To Prevent More Coups Like Niger: Eliminate Poverty in Africa

(Curtesy of voanews.com)

August 7, 2023

While the Western World, in particular, was shocked by the July 26, 2023, coup in Niger, I was not. This is now the fifth or sixth coup, (depending how you count) in the Sahel and Western Africa, following Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Chad. Sadly, more coups may follow, unless we face the truth, and change Western policy. The primary underlying cause for these coups, is poverty, resulting in despair and desperation in the population. We should be clear that Russia may benefit, but they are not the cause of Africa’s coups. It is obsessive reliance on kinetic counter terrorism programs in the Sahel, all of which have failed, that drives policy makers to repeatedly fail to see the error of their ways. Niger’s coup should make it obvious to the architects of U.S.-European policy for Africa, unless they are brain-dead, that a radically new course of strategic thinking is required. Promoting economic development is the most vital element of a new strategic policy for Africa, and the Sahel in particular.

Remember Mali

For those of us who have been involved in Africa for decades, remember the Malian coup in the Spring of 2012. Prior to the removal of Malian President, Amadou Toure, by the military, Mali was touted by the West, as the show case of democracy and stability. It was viewed as a strong ally of the United States, with their armed forces trained by the U.S. The immediate trigger for the collapse of Mali, was the disastrous  decision to overthrow the government of Libya and assassinate President Omar Gaddafi by President Obama, and his assemblage of war-hawks (witches); Susan Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Samantha Power. Obama’s October 2011 regime-change of a stable Libyan nation, unleashed hell across north Africa and the Sahel with thousands of armed Tuaregs and violent extremists set loose to occupy weak state regions and ungoverned territories. Similar to U.S. support of Mali, Secreatry of State, Antony Blinken, made a special visit to Niger in March 2023, to strenthen U.S. backing for another nation in the Sahel.

Why Niger?

With the end of French-Afrique well on its way, particularly with the French being kicked out of Mali, and the failure of the French anti-terrorist military deployment in the Sahel, known as Operation Barkhane, the U.S. designated Niger as the center of its counter-terrorist operation in North Africa.

At the time of the July 26 coup of Nigerian resident, Mohamed Bazoum, by his presidential guards, there were 1,500 French troops and 1,200 U.S. troops based in Niger. Additionally, the U.S built its largest drone base in Africa, Air Base 201, at the cost of over $110 million dollars, to provide intelligence and surveillance in the U.S. campaign against violent extremism. Estimates are that the U.S. spent almost half a billion dollars training the Nigerien armed forces.

Chris Olaoluwa Ògúnmọ́dẹdé insightfully reports in worldpoliticsreview/niger-coup:

Last week’s coup in Niger caught much of the outside world by surprise, given the country’s image as a relatively stable outlier in a region beset by frequent upheaval. Many outside observers found it hard to understand how President Mohamed Bazoum, a seemingly well-regarded leader believed to enjoy popular legitimacy, was overthrown by the armed forces. But if foreign observers were stunned by Bazoum’s toppling, it did not come as a shock to many Nigeriens, and not solely because of their country’s history of military coups.

To begin with, tensions between Bazoum and the army’s top brass and senior Defense Ministry officials were well-known to Nigeriens. Bazoum was also ushered into power in 2021 by a controversial election in which a popular opposition candidate was barred from running and that featured allegations of electoral malpractice. The protests that followed were marred by at least two deaths, many more injuries and mass arrests. And harsh crackdowns on recent public protests against the rising cost of living and Niger’s security partnership with France likely did little to assuage Nigeriens’ concerns.

