Photos credit: Houreidja Tall
Nigerian New Yorkers were planning a protest at the US Capitol to denounce France’s alleged interference in the presidential elections scheduled in Niger on February 21, 2021, but are now deterred by Trump supporters’ invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The protesters are members of a new organization called “Debout Niger, Debout” (Stand Up Niger, Stand Up), started before the December 2020 elections in Niger with the mission to give a voice to the people.
The group of Nigeriens, led by Mohamed Seydou and Fad Aminata Adamou, held a rally a week prior on December 30, 2021 at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations. The protesters are accusing France of backing the “illegitimate and unconstitutional candidacy of Mohamed Bazoum,” who will face Mahamane Ousmane in the second round of the presidential elections after opposition leader Hama Amadou was deemed ineligible by Niger’s Constitutional Court.
Rumors about the authenticity of Mohamed Bazoum’s certificate of nationality have surfaced despite the fact that Bazoum held several government positions since 1991. Bazoum is also the President of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, the party of incumbent president Mahamadou Issouffou.
Niger gained its independence from France on August 3, 1960. The landlocked country has, according to the world nuclear association, the world’s sixth largest uranium reserves.
Despite being Africa’s largest producer of uranium as well, Niger remains a poor country, with its mining industry dominated since 1971 by former colonizer France, which first discovered uranium in the country in 1957, three years before Niger gained its independence.
If France was forced to grant Niger its independence, the European country was not willing to forego the numerous natural resources available in the former colony. Niger has historically supplied over 30% of France’s uranium demand (according to a new player in Niger, mining company Global Atomic), but only 15% of the Nigerien population has electricity.
While most of Niger is in the dark, “one out of every three light bulbs in France is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” Nigerien activist Ali Idrissa explains. France has so much electricity that it can afford to sell it to other countries. With close to 60 nuclear reactors, France was Europe’s biggest exporter of electricity in 2019.
Local activists have also reported unsafe working conditions that led to chronic illnesses for miners and the inhabitants of the surrounding mining areas.
It is not the first time that France is accused of interfering in its former colonies’ politics. France is believed to be behind coups and assassinations of several African leaders, including Ibrahim Maïnassara of Niger, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Leon Mba of Gabon, Ruben Um Nyobé of Cameroun, Sylvanus Olympio of Togo, Barthélemy Boganda of Central Africa, Mohammed Boudiaf of Algeria, Ahmed Abdallah of Comoros, Mouammar Khadafi of Libya, Marien Ngouabi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many others. The African leaders’ only fault was willing to cut ties with the former colonizer and dedicate their country’s resources to whom it belongs — their own citizens.
Controlling who the head of state is and making sure that he will not interfere with France’s interests in the region has been France’s mission in many former African colonies. In exchange, France would protect that leader and just turn a blind eye on human rights violations and other irregularities. If France were interfering in Niger’s presidential elections, it wouldn’t surprise anyone. At least not Francophone Africans.
What is surprising, is with all the regulatory organizations around the world — how is France allowed to continue to loot in broad daylight these African nations, more than 60 years after their so-called independence. France is a superpower that seems to be unable to hold its status without African resources and markets, and to many, France is the reason why Francophone Africa is unable to prosper.