After Mali and Burkina Faso, now Niger - and tomorrow Chad.
18 augustus 2023 | Bernard Lugan
The events in Niger are the logical consequence of France's disastrous Africa policy - from Nicolas Sarkozy to Emmanuel Macron, not forgetting François Hollande, of course. Those responsible for it must be held to account.
How is it possible that an ethnic conflict which erupted in 2011 in North-Eastern Mali, and was originally limited to a single Tuareg faction, could have been transformed into an uncontrollable regional conflagration, the most visible consequence of which is France's eviction from the Sahel region?
As a result of the avalanche of political and societal errors, and as I have been saying ever since 2011, France's failure in the Sahel was, alas, inevitable (see my book Histoire du Sahel). It was a political failure, masked for a time by the successes of our Armed Forces, at the cost of the sacrifice of dozens of France's finest children who died in the place of African deserters who preferred to emigrate to France to benefit from the largesse of the 'odious' former colonial power, rather than defend their respective countries.
Corseted by their ideology, French leaders wanted the rights of peoples in Africa to take a back seat to "human rights", the chimera of "good governance" or the surrealist notion of "living together". Not to mention the LGBT provocations and their variants, which are seen in Africa as abominations and which have cost France the esteem and respect of Africans.
Giving priority to economic and social analyses, blinded by the imperative of impossible “development”, French decision-makers have rejected reality, forgetting the wise recommendations made in 1953 by the Governor of the French West Indies: "Fewer elections and more ethnography, and everyone will find something to their liking".
The "petit marquis", graduates of Sciences-Po or ENA who know nothing about history but who claim to speak about Africa, have failed to see that, at the end of the 19th century, colonisation, which freed Southerners from being preyed upon by Northerners, brought together the dominated and the dominanting within common administrative boundaries.
With independence, the internal boundaries of the former French West Africa became state borders, and the laws of electoral ethno-mathematics automatically gave power to the Southerners because their women had been more fertile than those of the Northerners.
Hence the uprisings in Mali, Niger and Chad between 1960 and 1965 by Northerners who refused to be subjugated by their former Southern subjects. The war that broke out in 2011 – i.e. before any Russian presence - and which is unfolding before our very eyes, is a resurgence of this.
Faced with a reality that they did not understand, or that they refused to see, confusing causes and consequences, the irresponsible people who define France's African policy naturally made an error of diagnosis. They spoke of an Islamist danger, when in fact we were clearly dealing with an age-old ethno-racial wound, which has now become infected by contemporary Islamism.
As a result, French strategy was based on the "essentialization" of the religious question, with every armed bandit, gunman and trafficker being peremptorily labelled a "jihadist". This was a big mistake, because in most cases we were dealing with traffickers who claimed to be jihadists in order to cover their tracks, and because it is more rewarding to claim to be fighting for the greater glory of the Prophet than for packets of cigarettes or shipments of cocaine. Hence the link between trafficking and religion, the former taking place in the bubble made safe by Islamism.
Faced with a mishmash of ethnic, social, mafia and political demands, opportunely cloaked in religion, with varying degrees of importance attached to each point depending on the moment, French policy was both rigid and incoherent.
In Niger, where several conflicts are taking place in both the West and South-East, the situation was further complicated by the fact that President Mohamed Bazoum is Arab. He is a member of the Libyan Awlad Sulayman tribe, which has branches in Chad and North-East Niger.
Here again, a minimum of historical knowledge would have taught the distinguished gentlemen who claim to define France's African policy that this powerful tribe split in two in the 1830s, when the Ottomans decided to regain control of Tripolitania. The Awlad Sulayman, a Makhzen tribe loyal to the Karamanli who had been overthrown by the Turks, entered into resistance against the Ottomans (see my book Histoire de la Libye).
As the Sublime Porte had a heavy hand in putting down the uprising, part of the tribe emigrated to Chad and Niger, where they took part in the great movement of Northern predators against the sedentary Southerners, which has left its mark on our collective memory.
In Niger, where the Awlad Sulayman make up less than 0.5% of the population, and where they are regarded as foreigners, the fact that one of their number reached the Presidency was resented. To make matters worse, the Awlad Sulayman have been seen as friends of France ever since, in 1940-1941, they followed the Leclerc column in its operation to conquer the Italian Fezzan (South-West Libya), an operation that began in Chad and Niger. It was on this occasion that certain factions of the Awlad Sulayman returned to Libya, where they have since clashed with the Toubou people who occupy their former territories, abandoned after the exodus of the 19th century.
While France's African policy should have been entrusted to men on the ground who had inherited the "Lyautey method" and the ethno-differentialist approach of the old "Office for Indigenous Affairs", it has, alas, been managed by the insignificant and pretentious oafs who bear the terrible responsibility for France's failure in Africa.
A failure that has not yet been completely consummated, since there is still Chad, whose turn will come sooner or later, inexorably. And always for the same reasons.
On top of all that, instead of questioning their mistakes, adding naivety to incompetence French leaders are now trying to exonerate themselves from their responsibilities by pointing to the "hand of Russia". It is as if, being at war with NATO, Russia were going to let slip the opportunity offered to it to plunge into the yawning abyss of French uselessness to open up an African front behind the backs of those who are fighting it on the European front. President Putin's speech at the last Russian-African summit in St Petersburg was very clear on this point.
The shortcomings of France's leaders are reflected in their failure to react to the lie about the alleged "plundering" of Niger's resources. We would expect the "cockerels" who speak on behalf of France to make a clear statement to the effect that France has no interests in this desert country - Mali, on the other hand, is only partly desert - doomed to succumb to its suicidal polygamous demography. A Niger which, with all due respect to the ineffable Sandrine Rousseau, dared to assert that France depended on it for its uranium, when in fact the country currently represents, at best, barely 10% of France's needs, and when it is much easier and cheaper to obtain supplies elsewhere in the world.
Not to mention the uranium in France, whose mining has been made illegal by environmentalists…
(This article originally appeared in French on Bernard Lugan’s blog.)