Africa
Wagner

Russia creates new Africa Corps

Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow’s unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner’s estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (Photo: Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic. Credit: Corbeau News Centrafrique via Wikipedia)

Africa
Sahel

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a “sovereign decision” to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The statement charges that ECOWAS has “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and is now “under the influence of foreign powers.” All three countries are led by military juntas after undergoing coups d’etat, which resulted in their suspension from the bloc. All three countries have also moved closer under their respective military regimes to Russia, whose Wagner Group mercenary force is backing up a new Malian government offensive against Tuareg separatist rebels. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Niger

Niger junta pivots from the EU to Russia

The ruling junta in Niger has broken off a military partnership with the European Union that provided training and equipment for the counterinsurgency against jihadist rebels. The rupture is linked to the EU’s refusal to engage with the junta that took power in a July coup. Russian officials have meanwhile visited the country, signing documents to strengthen military cooperation. Russian support for other armies in the Sahel region has led to massive rights abuses, yet the EU’s own record was far from exemplary. The bloc spent large sums on Niger’s military but failed to implement measures to prevent abuses—resulting in civilian casualties that played into the hands of the jihadists. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Sankara

Burkina Faso: Sankara gets a street — but where’s the legacy?

Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, was assassinated in a coup 36 years ago this week. Some see his legacy being carried forward by the head of the country’s current junta, Ibrahim TraorĂ©. Like Sankara, TraorĂ© seized power in his early 30s and has espoused strong anti-imperialist views. He has cut ties with former colonial ruler France, and snubbed offers of Western military aid. At a commemoration this week in Ouagadougou, authorities officially had the capital city’s Boulevard Charles de Gaulle renamed Boulevard Thomas Sankara. Detractors say Traoré mobilizes anti-imperialism to legitimize his rule, which is threatened by disgruntled soldiers and jihadist insurgents. The army captain, in power since late last year, has pursued an all-out military strategy against jihadists, spurning the dialogue options pursued by his predecessors. Insecurity has worsened under his watch, and his troops have been accused of brutal attacks against civilians. (Photo via Global Voices)

Planet Watch
uranium

Podcast: Niger, Siberia and the global uranium wars

The Tuaregs of Niger and Buryat of Siberia, like the Navajo of the US Southwest, have had their territories usurped and destroyed by uranium mining for the nuclear-industrial complex, and it makes little difference from their perspective whether the extractivist bosses were French, Russian or American. While the Great Powers wage a neo-colonial game for control of this strategic resource, the indigenous peoples on the ground pay with their lands and lives—and are fighting back for autonomy or outright independence, and ecological and cultural survival. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 192 of the CounterVortex podcast. (Photo: Russian uranium mine in Buryatia, via Moscow Times)

Africa
Sahel

Au revoir to (some) French troops in Niger

France looks set to begin a “limited” military withdrawal from Niger, after ongoing popular protests have made it clear its troops are no longer welcome. Niger’s new military leaders had given France a month to pull its 1,500 soldiers—plus ambassador—out of the country. But Paris, which does not recognize the legitimacy of the junta, had refused. Now, with the expiry of the deadline, talks are underway with Nigerien army commanders (not the putsch leaders, French officials stress) for an undisclosed number of French troops to be transferred to Chad. But France’s military presence is resented across the Sahel. Last week, there were demonstrations outside the French base in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad, after a French legionnaire killed a Chadian soldier. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Gabon

Gabon coup: another blow to Françafrique

A group of soldiers in Gabon seized control of the country and canceled the results of its presidential election—just after incumbent President Ali Bongo, heir to a corrupt dynasty closely aligned with France, was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. In scenes reminiscent of those in Niger after the recent coup there, crowds have poured into the streets of Gabon’s capital Libreville, expressing their support for the new junta—and animosity for both the ousted Bongo dynasty and France. The coup appears to mean a further reduction for the French influence sphere in Africa, known as Françafrique. Over the past three years, coups have ousted French-aligned regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger. Russia appears eager to step into the erstwhile role of France in providing military assistance to these countries. The day after the Gabon putsch, a Russian delegation met with Burkina Faso’s interim regime to discuss stepped-up security cooperation. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Niger

Podcast: flashpoint Niger

In Episode 186 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the coup d’etat in Niger, which now threatens to plunge West Africa into regional war—with potential for escalation involving the Great Powers. Lines are drawn, with the Western-backed ECOWAS demanding the junta cede power, and Russian-backed Mali and Burkina Faso backing the junta up. Pro-junta demonstrators in Niger’s capital, Niamey, wave the Russian flag—probably to express displeasure at US and French neo-colonialism. The Wagner Group, which already has troops in Mali and Burkina Faso, has expressed its support for the junta, and offered fighters to help stabilize the regime. Elements of the tankie pseudo-left in the West are similarly rallying around the junta. Amid this, leaders of the Tuareg resistance in Niger have returned to arms to resist the new regime, and the country’s mine workers union is also demanding a return to democratic rule. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Niger

Military coup d’etat consolidated in Niger

Niger’s national broadcaster identified Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani as president of the country’s new military government following a coup that deposed elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The country’s new ruling junta, called the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland, was formed out of Niger’s presidential guard, which carried out the coup. The AU, EU, US and Russia have all condemned the coup as unconstitutional. However, Wagner Group commander Yevgeni Prigozhin lauded the coup as part of “the struggle of the people of Niger [against] their colonizers,” and and offered his fighters’ services to bring order. Pro-coup protesters in Niger have been photographed with Russian flags. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Mayotte

French court stops expulsion of migrants on Mayotte

A court in the French overseas department of Mayotte ordered the government to stop its expulsion of migrants in the island territory. In Operation Wuambushu, which means “Take Back” from the local Maore language, the government sought to dismantle a “slum” known as Talus 2 in the town of Koungou, removing a population of undocumented migrants and demolishing shelters. Talus 2 has seen repeated angry protests over the clearance plan. Mayotte is a transit point for migrants traveling from Comoros, a nearby archipelago off Southeast Africa. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Sahel

Wagner Group ‘plots’ against Chad: leaked documents

The Washington Post reports that among the classified documents leaked by Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira are findings from an unnamed US intelligence agency that Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is seeking to recruit rebels to destabilize the government of Chad. One document states that Wagner is working to establish a training camp for hundreds of fighters across the border in the Central African Republic as part of an “evolving plot to topple the Chadian government.” The documents detail a discussion in February between Wagner leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his associates about the timeline and logistics for training an initial group of rebels at Avakaba, CAR, close to the Chadian border. This is portrayed as part of a larger design to create a “unified ‘confederation’ of African states” in Moscow’s orbit. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
RSF

Russian ‘fingerprints’ on Sudan coup attempt

As fighting continues in Sudan, derailing a transition to democratic rule that was slated for this month, commentators note Russia’s connection to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that sparked the crisis by attempting a coup d’etat. The Kremlin’s notorious mercenary force, the Wagner Group, is said to be engaged in illegal gold mining operations in Darfur and Kordofan regions in collaboration with the RSF. Operations at a Wagner-protected mine owned by RSF warlord Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo AKA “Hemeti” in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan have sparked protests by locals over land-grabbing and pollution. The arrangement points to a Kremlin-backed design to make the RSF economically independent of the Sudanese state in preparation for a seizure of power. (Photo via Dabanga Radio)