Horace Campbell on Opposing Military Intervention in Niger & Disastrous U.S./French Role in Africa
Written by GRB on 11/08/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: In Niger, leaders of last month’s military coup have appointed a 21-member cabinet as they forge ahead with building a new government. This comes as West African leaders from ECOWAS are holding an emergency summit today in the Nigerian capital Abuja to determine their next steps, after a deadline to restore ousted President Mohamed Bazoum passed Sunday.
ECOWAS, backed by the U.S. and the former colonizer France, had threatened to use military force if their deadline was not met, but there has been deep division within the region over how to respond. The Senate in Nigeria has said military force should only be used as a last resort if diplomacy fails. Neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, all ruled by coup leaders who have ejected French forces from their country, have said any military action would be taken as an attack on their countries, as well. Many Nigeriens have been taking to the streets since the July 26 coup to show their support of the military and voice opposition to any foreign intervention.
On Wednesday, the coup leadership accused France of violating its airspace. This is Niger Army spokesperson Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane.
COL. MAJ. AMADOU ABDRAMANE: [translated] These security disruptions, planned by these French forces, as was the case in Mali and Burkina Faso, aim to discredit the CNSP and create a rupture with the people who supported its actions, or to create the feeling of a generalized insecurity in any case.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, sanctions and power cuts imposed on Niger have hampered delivery of humanitarian aid to over 4 million people in need of assistance, according to the U.N.
African officers trained by the U.S. military have now taken part in 11 coups in West Africa since 2008, including in Burkina Faso and Mali.
For more, we turn to Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University, activist and chairperson of the Global Pan African Movement, North American delegation. He’s also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya.
Professor Campbell, we welcome you back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening as we speak, the meeting in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, of the ECOWAS leaders, West African leaders, who set a deadline of this past Sunday, saying if the president, Bazoum, was not returned, they would militarily intervene? Well, clearly, they haven’t. What’s your response? Of course, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea threatening that they better not attack.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, good morning, Amy, and thank you for having me.
We oppose all military intervention. We should make that very clear. We oppose the military intervention in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea. But one cannot oppose the military intervention without opposing France and the United States and their militarization of the region. This recent destruction of civilian power and civilian leadership in Niger is one of the nine sequences that has developed since the “war on terror” in that region, the fabrication of terror, the intervention of the United States and France in the region, and the consequences of the destruction of Libya and the financing of groups, military groups in the region, by France.
Now, this military intervention in Niger is a consequence of the militarization of Nigerien society, when the society needs social and economic reconstruction. The United States has pumped more than a billion dollars into this region into military facilities and military programs and supporting military elements in this region. In Niger alone, the United States has spent half a billion dollars building a military base and military drone facilities in Agadez to support French exploitation of the mineral, human resources of Niger. So, we cannot discuss what’s going on in Niger without discussing the call by the African people for the expulsion of France from West Africa. The foreign minister of Mali has called on the United Nations to investigate France in the region. The former prime minister of Italy has called for sanctions against France.
And it is the right-wing conservative forces in the United States that is supporting France, to the point where now we see the conservative wing of the Biden administration, led by Victoria Nuland and Antony Blinken, leading the discussions on Africa. Why is it that Victoria Nuland was in Niger on Monday, and Victoria Nuland is in South Africa? The Biden administration has African expert. They named Johnnie Carson as their expert on Africa at the last U.S.-Africa Summit. But it’s Victoria Nuland, the hawk, that wants to militarize the planet Earth, who is a rabid militarist, who is now flying between Nigeria, Niger and South Africa carrying out U.S. policies.
The task is for the left and progressive forces in this country to call for the removal of the United States Africa Command from Africa, the closing of the U.S. military facilities in Niger, and to support the people of Niger in removing France from Niger, just as the people of Burkina Faso and Mali have done. And we should support the call for a federation between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
AMY GOODMAN: Give us the history of Niger and French colonialism there. We’ll also talk about the United States.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, Niger is one of those states that has suffered from French military intervention and destruction in the region. The French are inordinately dependent on the exploitation and plunder of Africa. The French have military personnel in Niger. When their military personnel were thrown out of Mali and Burkina Faso, they were redeployed to Niger. And they were stoned on the way to their bases in Niger. France has exploited the mineral and natural resources of Niger. The French uranium mines in Niger not only exploited the uranium resources of Niger, but France has also closed mines and left radioactive material that is deleterious to the health and safety of the Nigerien people. Now, everyone in West Africa is calling for the ending of the CFA franc and the domination of the economies of West Africa by France. They’re calling for the removal of the 240,000 French personnel in West Africa.
