Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger at the forefront of the African revolution

‘When the people stand up, imperialism trembles.’ – Thomas Sankara

Gerald A Perreira

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The people make history. Coup supporters in the streets of Niger raise placards reading: ‘Down with France, Long Live Putin’. Meanwhile, thousands of young people have registered to volunteer to defend their country. General Abdourahmane Tchiani has repeatedly warned Ecowas and unnamed western nations against stepping in: ‘We once again reiterate to Ecowas or any other adventurer our firm determination to defend our fatherland.’

The following article was sent to us by the author, and since we consider it brings some very useful knowledge and perspective, we are publishing it as received. One or two of the author’s formulations we felt need some clarification for our audience, however.While we agree with the Mr Perreira that the uprisings in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are revolutionary nationalist movements against imperialism, deserving the full support and solidarity of workers everywhere, we do not support black separatism or Garveyism (the idea that African problems will be solved if ‘white’ exploitation is replaced by a ‘local’ black bourgeoisie).In our view, the problems of Africa do not stem from skin colour but from the global economic system of capitalist-imperialism, which will be solved not by replacing one set of exploiters with another but by doing away with exploitation in its entirety. Real development, so long overdue in most of Africa, can only come from setting free the initiative and creativity of the masses, while freeing them from the heavy burden of tribute they currently pay to the overlords of global capital.Pan-Africanism has had a chequered history, and often been used as a counter to socialism – a way to divert the African masses (and their descendants in the imperialist countries) from the revolutionary path.For lasting success against imperialism, the new authorities in Niger and elsewhere will need the same things as every other revolutionary movement has needed: to mobilise and educate the masses, to arm them, and to give them a stake in the new society. The most effective way to do this is via the collective ownership of national resources – by transforming their anticolonial struggle into a socialist revolution.

In our view, this is the only context in which the call for a ‘United States of Africa’ makes sense and can bring lasting benefit to the people of that great continent.


“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.” – Thomas Sankara

History is a great teacher. If we do not learn from it, we are doomed to repeat mistakes made.

Early postcolonial African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Sekou Touré (Guinea), Modibo Keïta (Mali) and Marien Ngouabi (Congo) spoke of economic independence and the ongoing struggle for true independence. Well aware of the trap of bogus independence, what Walter Rodney referred to as “briefcase independence”, or what I refer to as “flag-and-anthem independence”, these leaders mobilised and organised their people for the completion of their respective national-liberation struggles.

However, western imperialism and its stooges, or “running dogs of imperialism”, as the Chinese revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong called them, either overthrew or assassinated these visionaries. Like so many conquerors throughout history, the imperialists enlisted the support of reactionary regimes and western assets in the military to achieve their diabolical agenda – that is, to keep Africa in a state of permanent dependence and servitude, so they could continue their rape and plunder of the continent.

Frantz Fanon’s observation in his seminal work Towards the African Revolution remains as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1964. Fanon observed that “the great success of the enemies of Africa is to have compromised the African themselves.

“It is true that these Africans were directly interested in the murder of Lumumba, chiefs of puppet governments, in the midst of a puppet independence, facing day after day the wholesale opposition of their peoples, it did not take them long to convince themselves that the real independence of the Congo would put them personally in danger.”

Fast forward to 2023, and as if to confirm his status as a compromised African, Ecowas chairman and Nigerian president Bola Tinubu is expressing his concern that the emerging trend of coups in west Africa had reached “alarming levels”. Of course, alarming for him as he wonders if he will be the next neocolonial leader to be swept aside.

As a multipolar world emerges, all over Africa the people are rising up and challenging decades of neocolonial rule, exploitation and fake independence, favouring relations with Russia and China over the USA and western Europe.

Regardless of what takes place at the political level, it is when the masses rise up that real and meaningful transformation occurs. It is the masses who make history. They are just waiting for the moment, for the tipping point – and the moment is here.

‘Who feels it knows it’

In Africa, here in the Caribbean and Latin America, and throughout the global south, people at the grassroots are often clearer about what is taking place globally than many who are located in the ivory towers of academia, who so often become confused.

