By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Aug. 18, 2023)
“Africa will send her noble envoys to you, O God. They will come running, stretching out their hands in love to you.” Psalms 68:31
Africa is on the move. This movement is reflected in the July 26 overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bosoum and the 10th-anniversary celebration of South Africa’s 3rd largest party, the socialist-oriented Economic Freedom Party (EFF) of Julius Malema.
We can only hope that the current movement of the people, just as it did in the 70s and 80s when the fight against apartheid in South Africa and for independence and national liberation in Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, bears people-centred fruits for prosperity and development.
The 70s and 80s were a period of great revolutionary upsurge. In 1979 three significant revolutions triumphed that were to have a long-lasting effect on world affairs: Iranian on Feb. 11, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; Grenada on March 19, led by Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement; Nicaragua on July 19, led by the Sandinistas of Daniel Ortega.
On July 26, the same day as the Nigerien military takeover, Julius Malema’s EFF brought tens of thousands of persons into Johannesburg to mark his party’s 10th anniversary. The EFF celebration rally shocked the political firmament in South Africa and must have created panic in both the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The white economic elite in South Africa and their capitalist backers in Washington, London and Paris were certainly left scratching their heads following Malema’s powerful hour-long address, in which he vowed to nationalise the banks, mines and natural resources of South Africa.
All eyes are on the 2024 elections in South Africa, where the Economic Freedom Fighters are expected to do very well. Look for the forces inimical to the interest of the people of Africa to do all in their power to retard or turn back this new progressive upsurge.
With polls showing that the EFF has surpassed the DA in popularity, the leader has declared Malema and the EFF the biggest threat to democratic freedom in South Africa.
Africa’s new youthful leaders’ drive and commitment were also reflected in the speech delivered by Army Captain Ibrahim Traore, the 34-year-old leader of Burkina Faso. He told the Russia/Africa Summit that young people across Africa were questioning why the African continent, with so many resources, is so poor and underdeveloped. Why were Africans dying in the mad rush to leave the continent for Europe?
The new leaders, such as Traore and Malema, seem committed to changing course and leading Africa in a new direction that will bring more benefits to the people.
In recent years, military leaders in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and now Niger have overthrown pro-western leaders and demanded that France remove its military presence and end its economic stranglehold over former French territories.
Last week, the foreign minister of Mali called on the United Nations to investigate France for the many crimes in West Africa. The solidarity and unity of purpose are so profound among the young military leaders that when leaders grouped in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military intervention in Niger to restore President Bozoum, the military men who lead Burkino Faso and Mali strongly opposed the US/French-backed ECOWAS initiative. They committed to lending assistance to Niger to help the country rebuff any foreign military intervention.
Western military presence in West Africa is under siege. Mali expelled the French military contingent after successive coups in 2020 and 2021. Ten days after the July 26 coup, the new government in Nigerien capital, Niamey, said it would nullify a range of military agreements with Paris.
How shall we understand the July 26th coup in Niger, in which military officers ousted Mohamed Bazoum, the nation’s Western-tilted president? It is the sixth army takeover in or next to the Sahel in the past four years. Shall we write off this band across sub–Saharan Africa as a coup country and trouble no more about it?
Horace Campbell, the Pan-Africanist professor of History at Syracuse University, said the military action in Niger led by Abdourahamane Tchiani, as well as those in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea, must be viewed as an attempt by younger military officials to throw off the neo-colonial yoke of France and other powers. Along with France, the USA has a significant military presence on the continent. The US maintains a military base in Niger from which it launches drone strikes on supposed terrorist targets across Africa.
France has tied up its former African colonies into an exploitative relationship that demands that they lodge 75% of their foreign reserves in France. France invests this money and makes billions in profit. If a former colonial wants to access some of its reserves, it must first present financials to the French authorities, who can okay or deny access. If the money is released, it is given as a loan with commercial interest rates attached.
According to Professor Campbell, the big push across France’s former colonies is to have it withdraw its 240,000 troops from West Africa, end the exploitation of the mineral and natural resources of the region, and treat and close up the hazardous uranium mines no longer in use.
The people of Africa want their resources invested in education, health, water treatment and economic development. The continent’s young people also want an end to American military presence. Africom, the United States Africa Command has established a ring of military bases in at least 20 countries.
Increasingly, Africans are united in the belief that they live in the 21st century and not the 19th. Much of the resentment flows from this realisation. Another point of departure is that France and the USA are no longer viewed as the powerhouses they once were.
We no longer live in a unipolar world. China and Russia offer options that were not available before. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa constitute a powerful bloc that threatens the economic dominance of the US.
These developments do not yet constitute a radical break from the old order. The rich and powerful still have influence and heft, not to mention tricks. What is certain is that the African continent has taken centre stage in its attempts to throw off backwardness and move forward to social and economic progress and development.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].