In the case of Niger, France is opposed to any plans for the reconstruction of the country. Let’s take the major plan in this region for the reconstruction of the country. That is the replenishing of Lake Chad. You started this news broadcast this morning by talking about a fire in Hawaii. Those kinds of fires are going on all across West Africa because of global warming. Global warming has accelerated the depletion of Lake Chad. Lake Chad has lost 95% of its water resources. There is a plan by the Lake Chad Basin Authority to replenish Lake Chad. Who is against this? France. Who is against investment in reconstruction in West Africa? France.
Who has been supporting — who allegedly has been supporting terror groups in West Africa, when the United States called for investigation into Boko Haram? It was revealed in the Nigerian newspapers that the French have been supporting Boko Haram in Nigeria. So, the French create terrorist groups and then goes into African countries to say they are fighting terrorism in Africa. This kind of duplicity by France and fomenting terror and destruction has been challenged by the peoples of West Africa. In every country in West Africa, they’re calling for the ending of French economic, financial and military domination.
So, we, in this country, must call on our representatives and our political forces who are progressive — for example, Ocasio-Cortez, who is a progressive member of Congress. When she was a student, she went into Niger. Why are they not raising their voices against the militarism and militarization of West Africa by the United States military, and to call for investment in health, reconstruction, water supply and the safety of the people of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali?
The United States, France is gung-ho about reversing a military coup in Niger. What about the military coup in Sudan? That has been supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. What about the destruction of the military in Sudan against the peoples of Sudan calling for the restoration of democratic relations? We cannot be selective in our opposition to militarism. We must oppose militarism of all sorts in Africa. But the priority at this moment is for the removal of France and to call on the United Nations to have sanctions against France for its destruction and militarism in Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: And then talk about the U.S. role, the U.S. drone base in Niger, and talk about the significance of uranium in the world, that’s in Niger.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, let’s start with the United States of America. The United States of America has been involved in what they call a war on terror, which is, in the words of Jeremy Keenan, a fabrication in West Africa. The people who are called terrorists, in many cases, are people who are supported by France. In the case of the destruction of Libya, the United States and France removed Gaddafi, and now the United States and France are fighting on both sides of the war in Libya. After the destruction of Libya, the Tuareg left Libya and went into Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The French supported groups that are supposed to be terror groups, and then the United States started what they call the Trans-Sahara Counterterror Initiative and spent half a billion dollars on that counterterror initiative. The United States then went into Niger to build a military base and a drone base in Agadez.
Now, all of this is very murky, because even the Pentagon cannot account for what is happening. The congressional representatives say they do not know what’s going on in Niger. When four United States Marines were killed at Tongo Tongo in Niger — and if you look at the map to see where Tongo Tongo is, right at the border between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — when these four Marines were killed in 2017, up to now the Pentagon cannot say what happened to these four Marines. The ABC documentary, 3212 Un-redacted, talks about the murkiness of the intelligence and the opaque operations of the Pentagon in Niger. The United States needs to remove its military forces from Africa and to support the peace, social justice forces in Africa who are fighting for reconstruction in that part of the world. So, the United States itself is a force for destruction against the peoples of Africa at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, all warning against the foreign intervention in Niger to reverse the coup. Now, Burkina Faso’s interim leader, Ibrahim Traoré, who took power in a coup in September, recently spoke in Moscow during the Russia-African Summit. He criticized what he called imperialist neocolonialism.
IBRAHIM TRAORÉ: [translated] The questions my generation is asking are the following, if I can summarize. It is that we do not understand how Africa, with so much wealth on our soil, with generous nature, water, sunshine and abundance, how Africa is today the poorest continent. Africa is a hungry continent. And how come there are heads of state all over the world begging? These are the questions we are asking ourselves, and we have no answers so far.
We have the opportunity to forge new relationships, and I hope that these relationships can be the best ones to give our people a better future.
My generation also asks me to say that because of this poverty, they are forced to cross the ocean to try to reach Europe. They die in the ocean. But soon they will no longer have to cross, because they will come to our palaces to seek their daily bread.
As far as what concerns Burkina Faso today, for more than eight years we’ve been confronted with the most barbaric and the most violent form of imperialist neocolonialism. Slavery continues to impose itself on us. Our predecessors taught us one thing: A slave who cannot assume his own revolt does not deserve to be pitied. We do not feel sorry for ourselves. We do not ask anyone to feel sorry for us. The people of Burkina Faso have decided to fight, to fight against terrorism, in order to relaunch their development.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Burkina Faso’s interim leader, Ibrahim Traoré, who took power in a coup in September, wearing that red beret that’s reminiscent of Thomas Sankara, the leader who was assassinated in 1987. Talk about that history, Professor Campbell.
HORACE CAMPBELL: The political consciousness of the peoples of Africa at the moment, this consciousness has been heightened by the conjuncture of the global capitalist crisis, the investments for billionaires, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and the general immiseration of the African peoples. Thomas Sankara was a military leader in Burkina Faso, and that’s why, though we condemn military coups d’état, we do not have a knee-jerk reaction against all military leaders, because within the ranks of the military in Burkina Faso are the heirs of Thomas Sankara. Thomas Sankara was a leader who organized the people of Burkina Faso to bring safety, security, sanitation, peace to that country, and it was about how to mobilize the people of West Africa against French imperialism. And through French and Ivorian machinations, Thomas Sankara was killed. The military in Burkina Faso still has some of the sentiment and consciousness of Thomas Sankara.