Claims of an improved security landscape in Niger amid the fight against Islamist jihadists are also open to debate. But beyond the vagaries of statistical analysis, many Nigeriens simply do not believe that their lives have become safer and more prosperous, and seemingly favorable comparisons with their neighbors are no consolation. Niger remains one of the world’s most impoverished nations

Security, economic progress, and social development are necessary to sustain public support for any system of government, including democracy. (Emphasis added)

Development Not Understood

During the years of the Obama Presidency, members of his administration would repeatedly and publicly lecture me that “we don’t do infrastructure.” Now, in the two and a half years of Joe Biden’s Presidency, both he and Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, openly espouse  that the overarching intent of U.S. policy towards Africa (and the rest of the world) is to export “democracy” and “ good governance.” They believe, that only when nations embrace and commit to implement their constructs, will they be allowed to join the “rules-based international order.” 

A July 17, 2023, opinion by the Editorial Board of the Washington Post reveals, unintentionally, the tragic flaws of the Biden-Blinken policy towards Africa.

As we have argued in this space before, the Biden administration should compete with Russia’s aggressive maneuvering, as well as China’s, for influence in Africa by focusing on what the United States does best: building the infrastructure of democracy. That takes time. But in the long term, it is the key to ending chronic instability and crippling poverty (sic), reining in corruption, and jump-starting economic development.

There is only one thing wrong with this policy; it is no damn good! Stability, peace, and democracy are dependent on a population that is prosperous, educated, and secure. Without economic development, these goals will not be achieved. If the tens of billions of dollars that was spent on kinetic counter-terrorism programs to diminish violent extremism, had been deployed for building infrastructure, the Sahel would be in far better shape than it is today. Electricity, roads, railroads, water management, farming, and manufacturing are essential for the wellbeing of a nation.

Without a continuously rising stanard of living for its people, Niger, like many other African nations, will not achieve peace, and stability. The physical economic improvement in the material existence of the lives of the population is not optional, not secondary, but a primary-essential requirement for a nation state’s continued existence.

The failure to comprehend these fundamental concepts is at the crux of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Western political-financial elites and their inability to design a successful strategy towards Africa.

Listen to my 20 minute PressTV interview on Niger.

Read my earlier post:

My Thoughts: Poverty & Ethnicity Kill Democracy in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. He is also the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

U.S. Special Forces Deploy Across the Continent of Africa

U.S. Army Special Forces Operating in 22 Different Countries in Africa

August 17, 2020

The Mail & Guardian of South Africa has published an extensive report on the deployments and activities of U.S. special operations forces on the African continent.

Excerpts follow: 

“In 2019, US Special Operations forces were deployed in 22 African countries: Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania and Tunisia.

“This accounts for a significant proportion of US Special Operations forces’ global activity: more than 14% of US commandos deployed overseas in 2019 were sent to Africa, the largest percentage of any region in the world except for the greater Middle East…

“The US military is tight-lipped about exactly what its elite forces do in each country, but special operators have long conducted missions that range from capture-or-kill commando raids to training missions..

“An interview with Donald Bolduc, a retired brigadier general and head of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) until 2017, shed further light on these operations. He said that as of 2017, US Special Operations forces had seen combat in 13 African nations. America’s most elite troops continued to be active in 10 of those countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia and Tunisia — last year…

“The number of ground missions carried out by US commandos in Somalia has never previously been revealed, but US Air Force documents obtained by the M&G and corroborated by Bolduc indicate the scale of these efforts. The documents, from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, show that the US and partner nations conducted more than 200 ground missions against al-Shabab between June 2017 and June 2018.”

Read the full report: http://atavist.mg.co.za/inside-the-secret-world-of-us-commandos-in-africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

ARGUMENT:Trump’s Dangerous Retreat from Africa

Below are excerpts from the blog of John Campbell reviewing the Trump administrations’ policies for Africa during his first nine months in office

