By: Nathaniel Manny Ballantyne
Libreville, Gabon – In the last three years there have been nine coup d’état in Africa carried out by young military officers who claimed to be representing the wishes of their people. These military interventions are often portrayed as necessary to put a stop to the West’s continued plundering of Africa’s vast resources while the people live in abject poverty. The high ranking officers who carried out the coups are privileged officers who received their military training from the United States or France far removed from the plight of everyday Africans.
Coup leaders justified their actions with anti-imperialist rhetoric and a need to end neo-colonialism in Africa. This argument gives them legitimacy and increases public support for their actions. For example, from Mali to Burkina Faso, Niger to Gabon, people celebrated in the streets when the military took over the government, and part of the celebration was the welcome news of an end to an era of leaders supported by the West who had been in power for decades and did very little to improve the lives of their citizens.
Ibrahim Traore, a young 34 years-old military officer and the interim president of Burkina Faso enjoys public support not only in Burkina Faso but in other parts of Africa because of his fiery anti-imperialist rhetoric at almost every public event. At the Russia-Africa summit held this past July in Russia, Traore wasted no time to criticize older African leaders whom he believes to be puppets in the hands of the imperialist, but while he was speaking another would-be imperialist was standing nearby waiting for his turn to plunder the resources of Africa.
Many Western countries have taken turns exploiting Africa with the assistance of puppet African leaders supported and funded by the West. Historically, France, Belgium, and the United States have assassinated African leaders who wanted to end colonialism. For example, in the 1960 Western powers orchestrated coup d’états against many African leaders they perceived to be aligned with the Soviet Union, but the most heinous was Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of Congo whose body was dissolved in acid after being shot to death by a firing squad. These kinds of atrocities are hard to forget, and the people of Africa deserve to chart their own course without foreign meddling.
Switching from one imperialist to another cannot be in the best interest of the people. The so-called revolution, with no philosophical underpinning for improving the lives of Africans, is merely an opportunity to switch alliances. It appears that the coup leaders are satisfied with just doing away with the old Western imperialist only to bring a new imperialist that could prove to be more brutal and deadly than the last. One example may be Traore, one of many African leaders who seem to think that Russia will be a better partner to Africa than the West.
The military government in Mali is also reportedly aligning itself with the Kremlin and receiving security assistance from Wagner, the Russian mercenary group. Niger has equally entered a contract with the Wagner group to not only provide security but to help in silencing those who may have a different point of view from the military government. All of this cannot be good for the people of these countries whose hopes and wishes rely on their ability to be truly independent of foreign interference.
Three important decisions that must be made to make these countries independent.
First, African people must be given the opportunity to decide through the ballot box who shall govern them and that can only be done through a democratic process free of foreign interference or fraud.
The best way for the military governments to improve the lives of their people is to return to democracy and civilian rules based on the principle of one man-one vote and respect for the rights of the individual. But so far, coup leaders from Mali to Gabon are unwilling to set a date certain for elections. In the case of Chad and Sudan, they have delayed the transition to democracy by arguing that the country is not ready for elections. In Gabon, the putschists have said that there is no need to hurry to elections. This past May, the United Nations reported that Military troops in Mali with the assistance of the Wagner group, tortured, raped, and killed at least 500 civilians during an anti-dissident operation in the city of Moura in March 2022. These types of human rights violations do not serve the interest of the people of Mali, only a return to democratic rules could set the stage for a truly independent, free, and sovereign country.
Second, Africa must implement a full economic disentanglement with France. Currently, fourteen African countries including Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon are still using the neocolonial CFA franc currency guaranteed by France and pegged to the Euro. France requires these countries to keep over fifty percent of their foreign exchange reserves with the French treasury, a terrible financial arrangement that allowed France to exercise undue political and economic influence over these countries – it is hard to fight with your banker. These countries must find a new currency. One continental currency would be a win for Africa, but that may take time. A regional currency with all West African countries may be a way to start.
Third, for the currency to have value, each country must nationalize its resources and create a sovereign fund that would allow investors to invest, and the country can use its resources as security raising billions of dollars for development projects instead of borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank at exorbitant interest rates.
If the military leaders take these three steps, the people of these countries will be better off and that would be a revolution worth celebrating!