But what was being said by the leader of Burkina Faso is now reflected all across West Africa. In Senegal, the anti-French, anti-imperialist sentiments are very high. And the highest anti-imperialist sentiment in Africa at the moment is to be found in the Sudan, where the revolution in the Sudan has mobilized the people into resistance committees, resistance committees that overthrew the military. So, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Mali and now Niger are countries where the room for developing the political consciousness of the people and strengthening the anti-imperialist bloc in Africa is very strong.
Last week, the EFF in South Africa had its 10th anniversary congress. And if you listen to the speech of Malema, the anti-imperialist speech, you get a sense of the sentiment all across Africa about imperialism, about the need for African unification, harnessing the resources of Africa, and to ensure that Africa is not drawn into any new wars.
What we are seeing in Nigeria is that the Nigerian government, which many in Nigeria call the present government illegal, this government in Nigeria needs an intervention in Niger and in Burkina Faso and Mali in order to get favor from the United States of America so that Tinubu can be in power. The people of Nigeria, they are against this military intervention. The Senate of Nigeria, as you said in the lead-up, said they should not intervene. They said there should be dialogue. The people of Nigeria, the people of Niger are one. So, what Burkina Faso leader — what the Burkina Faso leader said in Russia at the Russia-Africa Summit is a sentiment of the peoples all across Africa about Western military intervention in Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, interestingly, Professor Campbell, the African officers who were involved in these 11 coups in the last 15 years in West Africa, including in Burkina Faso and Mali, have been trained in the United States.
HORACE CAMPBELL: And trained by this money that the United States is supposed to be spending on counterterror. I think that is why we need greater investigation in what the United States is doing in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Guinea, and to call for closing of the United States Africa Command and for there to be greater relations between the civilian societies in Africa and the people of the United States. The United States Africa Command needs to be removed from Africa, because the United States Africa Command has been responsible for part of the sequences of militarism in West Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, if you can talk about the U.S., I would say, intensified interest in Africa right now as it tries to compete with Russia and, even more importantly, China? If you can talk about Africa as a kind of proxy for this global competition?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Yes. First of all, the African peoples have been fighting for self-determination. The African peoples have been calling for the unification of Africa. The African peoples have been calling for the African currency, so that they are not sending billions of dollars, up to $48 billion every year, to Western European countries. The African countries want freedom of movement. They’re creating the Africa continental free trade community.
The United States, France and the European Union — all foreign powers are against Africa uniting and creating roads and railways and ports for the African peoples. The overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya was directly related to the plan by the African Union for an African currency. An African currency, that prevents the outflow of resources from Africa, is a threat to France, the European Union and the United States of America. And that is why the United States is creating the bogey about China, and the United States is intensifying militarism in Africa.
Next, this war in Ukraine is a terrible war against the peoples of Ukraine and that region. But that war in Ukraine is another step of the militarization of the planet, with the United States supporting the fascist elements in Ukraine. Now, Africans have taken a position that they do not have any dog in this fight. They want peace in Ukraine. The United States is threatening Africans with the Countering Russian Malign Influence in Africa. They’ve actually passed a bill in Congress to coerce Africans to support the United States and the NATO war in Ukraine, when Africans are calling for NATO to be accountable for the destruction of Libya.
In South Africa, in particular, where there will be the BRICS summit the next week, where Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are coming together to break the domination of the United States over the world economy, the United States is threatening the South African government. It’s not by accident that Victoria Nuland went from West Africa to South Africa. They’ve been threatening the South African government and making allegations that South Africa is selling arms to Russia. All of these are fabrications.
The United States is now leaning on Kenya to send soldiers to Haiti. The United States is calling on Kenya to sign a strategic trade investment partnership with Kenya to break up the plans for greater cooperation in eastern Africa.
So, the United States is running amok in Africa based on challenging China. The African people do not need the United States to tell them to challenge China. What the people of Africa needs is to plant food to end hunger. They want jobs. They want roads. They want healthcare. And they want tangible resources internationally to fight climate change. This is the most important crisis globally. So, we, in this part of the world, need to join with the African peoples supporting peace and reconstruction, supporting the replenishment of Lake Chad, and do not support France and the United States in the destruction of Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: Horace Campbell, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University, chairperson of the Global Pan African Movement, North American delegation, author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya.
Next up, we speak to the Ukrainian pacifist Yurii Sheliazhenko, who’s just been charged by the Ukrainian government with justifying Russian aggression, days after his apartment was raided. He says he is a pacifist. Stay with us.
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