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The belt of coups in the Sahel is completed by Niger

The belt of coups in the Sahel is completed by Niger: Niger is a key country in the Sahel, both because of its geographical location and the concentration of Western military bases on its soil.

The belt of coups in the Sahel is completed by Niger

In the Sahel, everything seems to converge on Niger, which until the July 26 coup d’état appeared to be an island of relative security stability in a region haunted by jihadist insurgency. In a report published in 2022, the US State Department even described the country as a “linchpin for stability in the Sahel”.

As The Washington Post recalls, the country was an exception in the midst of a “coup d’état belt”, an expression used to describe the horizontal line running from west to east between the countries of the sub-region that have seen a brutal overthrow of the authorities in power in recent years.

This small country of 25 million inhabitants is also home to numerous Western military bases. According to the Washington Post, the United States has around 1,100 soldiers and a drone base. As for France, after the disappointment and rejection of the Barkhane force by Mali and Burkina Faso, it chose Niger to establish the bulk of its forces, i.e. between 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers.

Finally, Niger abounds in mineral wealth, including precious uranium. In another article, the Washington Post estimates that the country, the world’s seventh largest producer of this mineral, has some of the largest gross reserves in Africa. It is also one of the main exporters of uranium to Europe. If the situation in Niger were to worsen, “this could force European governments to reconsider new punitive measures against Russia, one of the world’s biggest uranium exporters”.

So, will Niger follow in the footsteps of its two neighbors? In Niamey, the scenes involving Russian flags and anti-French slogans are already reminiscent of the events in Mali and Burkina Faso.

International position on the coup d’état in Niger

U.S. President Joe Biden called Thursday for the immediate release of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, who was ousted last week in a military coup.

Biden said in a statement that Niger is “facing a grave challenge to its democracy.”

“The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders. They have expressed their will through free and fair elections—and that must be respected,” Biden said.

Briefing journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, Léonardo Santos Simão reiterated condemnation of the attempted overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on 26 July.

He also underscored support for efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at restoring constitutional order and consolidating democratic gains in the country.

“The unfolding crisis, if not addressed, will exacerbate the deteriorating security situation in the region. It will also negatively impact the development and lives of the population in a country where 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance,” he said, speaking from Accra, Ghana. 

He added that “Niger and the region do not need coups d’état. Populations deserve to enjoy peace, democratic governance and prosperity.”

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is currently in Niger to “negotiate” with members of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which overthrew the elected Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum, said one of the Community’s officials at the opening of Wednesday’s meeting of West African chiefs of staff in Abuja, Nigeria.

“Nigeria disconnected the high-voltage line carrying electricity to Niger yesterday (Tuesday),” the source told the media. A Nigelec official said that the capital, Niamey, was “supplied by local production”.

Exit France, Russia seduces in the Sahel

After Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger is the third country in the region to experience a coup d’état since 2020. Each time, France’s presence is denounced. A situation that benefits Russia, which is conducting intense propaganda on the ground.

“A bas la France!”, “Vive la Russie!” It’s a familiar scenario in the Sahel. After Mali, hit by two coups in 2020 and 2021, and Burkina Faso, hit by two putsches in 2022, it’s the turn of neighboring Niger to be overthrown by the military. Here again, supporters of the putschists have denounced France’s presence in their country. On Sunday July 30, in front of the French embassy in Niamey, they tore down the building’s plaque before trampling it and replacing it with Russian flags.

For several years now, France, the former colonial power, has been unwelcome in the Sahel, a region stretching from Senegal to Chad. The French army has been driven out of Burkina Faso and Mali, and Operation Barkhane, launched in 2014 to combat terrorism, forced to withdraw to Niger in summer 2022. Taking advantage of this situation, Russia continues to extend its influence and present itself as an ideal political, economic and security partner.

Five of the ten countries in the world most affected by terrorism are African

Burkina Faso was the first country in Africa and the second country in the world most affected by terrorism in 2022 with 310 terrorist incidents resulting in 1,135 deaths and 496 injuries. This is according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2023, a report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Five of the ten countries in the world most affected by terrorism are African.

Burkina Faso is the 2nd most affected country in the world

With a score of 8,564, Burkina Faso is the second most affected country in the world in 2022, just behind Afghanistan, ranked first since 2019. The country recorded 310 terrorist incidents in 2022 versus 224 in 2021.