In the poorest areas of Guyana, people who have never travelled far from their area or had access to books, or even in some cases internet, are very clear about why Muammar Gaddafi was killed, while we had the globally renowned Guyanese economist and dependency theorist Clive Thomas regurgitating the imperialist narrative “Gaddafi must go!”

For the masses, knowledge is not gleaned from books and other people’s stories, and therefore it is not disembodiedKnowledge devoid of an experiential dimension becomes an abstraction, and this precludes an authentic understanding of the immense pain suffered by the peoples of the global south, and the devastating impact that the injustice we experience has on every aspect of our lives – including whether we and our loved ones even get to live.

Thus, the only people who truly understand the suffering that inflicts millions on this earth every day are the sufferers themselves. As we say in Guyana: “Who feels it, knows it.” Those who have been forced to reckon with it, and to fight it themselves, are the ones who will eventually make the change. 

These are the people who filled the stadium on 7 August to support the revolutionaries of Niger as they closed the country’s airspace and refused to surrender. These are the people who are signing up in their thousands to defend Niger as I write this article. 

These are the people in Nigeria and Ghana who oppose their country’s proposed military intervention in Niger because they understand all too clearly that this is a proxy war hatched by the imperialists, especially the USA and France

These are the ones in Haiti, who understand and support Jimmy Chérizier, while Haitian activists residing in the USA and France and commenting from their ivory towers are falling for the Western narrative, which insists on criminalising those from the Haitian streets who have become conscientised, and now, instead of fighting each other, are fighting their oppressors. 

‘When the people stand up, imperialism trembles.’ – Thomas Sankara

The political heirs of the traitors who stood in the way of the post-colonial revolutionary African leaders are now plotting and planning ways to thwart and kill this new generation of African revolutionary leaders – Ibrahim Traore of Burkina Faso, Assimi Goita of MaliMali and Abdourahmane Tiani of Niger – all in the name of ‘democracy’ – liberal democracy, a western colonial imposition, an illusion of democracy, a trap that has left the African continent in chaos, persistent poverty and chronic dependency – the hallmarks of the neocolonial arrangement. 

It is the chains of this enslavement that the revolutionary coup leaders in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are determined to break. The same chains that Imran Khan is determined to break in Pakistan.

Breaking the chains

“Imperialism is a system of exploitation that occurs not only in the brutal form of those who come with guns to conquer territory. Imperialism often occurs in more subtle forms, a loan, food aid, blackmail. We are fighting this system that allows a handful of men on earth to rule all of humanity.” Thomas Sankara

In the words of Kwame Nkrumah: “Neocolonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather of its last hideous gasp.” The Empire knows that it has come to the end of its reign, even if its leaders refuse to admit it openly.

The power and influence of the imperialists is fading faster than could have ever been imagined even a year ago; it is indeed taking its last hideous gasp. Although in the open, the USA and western Europe are still strutting on the world stage with their usual arrogance and bravado, behind closed doors they are in panic mode.

This new set of compromised Africans, under the umbrella of Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States), continue to push for a military intervention in Niger, backed of course by France and the USA. But as I write, they are still retreating from making that fatal mistake, as they are realising it would be doomed to failure.

The western corporate media continue to bleat about restoring ‘democracy’ to Niger, despite the fact that the coup leaders have the overwhelming support of the people. Isn’t that democracy? The BBC repeats the same thing over and over: that the USA and the European Union are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to Niger’s “political turmoil”, despite the fact that there is no turmoil as the people of Niger express their overwhelming support for the coup.

It is the imperialists who are in turmoil as they realise the extent of the support the coup leaders and Russia have – and the extent of the hatred that is being directed towards them.

Ecowas is a neocolonial body that colludes with the imperialists to keep the existing political and economic arrangement intact. It’s the black face of white supremacy. Obviously, the coup leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are well aware of this. All three countries are members of Ecowas.

However, unlike the pro-western puppets they removed, these revolutionaries are determined to move beyond sham independence and bogus liberal democracy. Those useless neocolonial states like Nigeria should pay attention to the suffering of their people, rather than talking about invasion.

