Hands off Niger!

We call on progressive forces around the world to join the growing call for de-escalation, diplomacy, and peace in Niger

On 9 August 2023, the European Union’s Special Representative for the Sahel, Emanuela del Re, gave an interview to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“The impact of the sanctions [in Niger] is becoming palpable,” she said. “The scarcity of medicine and food has reached alarming levels, while power outages are even more frequent than before. If we want the junta to weaken, we must persist with these sanctions.”

Del Re’s position reflects the long-standing policy of European and United States imperialism to collectively punish the peoples of states it deems non-compliant with its diktat. And it arrives on the back of a threat of military intervention in Niger. French and US military troops have refused to leave the country.

A war in Niger must be avoided at all costs. With Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali stating their determination to side with Niger in any military confrontation, a foreign intervention in the country threatens to escalate into a major regional conflict with the ECOWAS grouping of West African states. This would condemn millions to violence and levels of deprivation that are already severe for peoples still living in the long shadow of colonial rule.

In Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, the situation is particularly stark. The country is rich in resources, especially gold, hydrocarbons, and uranium used in nuclear energy. 15 percent of France’s uranium comes from Niger, which also accounts for some five percent of all uranium mined globally.

But it remains grotesquely overexploited. Some 90 percent of its people lack access to electricity and 42 percent are condemned to live in extreme poverty. Niger ranks 189th out of 191 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.

As in other countries in the Sahel, Niger’s economic crisis has been compounded by the United States’ and Europe’s military adventurism in the region. NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011 fuelled a violent regional insurgency, sowing instability, division, and misery — and generating pretexts for NATO’s ever-deepening penetration into the African continent.

This dynamic reflects the persistence of parasitic, neo-colonial relations between African states and their former colonizers, backed by the ever-present threat of military or economic war.

Sanctions — or a new war — cannot break the threads of exploitation that continue to bind the Sahel to the world’s imperial centres. It would only deepen them, further immiserating the peoples of the region.

The Progressive International stands against punishing the Nigerien people with sanctions and foreign intervention. Denying the Nigerien people food, medicine and electricity is a crime. We call on progressive forces around the world to join the growing call for de-escalation, diplomacy, and peace.

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