Five of the ten countries in the world most affected by terrorism are African: Somalia, Mali, and Syria occupy the 3rd, 4th, and 5th most affected countries by terrorism, respectively. In the second half of the top 10 are Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Burma and Niger, according to the document relayed by Burkinabe media. According to the Global Terrorism Index, however, terrorist attacks worldwide decreased in 2022 for the first time since 2019, with a 28% decrease compared to 2021. They went from 5463 to 3955.

Most terrorist attacks are perpetrated by the Islamic State, the Shebabs, the Islamic and Muslim Support Group, and the Baluchistan Liberation Front in West Pakistan.

The total number of deaths due to terrorism worldwide also dropped by nearly 9% from 7328 to 6701 deaths in 2021. However, in Burkina Faso, 1135 deaths were recorded, a 50% increase in deaths compared to 2021, according to the same source.

Worrying rise in Benin’s position

According to the report, the Sahel is the region of the world most affected by terrorism, with a notable deterioration in 2022 despite improvements in Nigeria and Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali experienced substantial increases in terrorism-related deaths, by 50 and 56 percent respectively, to 1,135 and 944 deaths respectively. Neighboring Sahelian countries also experienced terrorist activity in 2022, with Benin and Togo recording more than ten deaths for the first time.

“JNIM (Islamic and Muslim Support Group) continues its campaign to expand its activities outside the Sahel, carrying out attacks in Benin and Togo,” the report said, noting that Benin moved up 23 places from 53rd in 2021 to 28th in 2022.

FESPACO: African Film Festival

FESPACO: African Film Festival: In Ouagadougou, the largest film festival on the African continent opened its doors this Saturday, February 25, 2023 in the Sports Palace in the district Ouaga 2000.

FESPACO: African Film Festival

Ten thousand visitors are expected at this 28th edition of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). The official opening ceremony was attended by the Prime Ministers of Burkina Faso and Mali who gave the launch of the activities of the biennial.

This is the first Fespaco since the military took power in Burkina in two coups in 2022, the first in January, the second in September. Some 10,000 festival-goers are expected, according to Haby Ouattara, coordinator of Fespaco, which is held every two years.

“We are pleasantly surprised, it encourages us and it comforts us,” she adds, while acknowledging that the security situation is on everyone’s mind. According to Ms. Ouattara, the fragility of the country related to jihadist attacks “has influenced the organization of the festival,” including the security arrangements, which she does not wish to detail. The theme of this 28th edition – “African cinema and culture of peace” – was chosen accordingly, to stick to “current events”, she says.

This year, 170 works have been selected in the official competition, including fifteen feature films competing for the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a trophy and a prize worth 20 million CFA francs (about 30,000 euros). The jury will be chaired by the Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha. Several films have “terrorism” as their main subject, such as “L’envoyée de Dieu” by Nigerian Amina Abdoulaye Mamani and “Epines du Sahel” by Burkinabe Boubakar Diallo. “Creators are always influenced by what they see,” says Haby Ouattara.

Mali, Niger and Togo to be honored

Mali is one of the three countries, with Niger and Togo, that Burkina Faso has courted to be honored at the 28th great mass of African cinema that begins this Saturday, February 25, 2023 in Ouagadougou. According to the president of the national organizing committee of Fespaco, Fidèle Tamini, this country of immense cultural and cinematographic wealth was the first country to confirm its intention to be the guest of honor. Nothing more surprising, to hear the delegate general of Fespaco, Alex Moussa Sawadogo.

“Burkina and Mali are among the few countries to have won the Golden Stallion of Yennenga twice. When we talk about the cartography of African cinema, we have always cited Mali and Burkina. These two countries have contributed so much to the cinema of Africa and the world with personalities like Souleymane Cissé (twice Etalon d’or in 1979 and 1983), Cheick Oumar Sissoko, current director of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (Etalon d’or in 1995). At the level of Burkina, we have Idrissa Ouédraogo (Etalon d’or in 1991) Gaston Kaboré (Etalon d’or in 1997), and for the new generation, Apolline Traoré and Michel Zongo “, recalls Alex Moussa Sawadogo, visibly pleased with this participation of Mali.

In Ouagadougou, the largest film festival on the African continent opened its doors this Saturday, February 25, 2023 in the Sports Palace in the district Ouaga 2000.