Thoughts on the Geo-Politics of the Coup d’etat in Niger Republic

Thoughts on the Geo-Politics of the Coup d’etat in Niger Republic

Saturday, September 9, 2023 9:22 am

Ademola Araoye

Ademola Araoye,

Ademola Araoye

Recent events in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger are of historic proportions. The peculiar intensity of interests generated across the globe by yet another coup d’etat in Niamey, the capital of a hitherto obscure African state in the fringes of the Sahara desert, reflected the instability and extant volatility of the global system.

Geopolitics accounts for this. Geopolitics in the nineteenth century sought to understand how the new industrial capabilities of transportation, communication, and destruction—most notably railroads, steamships, airplanes, telegraphy, and explosives—interacting with the largest-scale geographic features of the Earth would shape the character, number, and location of viable security units in the emerging global international system.

Geopolitics in the digital age of the new millennium and in a shrunken universe would appear to take into account how transformations in the consciousness and sensibilities of people across the globe impact the strategic choices that they make as societies and political entities. This is especially salient in sustaining relationships in the new era with historically discounted territories hitherto dominated by coercive elite forces in the global system. The evolution of new and often radical consciousness and sensibilities of people of the awareness of their tangential locations exploited within a hierarchical system direct their attitudes to the structure of influence by elite powers.

As well, this awareness impels the coalescing of forces both major and minor, in interactions in a global system that is in the greater service of humanity. While military power remains a vehicle of last resort in the system, the deployment of power is constrained and regulated in the affairs of states. Power as the ultima ratio in international relations has essentially been de-validated by the international community. The evolved human-centered values of the international community of states are aided in this new vision by an emerging vibrant international society linked by concerns around universal causes.

The character of the universe has been transformed by the evolved values of the human universe. The balance-of-power system that helped to maintain order in Europe during most of the 19th century became obsolete in the face of World Wars I and II. The ascent of an accent on the centrality of the human dimension in the age of new geo-politics has added the notion of “soft power” as integral to the concept of power and influence. Geo-politics in the third millennium thus blends the calibrated use of the structures of old-fashioned power with softer humanistic mechanisms of influence across a radically transformed universe of human values.

This has given rise to multiple platforms for the delivery of very noxious and toxic propaganda designed to deliver concocted narratives of reality to attain global influence. Violence is thus done to human sensibilities. The use of force in the new age is solely validated in the pursuit of human values such as democracy, justice, and the sanctity of human life. But these have been instrumentalized and corrupted in pernicious social, political, and judicial processes in most of Africa. The value transformations however anchor recent developments across Africa in the search for a just and equitable international system.

The search for equity legitimizes the radical repudiations of old elite structures of control in West Africa, while hegemonic forces fixated on the use of coercive mechanisms of control in a transformed universe. Hegemonic forces, such as France, are flat-footed in responding to new realities in supposedly their exclusive “pre-carres”. The historic dependence on manipulating gullible African proxies is failing as the sensibilities of African people are transformed by their elevated consciousness.

The increasing empowerment of the people poses a major threat to the legitimacy of status quo elements. Within Africa therefore exists deep-seated dissonances in the perspectives of a radically aware populace and policy instituted by groveling self-centered regimes and leadership in deconsolidated states. These outmoded proxies are implacably determined to do the bidding of the overlords in the hope of sustaining assurances in leaky guarantee umbrella. The strategy has woefully failed in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It is inconceivable that many more dominoes will not fall to the current wave of radical consciousness sweeping West Africa and Central Africa.

The hegemony of the United States that was envisaged following the collapse of the Soviet Union perceived as the end of history in the post-Soviet era has proven to be a fluke. The United States and the successor state of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, were projected as the two states best situated in size, material resources, technological capacity, military prowess, and location to dominate in the post-Cold War era. Indeed the two constitute critical centers of power around which revolve the confrontation in Europe for domination. The United States as the preeminent power in Western Europe sought to ingest a finally humbled and defeated Russian Federation in the process of a desired final conquest of the totality of the European strategic space.

The domination of Europe is seen as a critical element in the strategy of the United States global preeminence of the West, the rise of China as arguably a preeminent world power in conventional terms, as the dominant global manufacturing hub and workshop, and the center of an alternative global trade system has altered the calculus of global power, including world economics. The Sino-Russian strategic partnership has effectively created an opposing bloc against a United States-led Western alliance that is expressed in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Thus despite the earlier decline of geopolitics in immediate post World War II following its association with the ambitions of Nazi Germany and of imperial Japan as well as the emergence of the development of nuclear power and inter-continental delivery systems, the significance of geographical factors in the global strategic balance of power appeared underplayed. However, in the post-Soviet era, all the factors have been integrated into coordinated multi-faceted strategic planning to achieve coherent global geostrategic plans. Geopolitics has therefore continued to influence international politics. It served as the basis for the United States’ Cold War strategy of containment, which was developed by George Kennan as a geopolitical strategy to limit the expansion of the Soviet Union. Analysts have expanded geopolitics to include the economic dimensions as well as military factors.