Where were these ‘running dogs of imperialism’ when Nato was bombing Libya into dust? Truth be told, some of these cowards who call themselves African leaders went along with the imposed decision to destroy Libya. The good news is that it is only a matter of time before they are swept away by the rising tide of the African revolution.

Why did the Ecowas-proposed invasion, backed of course by the French and the USA, not eventuate when the first deadline its leaders imposed on Niger expired? The reason is that they realised then, and are realising even more now, that they would not only have to reckon with the military but also with the people of Niger, who have already had a taste of the dignity that comes with true independence and real sovereignty.

In addition, these compromised Africans are afraid that their shameless and traitorous behaviour will be even further exposed than it already is – and that this will cause greater unrest in their own countries.

The Niger coup leaders took the courageous and imperative step of not only kicking out their French neocolonial masters but also of threatening sanctions, withholding the supply of precious raw materials such as gold and uranium. This has sent shock waves throughout the imperialist world.

The withholding of uranium is especially terrifying for the French government, since uranium from Niger in part powers French nuclear power plants. The French state is the major shareholder in the multinational mining company Orano (formerly known as Areva), which has been mining uranium in Niger for almost 50 years.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), Niger is the world’s seventh-largest producer of uranium and has Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores. Although Orano has already depleted some mines, it is determined to remain in the country, having set its sights on Niger’s Imouraren mine. Listed as the one of the world’s largest uranium deposits, Orano refers to it on their website as “Imouraren Project, the mine of the future”.

Despite this wealth of resources, Niger remains one of the poorest countries in the world, which tells you everything you need to know about France’s ill-gotten gains. In France, one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium, while in Niger, nearly 90 percent of the population has no access to electricity. Is this the democracy the west wants to restore in Niger?

To operate the 56 nuclear reactors in France’s 18 power plants, an average of approximately 8,000 tons of uranium is required every year. This uranium comes mainly from three countries: Kazakhstan (27 percent), Niger (20 percent), and Uzbekistan (19 percent).

Although Niger only accounts for 5 percent of global production, well behind Kazakhstan (43 percent), Canada (15 percent), Namibia (11 percent), and Australia (10 percent), and even though France could manage without Niger’s uranium, it is the precedent that Niger is setting that is most alarming for France and the entire western world.

Not since Muammar Gaddafi nationalised Libya’s oil companies in 1973, leading to a global oil supply crisis that resulted in desperate measures – including carless days in major western cities – have the imperialists been so afraid.

As Francois Mitterrand boldly admitted in 1957: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”

Africa is the world’s true superpower

As I have written in previous articles, there is nothing that the USA and western Europe fear more than a united Africa that is free and independent, and whose resources can no longer be extracted in an exploitative manner.

We must never forget that the western world’s development was possible as a result of hundreds of years of the free labour of captured and enslaved Africans, and the plunder of African resources since the onset of the colonial project right up to the present day. The imperialists know that a united and independent Africa would completely alter the balance of power globally.

It is a well-documented fact that if Africa stopped the flow of all raw materials to the western nations for just one week, these nations would grind to a halt.

In 2007, in Conakry Guinea, Colonel Gaddafi made a simple observation to a cheering crowd of thousands: “Whenever I ask people about Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola people immediately say it’s an American or European drink. This is not true. The kola is African. They have taken the cheap raw material from us, they’ve made it into a drink, and they sell it back to us for a high price. We should be producing it ourselves and selling it to them.”

This is exactly the point that the revolutionary leader Ibrahim Traoré is making as he implements projects to increase the manufacturing and processing of raw materials in Burkina Faso. This is, of course, a fundamental step in the struggle to free any country from persistent poverty and dependence.

You can only achieve economic freedom and prosperity for your people when you halt the export of raw materials and start to produce the final product locally.

At this critical juncture in history, Africa is finally realising its immense power. These times represent a new opportunity because global events are transforming the balance of power, and China and Russia are backing Africa’s attempt to take its rightful place on the world stage.

This is a moment we cannot afford to miss or to be robbed of. Realising our power is primarily a psychological transition – it is quite simply a matter of liberating ourselves from our mental incarceration.

Almost every known natural resource needed to run the contemporary industrial/high-tech economies – such as uranium, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan (for cell phones, video games, laptops), platinum, diamonds, bauxite, and especially large reserves of oil are located in Africa.

