Socialist Workers League is deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in the Republic of Niger. We are unwavering in our commitment to peace and the rights of working people in Niger to their self-determination. But we must clearly state that the people of Niger must achieve their own liberation from oppression and imperialism by themselves. No section of the ruling class, be these military or civilian, can do this for them.
Further, considering the history of General Abdourahaname Tchiani as a long-standing head of the presidential guard in Niger, we see little qualitative difference between him and President Mohammed Bazoum whom he deposed on 26 July 2023.
It is also noteworthy that this will be the fourth elected government overthrown by soldiers in Africa within the last three years, making Niger the sixth nation in Sub-Saharan Africa currently under a military junta. With the history of military rule on the continent, we see no good coming out of this wave of coup d’états. Thus, without prejudice to the interwoven contradictions in the unfolding situation, SWL condemns the coup in Niger.
SWL notes the intervention being taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), currently being led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, whose emergence as the president of Nigeria remains illegitimate. These include sanctions, cutting off electricity supply to Niger, and a threat of the use of force, which could spark a regional war as the governments of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali have vowed to support Niger in the event of attacks by ECOWAS forces.
These measures will exacerbate the hardships faced by the Nigerien population, which is already mired in a state of pauperisation due to the corrupt enrichment of the country’s wealth by its ruling class and the country’s exploitation by imperialist forces, particularly France its former coloniser, and the United States. The measures will also not address the root causes of the Bazoum government’s failure, which paved the way for the military takeover.
There is a fundamental error in the assumption that the military coup is the root cause of the failure of democracy in the country. The reality is that it is the other way around: the civilian government’s failure paved the way for the military takeover. The civilian government failed to live up to its promises of democratising the polity, addressing the state of insecurity and improving the economic situation of poor Nigeriens. This is what led to the dissatisfaction and reflected in popular support for the coup. Economic sanctions or military interventions may not impact the coup leaders significantly. But they will harm the poor working people in Niger.
The intervention by Tinubu/ECOWAS, unfortunately, is not in defence of democracy. It is more aligned with defending the interests of France/Western imperialist powers. The Tinubu-led government in Nigeria has already demonstrated its slavish uptake of the neoliberal agenda of Western imperialism with a series of anti-poor people policies inspired by the international monetary fund (IMF), such as sharp hikes in fuel pump prices and devaluation of the naira. These policies have subjected working people in Nigeria to unprecedented hardships over the two months he has thus far spent in office. A government that works for a few while millions of its country’s citizens are condemned to excruciating poverty and hardships cannot be said to be democratic.
The imperialist role of France in its ex-colonies in Africa cannot be overemphasised. It has held these neocolonial states in an exploitative grip, extracting their natural resources and constraining their fiscal policy space in the most rabid manner. We thus welcome the coupists breaking of colonial accords with France. However, considering the fact that key players in the junta have been in governments that upheld these accords for decades, it is legitimate to see this step in the right direction as a populist effort at building a mass base of support, rather than part of a sustained anti-imperialist agenda.
The coup leaders, just like the ousted government, are representative members of the ruling class of exploiters and oppressors in Niger. The true power to ensure social progress and radical democracy from below lies primarily in the hands of the working-class people of Niger. It is too early in the day to determine how the unfolding situation in Niger will play out. But it is crucial that this process is driven by the people of Niger, not by foreign powers like France or Russia.
SWL urges the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to condemn any attempt at war in Niger and work with workers’ organisations in Niger and across the region to fight for a democracy that prioritises the working-class people above any imperialist and capitalist interest.
Our goal remains steadfast: a workers-led, democratic Niger, where the way forward is determined by the working people’s power, by the working people themselves. The path to this is through organising and fighting by the workers and youth of Niger for revolutionary democracy and socialism from below and not any putschist politics or imperialist interference.
Frances AKINJOLE (National Chairperson) and Mobolaji OTUYELU (National Secretary) for the SWL Central Committee
7 August 2023