In recent weeks, many eyes have turned to the Sahel region of the African continent where U.S.-trained military leaders have ousted African heads of state as a show of force against France, the U.S. and other Western powers who have continued to exert political and economic control of those African countries.
While “coup” has been commonly used in discussions about Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and most recently Gabon, several people, like Jacqueline Luqman, have vehemently dismissed that word, mainly out of deference to the masses of Africans on the continent and around the world who’ve expressed support for these movements.
Luqman, the mid-Atlantic organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, said that military leaders have acted in response to Western-backed political leaders who’ve siphoned money and natural resources from their constituents while allowing France, the U.S., and other Western nations to do the same under the guise of democracy.
Africans living in the inner cities of the United States experience similar conditions under the leadership of politicians who embrace the police and fail to equitably distribute resources, Luqman told The Informer.
“Not only are we connected to the struggle in Africa because we are African, but our tax dollars go to militarizing the continent and suppressing countries that reject foreign influence. France, Britain and Belgium act at the direction of the U.S. and they still have influence over their former colonies through neocolonialism,” Luqman said. “They are junior partners of U.S. imperialism today. The way that AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] trains soldiers to suppress people who rise against [puppet] leaders is similar to how police [in the U.S.] suppress us.”
An Ongoing Movement Against Neocolonialism
On Saturday, Luqman counted among dozens of organizers who converged on the French Embassy on Reservoir Road in Northwest for the “No War in Niger” rally. This rally followed a similar event at the Jamaican and Kenyan embassies in response to their deployment of police forces to quell violence in Haiti.
Three days before this protest, the Armed Forces of Gabon detained Gabonese President Ali Bongo and his family, not long after Bongo won an election that opponents described as fraudulent.
For nearly 60 years, a member of the Bongo family has sat at the helm of the West African nation. During that time, the majority of its crude oil exports have gone to the U.S. and France. Declining oil reserves, in part, have caused the country’s 33% poverty rate.
Gabon’s power shift follows that of Niger, which came into rule under a military junta weeks earlier. Between 2020 and 2022, military leaders in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali took over the government in a similar fashion and expelled French officials and journalists.
Since coming into power during the latter part of July, the military junta in Niger, at least five members of which have been trained by the U.S., has demanded that France withdraw its ambassador and military troops.
The junta has even gone as far as cutting off the power and water supply at the French Embassy in Niger’s capital of Niamey.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron, in his support of Niger’s currently detained president Mohamed Bazoum, refuses to acquiesce to the demands of junta leader Abdourahamane Tchiani. Meanwhile, ECOWAS leadership, which includes Bola Ahmed TInibu, president of neighboring Nigeria, has threatened military intervention if Tchiani doesn’t reinstate Bazoum.
If such a conflict were to occur, Burkina Faso and Mali have been authorized to intervene in support of Niger, as outlined in an order that Tchiani signed with the military leaders of both nations during the latter part of August.
Earlier that month, Tchiani reached out to the Wagner group, a Russian mercenary force, for assistance. This development, in part, has onlookers on the African continent and around the world characterizing the conflict as part of a proxy war between the U.S.-Western European bloc and Russia.
Protesters Demand Removal of European Military, Political Institutions from Africa
On Saturday, protesters sporting army fatigue and waving the Pan-African flag, along with flags of African and Caribbean nations, spent much of the morning and early afternoon belting chants demanding the removal of European military, intelligence and political institutions from the African continent.
They also indicted leaders in the African Union and ECOWAS, calling them puppets of Western nations.
The organizers, coming under the direction of the Africans United Movement, represented Black Alliance for Peace, Pan-African Community Action, African People’s Socialist Party, All African People’s Revolutionary Party, and Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League Rehabiliating Committee 2020, among numerous other entities.
Speakers of various nationalities and religious backgrounds took to the mic and provided lessons in history and politics in English, German and French languages. They alluded to the Berlin Conference of 1884 and 1885, which led to partition and colonization on the African continent. Some also espoused support for Ousmane Sonko, the opposition leader in Senegal whose detainment sparked protests and clashes with police forces.
Some speakers, like Netfa Freeman of Pan-African Community Action and Sean Blackmon of Party for Socialism & Liberation mentioned what they described as the complicity of Black leaders in the U.S. in the militarization of Black communities at home and abroad.
In his assessment, Freeman cited Ward 8 D.C. Council member Trayon White’s call for the National Guard in the aftermath of a shooting on Good Hope Road in Southeast.
Djonabaye Laya, a Chadian organizer who spoke on behalf of the Africa United Movement, said that U.S. democracy hasn’t meant Africans any good because Western-backed leaders often create conditions that force people to leave their home nations.
“We are tired of living as hostages in our own countries and losing our children in the Mediterranean [while] running away from poverty,” Laya said. “Our resources are going to France and all over Europe. We see the falling of an empire that doesn’t want to let go. We’re tired of military bases in our countries. The people of Niger have spoken. The U.S. has nothing to teach us about democracy. Neocolonialism must end today.”
The Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Weighs In
During the latter part of September, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will host its annual legislative conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest and other parts of the District.
The conference, themed “Securing Our Democracy, Protecting Our Freedoms, Uplifting Our Culture,” will allow thousands of participants to discuss various topics, including the U.S.’ relationship with Africa and the Caribbean.
Earlier this year, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nevada) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York-8th), along with other members of a delegation, visited Ghana to identify partnerships that will spur entrepreneurship, economic development and workforce development on the African continent.
Horsford, CBC chair and a member of the House’s Armed Services Committee, declined to speak in depth about whether the CBC, in light of grassroots calls for Western military withdrawal, has explored the possibility of supporting the dismantling of AFRICOM.
He however told The Informer that U.S. government officials are striving to make up for what had been lost during the Trump presidency, when the U.S.’ engagement of Africa waned.
“The U.S. partnership with Africa is one that must continue to improve and expand,” Horsford said.
“It’s part of the reason why the president and vice president led the U.S.-Africa Summit and why members of Congress, through the CBC, are increasing our engagement with Africa,” he continued. “An abandonment of African policy and priorities created a vacuum to allow China and Russia to make inroads and that’s something we’re working to change.”
Creating a New World for Future Generations
Toikumo Sofiyea, a member of Convention for Pan Africanism and Progress, stood on the front lines of the protest waving the flag of Nigeria, a country he described as a colonial invention. Drawing on decades of political consciousness, Sofiyea criticized the Western European powers who continue to control African nations through heads of state.
Sofiyea said that the time was right for a paradigm shift that put power back in the hands of the African masses. He cited the rally as an effective means of unifying Africans, adding that African leaders who stand up for sovereignty must not be assassinated.
“These are not coups, but revolutions. Democracy hasn’t served the interest of Africa because people who are in power for decades get support from the West,” Sofiyea said. “The independence we were given is only OK on paper. We want to be able to decide our lives and we don’t want our children to experience what we went through and what our parents went through.”