Azania (South Africa) alone contains half the world’s gold reserves. Democratic Republic of Congo contains half of the world’s cobalt and 80 percent of the world’s known coltan reserves. One quarter of the world’s aluminium ore is found in the coastal belt of west Africa, and the continent is awash in petroleum reserves.

A defining moment for Africa and Africans all over the world, we are getting a glimpse of the kind of power that Africa possesses. Ibrahim Traoré, Assimi Goita and Abdourahmane Tiani embody the ideas of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Muammar Gaddafi and every great African freedom fighter who envisioned an Africa free from the bondage of colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism.

We must rally to support them as they face the age-old imperialist arsenal of weapons. The usual all-out campaign to demonise them has already been launched; the entire psych-ops will be based on a sophisticated programme of deception.

If that fails, which it will, given the current awareness worldwide that the emperor is indeed naked for all to see, the next move will be military intervention, using the neocolonial satraps amongst us, such as President Tinubu of Nigeria, just as they have done in the past.

Compromised Africans come in many guises. Bola Tinubu is an obvious case, openly working in tandem with the imperialists and therefore easy to spot. However, I have seen many who should know better getting excited over the speeches of African leaders who remain conceptually incarcerated, and therefore also compromised, such as President William Ruto of Kenya.

He is a good orator and his speeches are full of promise, much the same as Barack Obama’s speeches were. In fact, the vision of a free and independent Africa articulated recently by President Ruto sounded nothing short of revolutionary. I don’t wish to be a pessimist, but a good talker is one thing and decisive action is another. Sadly, there are so many contradictions with regard to President Ruto that I know he inevitably falls into the first category.

President Ruto is calling for a new financial arrangement but says nothing about dismantling the neoliberal capitalist arrangement that the present financial model is based on. Why? Because the ideology that his centre-right party, the United Democratic Alliance adheres to, is neoliberal capitalism.

He wants to have a fair financial arrangement within an unfair arrangement. Totally impossible. He uses the word ‘Afrocentric’, but I’m certain he uses it as a substitute for ‘African’ rather than as an ideological concept. He is calling for betterment for our African homeland within a system that colonised and enslaved our ancestors and is still ravaging Africa to this day.

This same system got rid of the leaders I mentioned above and frustrated every attempt they made to bring about a new and just economic and financial order. And it is the defenders and enforcers of this same system who are lining up against the revolutionary leaders in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Herein lies the contradiction that renders his speeches nothing more than empty rhetoric.

Time for ‘us’ to put sanctions on ‘them’

It is time for Africa to finally rid itself of the last vestiges of colonialism and neocolonialism. If we have to stop the flow of strategic resources to the western capitals until they comply with our demands for self-determination, then so be it.

It is time for us to apply sanctions on those western capitals that refuse to respect our God-given rights. The way in which western sanctions against Russia have completely backfired, resulting in an economically stronger Russia and an isolated west, now teetering on economic collapse, has shown the world that the pendulum has already swung.

Western hegemony is over. Africa has never been in a better position to finally take its place at the global table as an equal partner and demand prosperity for its people. The Worldwide Pan-African Movement and the African masses are crying out for this – the time is now.

Africans everywhere must exert maximum pressure on their leaders to realise this power; we owe this much to all those who have gone before us, who have fought and died to realise this dream. Those African leaders who cannot get on board must be moved out of the way. An Ecowas invasion of Niger must not be tolerated.

The global shift that is happening before our eyes is not a recent phenomenon; it has been building up for decades. The USA and western Europe have been in panic mode behind closed doors for a very long time.

They thought that bombarding the world with anti-Russia and anti-China propaganda would work, but it has failed dismally. Much to their dismay, African youth are taking to the streets in greater and greater numbers waving Russian flags.

The experience of the people throughout the global south, especially in Africa, has of course run contrary to western propaganda. Having experienced centuries of exploitation and genocidal policies by the west, they have never forgotten the fact that both Russia and China, who never had colonies in Africa or anywhere in the global south for that matter, assisted them in their struggles to free themselves from western domination and apartheid in South Africa.

