative governments in Africa is preparing for a military operation against Niger. Our defense of Niger's right to oppose foreign aggression should not mean supporting the putschists. On the other hand, the struggle between two equally reactionary wings of Niger's ruling class will not produce an outcome in favor of the workers and peasants. Replacing one capitalist authoritarian regime with another will not make any difference. There is no other way for workers and poor peasants in Niger and across Africa to direct the energy absorbed by this reactionary political climate, which also feeds the jihadists, against the system by organizing councils and people's militias and achieving class unity.
For the real liberation of Africa's poor people, all military forces must leave the continent and all resources must be distributed to the workers. To achieve this, it will not be enough to fight against foreign powers; The African ruling classes, which are the primary protectors of this order, must also be expelled through general strikes and mass demonstrations, and instead of the rotten governments, workers must immediately take power directly into their own hands through their own self-organized sovietic structures. Necessary lessons should be taken from the fate of the magnificent mass revolutionary struggles in Tunisia, Sudan, and Egypt in the continent where authoritarian regimes, dictators, putschists, and imperialist bandits are rampant. Those who emerged as progressive bourgeois opened the way for the restoration of dictatorship in Tunisia; Those who suppressed the people's second revolution with a military coup against the Islamists who took power from the disorganization of the people committed the most terrible massacres in Egypt. The great awakening in Sudan, which overthrew Omar al-Bashir with general strikes, was suppressed with greater reactionism and bloodshed. That's why the only real power that can change the fate of the continent can be nothing other than workers' power.
African workers have the capacity to build their own future in the best way possible and become liberated. The only thing required for this is for the revolutionary Marxist construction to take root in Africa. Our most urgent task is to realize this and escalate the fight for the Socialist African Federation.