"Niger and the 'new world order.'"
Africa for Africans.
14 AUGUST—How shall we understand the 26 July coup in Niger, in which military officers ousted Mohamed Bazoum, the nation’s Western-tilted president? It is the sixth putsch of this kind in or next to the Sahel in the past four years. Shall we write off this band across sub–Saharan Africa as coup country and trouble no more about it? The thought is implicit in a lot of the media coverage, but how often do our media dedicate themselves to enhancing our understanding of global events and how often to cultivating our ignorance of them?
Do not take this latest development in Africa as an isolated event, if I may offer a suggestion. Its significance lies in the larger context in which it has occurred—its global surround, so to say. The West is besieged by the accumulating coherence and influence of the non–West and its version of the 21st century. Our media cannot bear writing or broadcasting about this. Niger, in my read, has just declared itself part of this historic phenomenon. And mainstream media can’t bear mentioning this, either.
Those who deposed Bazoum are led by Abdourahamane Tchiani, former head of the Presidential Guard, and plainly nurse a deep resentment of the postcolonial presence of the French. There are also reports—in the media, those coming out of the think tanks—that Bazoum was about to give Tchiani the sack, and the events of late July were driven, mostly or primarily, by personal rivalries, resentments, or both.
Everyone has reported, one way or another and more or less well, on the animosities toward the French abroad among Nigeriens. Such sentiments are evident in many parts of Francophone Africa. The past is another country, Nigeriens, Malians, and others seem to say: This is the 21st century, not the 19th.
But history is only part of the story, and I would say not the largest part. We ought not make too much of either history or memory in this case: Those who led the coup are facing forward, not back. And to suggest the coup deposing Bazoum was a question of palace politics, whatever these may be, amounts to serving the salad as the main course. No, we have to think larger if we are to grasp the new reality taking shape in Niger and elsewhere in its neighborhood.
Tchiani and his supporters, who appear to be many in the military and on the streets of Niamey, the capital, have the West as it is now uppermost in their minds, in my read. If they are fed up with the French, they are at this point impudently clear that they equally want no more of what the U.S. has had on offer for the past two decades and some: a klutzy, ineffective military presence and neoliberal economic orthodoxies. As in Mali and elsewhere in the region, Niger now looks set to lean in a distinctly non–Western direction.
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