In an article that appeared in the Financial Times as far back as 2007, authors W Wallis and G Dyer wrote: ”Western powers’ real concern is that African states will opt for Chinese deals to free themselves from the punitive conditions of IMF/ World Bank loans and other forms of financial dependence on Europe and the Unites States.

“As the second-largest source of oil in Africa, Angola is now in such a strong position that it is rejecting IMF loans completely. As one consultant put it, with all their oil revenue, they don’t need the IMF or the World Bank. They can play the Chinese off against the Americans.”

In another article titled, ‘China and USA in new cold war over Africa’s oil riches. Darfur? It’s the oil, stupid’ author William Engdahl pointed out: “Today China draws an estimated 30 percent of its crude oil from Africa. That explains an extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives which have left Washington furious.

“China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and IMF out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?”

What does all this mean for Africa? Quite simply, it means that we now have a choice in trading partners. And although all trading partners drive a hard bargain, some are giving better deals than others – and, in addition, respect our right to self-determination.

Black power – African power!

This is the moment to put all our efforts into the realisation of Nkrumah and Gaddafi’s grand plan for a United States of Africa. As I write, I am heartened by news that Algeria has refused France’s request to use its airspace for a military operation in Niger.

Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune stated that “a military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbours”.

Only when we can achieve this level of unity and power will we be able to take our rightful place in the world. At last, we will be able to engage with the rest of the world on our own terms and in our own interest. Backed by a population of one billion people, Africa will then be able to make demands that cannot be ignored.

In 2009, at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Gaddafi, commenting on west European and US attitudes to Africa, and had this to say: “If they do not want to live with us fairly, then they should know it is our planet and they can go to another planet.”

Fair and just is all we are seeking – only the unfair and unjust have anything to fear.

Imperialism can only be buried in Africa

In an article in 2011, I invoked as its title Sekou Touré’s bold assertion that imperialism will be buried in Africa. To western commentators, this might have seemed optimistic. Indeed, some commentators asserted that it was not grounded in reality and that we were, if anything, being crushed by imperialism’s might.

However, looking at it from a revolutionary Pan-African perspective, one simply sees it as inevitable. Imperialism can only be defeated in Africa. Although there is a revolutionary fightback globally, and most notably throughout Latin America, it is only when Africa is free that imperialism can finally be buried, since it is Africa that fuels the imperialists’ existence and their space age.

The onus is on revolutionary Pan-African organisations/movements, on the continent and in the diaspora, to provide clear analysis and strategies capable of thwarting the enemies’ plans at every point. We must rid ourselves of the evil scourge of US and west European imperialism, their created, funded and facilitated so-called ‘jihadists’ (aka Nato’s foot soldiers) and the confusion and havoc they are spreading, and their neocolonial regimes.

There is no room or time for indecision leading to inaction. We must bury imperialism in Africa once and for all, or we will surely perish.

Following the destruction of the Libyan Jamahiriya and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, veteran African freedom fighter and former president of Namibia Sam Nujoma was extremely critical of the African Union’s weakness, stating that it “had woefully failed to mobilise militarily to stop the bombing of Libya and that the African Union should have mobilised its forces in order to fight and defend the territorial integrity of Libya”.

He offered the following advice: “Africans should talk war – the language best understood by western countries … The imperialists understand no other words than fighting. We dislodged them from our continent by fighting them. If we did not fight in Namibia or in Zimbabwe or elsewhere, we would not be free today. We must now prepare to fight them again.”

Certainly, the courageous revolutionaries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have heeded his call and are leading the way. We salute them and pledge our support on every front. It was no coincidence that the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) theme for African Liberation Day 2023 was “Smash Neocolonialism, African People are Ready for Revolution”.

I end with the immortal words of Kwame Nkrumah: “We have awakened. We will not sleep any more. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world.”


Gerald A Perreira is a writer, educator, theologian and political activist. He is chairperson of Organisation for the Victory of the People (OVP) based in Guyana and an executive member of the Caribbean Pan African Network (CPAN). He lived in the Libyan Jamahiriya for many years and was a founding member of the World Mathaba, based in Tripoli, Libya. He can be reached at [email protected].

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