Noveember 3, 201

     An Africanist Donald Trump is not. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, who had signature initiatives on the continent, the U.S. president has shown little interest in Africa and had minimal contact with its leaders.
     But the deaths of four American soldiers in Niger and the inclusion of Chad, a key U.S. counterterrorism partner, on the latest iteration of Trump’s travel ban have made Africa increasingly difficult for the administration to ignore. These events have also exposed the administration’s startling lack of expertise when it comes to the continent and its reticence to tap the knowledge of career diplomats and analysts in the executive agencies — missteps that have already cost the administration and which could have additional consequences down the road.
     Trump’s disinterest in Africa appears to be shared by many in his cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who at an hourlong meeting with State Department employees on Aug. 1 embarked on a “little walk … around the world” that did not mention Africa and its 1.2 billion inhabitants — roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. The administration’s political point person for Africa seems to be U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who had little foreign experience
prior to her appointment. Last month, she visited Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the most senior Trump administration official to have set foot on the continent thus far.
     Making matters worse, the Trump administration has shown little respect for the expertise that resides at the departments of State and Defense, within the intelligence community, and within the academic and policy communities. Important African diplomatic posts remain unfilled, and domestic positions concerned with Africa have been filled only very slowly. For his meetings with African heads of state on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, career State and Defense
officials were not invited to be present.
     The Trump administration’s freezing out of State, Defense, and intelligence community expertise predictably results in mistakes. The most costly to date was the inclusion of Chad — a major U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism — on Trump’s travel ban, which also targets travelers from seven other countries. Not long after the latest version of the ban was announced on Sept. 24, Chad shifted troops from Niger, where they had been involved in operations against Boko Haram, to its border with Libya. A reported upsurge in jihadi activity followed the troops’ departure.
     The travel ban blunder may yield additional negative consequences that are difficult to predict. The current chairman of the African Union Commission is Moussa Faki Mahamat, a Chadian. And to the extent that the travel ban is interpreted as a Muslim ban, it’s not just Chad that the administration risks alienating. Islam is the majority religion in some 22 African countries, 13 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. In certain parts of Africa where the rivalry between Muslims and
Christians is acute, some Christians, especially of the Pentecostal tradition, are welcoming and exaggerating what they see as the Trump administration’s anti-Islam policy. If African elites perceive Trump’s immigration and refugee policies as part of a larger “war on Islam,” then a general hostility to the United States is likely to grow. 
     While there is still no permanent assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Donald Yamamoto, a career diplomat and former ambassador with deep knowledge of Africa, has been appointed as an interim secretary with a term of up to one year. The defining feature of the administration’s Africa policy so far is its ramping-up of military and counterterrorism engagement, a trend that began before Trump took office. In a recent conversation with senators, Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that the U.S. military presence in Africa is set to increase, with continuing training, reconnaissance, and air support missions that accelerated under Obama (though from a very low baseline).
    This shift is also reflected in the administration’s budget proposal, which may end up having the biggest initial impact on U.S. policy toward Africa. The Defense Department budget would swell by roughly 9 percent, enabling it to increase its presence in Africa, while the State Department would see a roughly 30 percent cut, if the administration gets its way. Included in that cut would be USAID, meaning that almost all development assistance would be eliminated, as would many health-related programs. Africa would be disproportionately affected; at present roughly one third of USAID funds go to the continent. Trump’s budget would also nearly halve the U.S. contribution to U.N. peacekeeping operations, more than half of which are in Africa.
     Finally, while the administration’s budget proposal explicitly states that it will be “continuing treatment for all current HIV/AIDS patients” under PEPFAR (which provided life-saving antiretroviral drugs to 11.5 million people last year), the proposal would lower the yearly contribution by 17 percent, or about $800 million. Congress is likely to oppose many of these cuts, however, and in the end they are unlikely to be as deep as Trump’s budget proposal would indicate. Even so, cutting just half of what the president has proposed would significantly reduce the scope of department and agency activities, with the exception of defense. So far under Trump, U.S. foreign engagement is declining with respect to Africa. China and India have already begun to fill the void by steadily increasing their political and economic activity, as have Turkey, the Gulf states, and Iran. Larger African states, notably Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia, may also assume a more significant role than in the past. 

Interview with Sudan Foreign Minister