The majority of citizens in Niger live in poverty but no one is saying why the country remains poor in spite of so much natural wealth. Should anyone be surprised that there is joyful support of the military on the streets of Niamey?
Whenever an event happens in any African country, the western media are quick to report it as usual from their Eurocentric perspectives. The story on Niger, for example, would go along these lines: The Republic of Niger has around 20 million inhabitants and is one of the poorest countries in the world. There will be no attempt to explain the conundrum why a country with such abundant minerals remains one of the poorest in the world.
According to POLITICO, Niger is the provider of 15 percent of France’s uranium needs and accounts for a fifth of the EU’s uranium stock. But the coup in Niger could be a challenge for Europe’s uranium needs in the longer term, just as the continent is trying to phase out dependency on Russia, another top supplier of uranium used in European nuclear plants. In 2021, Niger was the EU’s top uranium supplier, followed by Kazakhstan and Russia, according to the Supply Agency of the European Atomic Energy Community.
Let’s assume the extractors of these natural resources in Niger were paying a fair share to the country, would Niger still be the poorest country on earth?
Does Europe need Africa more than Africa needs Europe?
Well, the West says Africa needs them more. If that is the case, why all the panic, and questions like the one from France24: “will the coup in Niger threaten nuclear power plants in France?” France 24points out that thanks to a long-standing policy that dates back to ex-president Charles de Gaulle, France derives about 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, more than any other country. The country is also the world’s largest net exporter of nuclear energy, bringing in more than €3 billion per year. How much Niger – which despite vast uranium reserves remains radically underdeveloped – gets out of its relationship with France has been a point of contention since the country gained formal independence in 1960. According to France24, successive Nigerien presidents have demanded more from Orano (formerly Areva), one of France’s state-controlled nuclear fuel producers, in terms of safety assurances for Nigerien employees and higher prices for uranium.
ECOWAS and EU want to liberate Niger from who?
Looking at the number of people on the streets of Niamey and other cities happily chanting that the government has been toppled, is it not right to ask the question who ECOWAS and the EU want to liberate Niger from? It is clear the people of Niger just want change. They obviously do not care how the change will look like but they definitely do not want the status quo. It is easy, from a distance and sipping a cup of coffee, to criticize people who have been struggling to put a single meal on the table and give their children a sound education. You think you know what they need better than them?
That brings us to the developmental aid that has been flowing to African countries for the past 60 years. How has it impacted the lives of the people positively? What industries and factories have been built with this aid that will promote economic growth in these countries. Wouldn’t it be better for the West to pay fair prices for the resources they have been extracting from Africa since independence? As we all know, aid is bound by conditions that may have no real relevance for the recipient nations. If these countries earned their money from selling their resources and finished products, they would invest it depending on their own priorities and needs.
Imagine Niger getting the right price for its natural resources, will this not contribute significantly to lifting the country out of poverty? The reality is that since Independence, France has held the monopoly to extract uranium in Niger to power its nuclear energy plants and even sells some to other EU countries. According to RFI: For close to 40 years, France had a monopoly on uranium extraction in its former colony Niger but now faces competition from China and Canada.
There is enough evidence that the “democratically” government in Niger remains subservient to external forces. What good is democracy to a country if it cannot produce jobs and feed its people? France and its Europeans partners enjoying the uranium from Niger send paltry sums as developmental aid to Niger which end up in the pockets of the so-called democratically elected government at the expense of the population. The money spent in military operations in the Sahel could be used to create factories that offer the youth prospects and a better livelihood. But that is not the priority of the foreign forces to make life better for the people of Niger. They are in Niger to secure the natural resources for their own countries.
ECOWAS backed by EU and the US intend to intervene in Niger militarily
African countries have been stuck in all types of conflicts since independence because of foreign mingling in their political and economic affairs. Why should there be any military intervention in Niger? The people of Niger have gone out in the streets to support the outing of the incompetent government that has not delivered anything to the population. And foreigners want to come and reinstall the same government by force. In whose interest are they acting?
If anyone really has the interest of the people of Niger at heart, it is certainly important to respect their aspiration to liberate themselves from governments that have kept them in poverty for the past 60 years.
Nigeria, we are told, is prepared to send its military to fight in Niger. Maybe Abuja should first solve the problems at home with Boko Haram before putting its nose in Niger’s issues.
The president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, carried out a civilian coup by changing the constitution of the country in order to stand for a 3rd term. Where was Ecowas and the EU with sanctions? In Chad, there was a military coup but France and its President Emmanuel Macron were the first to congratulate Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno. What is the difference between the military coup in Chad and the military coup in Niger?
Let’s not forget what has taken place in many African countries since they gained their independence: France and its allies have been responsible for staging one coup d’Etat after another (Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Modibo Keita, Sylvanus Olympio, etc.) to put in leaders whom they could control. Which moral grounds do they have now to come and point a hand at Niger?
Hungry people cannot eat democracy
If a government in power cannot deliver the basic needs to its citizens, of what use is this government to its people? What criteria do we use to judge an effective government? Did Niger’s government cater for the people? No!
It is high time that the African people determine for themselves which type of governmental structures best respond to their aspirations. This will be as long as these structures function probably and result in economic progress in these countries.
Fake democracy has failed Africans! Just like any other people, Africans need hope and real prospects for their lives. Time to look out for alternative governing systems.
As it is said, no single road leads to Rome. And by the way, why should external forces be the ones to dictate to the African people which road to take? Let the Africans make their own errors and learn from them. Africans need governmental structures that reflect their cultures, traditions and ethnic diversities.
The irony of the current situation is that the West is draining African countries from their resources, and supporting incompetent governments that keep the majority of the population in poverty. Yet these are the same people who refuse to give the African youth the visas they need to travel to Europe with dignity. Why should foreign countries have military bases all over the African continent? It is time to take those military bases out and leave the people of Africa alone. The wind of change is blowing!
Editor Africa Positive Magazine, Germany