Geopolitical risk focuses on the impact of political developments across the globe, which could disrupt the flow of goods and services in the international trade system and cause supply chain disruptions and cost increases for businesses. These postulations have been proven by the global impact of events in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in West Africa

Zbigniew Brzezinski has articulated the critical role of geopolitics in the post-Soviet era. In directing the foreign policy of the United States as follows, he writes, in a brief published by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, that ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago, Eurasia has been the center of world power. In different ways, at different times, the peoples inhabiting Eurasia — though mostly those from its Western European periphery — penetrated and dominated the world’s other regions as individual Eurasian states attained the special status and enjoyed the privileges of being the world’s premier powers. The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs.

For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as the key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world’s paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power. Eurasia, however, retains its geopolitical importance. Not only is its western periphery — Europe — still the location of much of the world’s political and economic power, but its eastern region.

In this turbulent climate focused on integrated global geopolitics of a digitally compressed universe, the event and the ultimate outcome of the events Niger was immediately projected as an element of and integral to the confrontations and ultimate outcome of the undergoing epochal structural reordering of the global strategic template. The July 26, 2023 coup in Niger seemed one too many in a string of specifically anti-French, but generally anti-Western, military interventions in West Africa. The geopolitics of the Nigerien coup thus transcended what happened to Niger, but was rather linked to the global implications of earlier developments in Mali, Burkina Faso, and, contentiously, Guinea.

Meanwhile, the August 2023 coup in Gabon in Central Africa seemed a farcical opportunistic charade within the Bongo family that, with the connivance of France, had ruled that country for half a century. The patriarchal Omar Bongo, a diminutive petty agent of France, had been rewarded for his services with the Presidency of the state. He was implacably loyal to his benefactors who deployed him to do all the dirty work for France in Central Africa. From the father Omar to the son Ali, the Bongo family ruled Gabon for 55 years and maintained a special relationship with France. Gabon remained long a bastion of French influence.

A regime transition in Libreville, Gabon, whether through democratic avenues or otherwise, to another strongman within the Bongo clan was not of relevance to the serious revolutionary impulses being expressed in West Africa. It is instructive that in every region of Africa, France instituted and protected a senior handler of its dirty operations. Houphouet Boigny served that role in West Africa. France then instigated a peace prize in his memory to clean the slate of history. Discerning Africa is however not deceived.

If the anti-French coups in Mali and Burkina Faso were considered aberrant events, the Nigerien coup was articulated in a similar revolutionary mold. The Nigerien junta professed the same rationale of radical departure from the neo-colonial dispensation instituted and overseen by France in the sub-region. Put together, developments in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger emerged as a major substantive historic trend with significant implications for the structure of power in the West African sub-region, Africa, and with significant salience for an evolving global order. These developments were also aligned with emerging repugnant sentiments across the continent directed at the consequences of the multi-level instrumentalized character of African democracy. This gross distortion of democracy was associated with status-quo regimes on the continent validated and overseen by their hypocritical directors in Western capitals.

The strategic landscape in Africa is changing with the series of restorative interventions by the military. The geopolitics of these developments focus on the dynamics generated by the robust interactions of diverse interests across the system responding to constraints and opportunities presented by the closures and openings offered by the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The repudiation of the structure of the global political economy and the skewed conventions and protocols of the international market based on the deliberate gross undervaluation of African products, including mineral resources that are of clear critical strategic importance such as Uranium and gold, was integral to the rejection of Western neo-colonial domination in West Africa. Muammar Gaddafi succeeded in rejecting this undervaluation of African mineral resources and products by unilaterally hiking the price of oil. Through that act he changed he provided opportunities that positively changed the lives of many serious oil-producing states in the South. Political economy has been very central to the superordinate and subordinate hierarchy of the global system. The timing of the radical developments in francophone West Africa and challenges posed to the United States dollar dominance of global trade through the vehicle of the BRICS seems to suggest the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger as economic dimensions of the restructuring of the global strategic order.

These could also be better appreciated by reason of the fact that beginning from the Atlantic coast of West Africa, through the semi-arid Sahelian region, across the Sahara to the Red Sea along the borders of North Africa is concentrated the largest and most diverse strategic natural resources in the world. The future political economy of the globe thus rests significantly on control of or preponderant influence in the vast territory of Africa. The geopolitics of the coup in Niger essentially was also about reordering the basics and fundamentals of the contrived incapacitation of Africa to negotiate fair, just, and reasonable terms for its goods and services in its economic interactions with the Western-dominated international trade system.

Accordingly, at the level of economic relations, other potential trading partners of Africa outside the Western mainstream in the international system were particularly enthused by developments in West Africa.

What turned out to be a futile last stand resistance of France against anti-establishment coups in West Africa thus made sense from the perspectives of its loss of invaluable source of critical mineral resource and a platform for hegemonic projection of force in the Sahel. For a start, one of the earliest concrete decisions of the junta in Niger to break free from the exploitative gross undervaluation of its resources was to raise the price of uranium from Euro 0.80 paid to it by France to Euro 200 per kilogram. The move was a seismic shift in the global market. Shortly after the announcement of the decision of the junta in Niger, Europe claimed to be altering its priority in Africa from resource exploitation to sustainability. Whatever the lousy resistance of conservative minions of Europe in Africa, the young revolutionaries in Niger are winning the day.

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