World in View: After the Niger coup

August 25, 2023

by Eugene Walker

On July 26, military officers in Niger, a sub-Saharan African country in the Sahel region, staged a coup. They ousted elected president Mohamed Bazoum from office. Bazoum had taken office in 2021, the first peaceful democratic transition since Niger gained independence from France in 1960. Since that independence, Niger has undergone four military coups.

Bazoum’s election had been welcome by France, Niger’s former colonizer, and the U.S., both of whom have a military presence in the country. The coup brought immediate condemnation from both. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), after a quick meeting, commenced saber-rattling via its spokesperson, Nigerian President Tinubu. He demanded that Bazoum be returned as President, saying that ECOWAS was prepared to take military action to restore him.

The military junta that carried out the coup rejected the demand, and was supported by the military rulers of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, which had recently undergone their own military coups. Talk of Russia’s military mercenaries, the Wagner Group, entering the region is in the air if France and the U.S. are obliged to retreat. Already Mali has replaced French troops with Wagner Group soldiers. France, the predominant former colonial power in the region, has long faced opposition, including in Niger.

The Niger coup completed a band of six countries (Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan) that is 3,500 miles wide—reaching from Africa’s west coast to its east coast—that came to power by military takeovers, with five of the six juntas coming to power in the last six years. Today, Islamist militants have a growing presence in the Sahel, an expansive semiarid region, which overlaps with much of the coup countries. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have substantially increased their activity there. By 2022 the Sahel had surpassed both the Middle East and South Asia in jihadist violence, which now accounts for some 40% of all deaths by terrorists, starkly revealing that the coup regimes have not been able to control the jihadists. “I’m very worried that Sahelian Africa is going to melt down,” said Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government.

The most crucial question post-coup is what will it mean for Niger’s 25 million plus people? What is their attitude to the present moment?

This is the difficult question which very few seem interested in exploring, preferring to analyze big powers’ and regional powers’ maneuvers and manipulations. From the Left, a series of statements have come out from trade unions, socialist and Marxist organizations, primarily from Nigeria. While taking various positions on the coup and its military leaders, they all are opposed to an ECOWAS military invasion, seeing it as primarily a proxy war for capitalist/imperialism. However, when writing about what they were for, they could pose only abstractions on workers’ power and socialism. (

What is missing are the voices of the men, women and youth of Niger.  Only their thought and action can be the basis for authentic social transformation of their country. Radical organizations have a responsibility for searching out their ideas. Then can socialism be discussed and built.

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