West Africa has just experienced its fourth attempted coup in just over a year, and seven coups over the last 13 years were carried out by African troops trained by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). One was directly carried out by AFRICOM forces – Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya in 2011, its first major military operation.
On Sunday, September 5, 2021 soldiers detained Guinean President Alpha Condé and claimed control of the government. They suspended the constitution and closed all of the country’s borders. In a video recorded in the capital Conakry, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya of the Guinean Armed Forces (GAF) announced that the National Assembly had been dissolved.
Doumbouya, deemed the primary leader of the coup, was trained by the French military in France and, before turning against him, was called in 2018 by Condé to head a new Special Force Unit. Doumbouya and many others in the Guinean’s military also had AFRICOM training in Operation Flintlock 19. Operation Flintlock 19 occurred in early 2019 and, with participation from 34 African and other partner nations, was the largest annual exercise hosted by AFRICOM.
There should be no doubt that an indoctrination about the inherent goodness of the US-European role in Africa accompanies this military training with blindspots about the true legacy of colonialism. It is highly unlikely that a soldier could get through such brainwashing today and still have an anti-imperialist mindset intact.
Reminiscent of the coup in Mali that took place in May of this year, Guinea seems to validate AFRICOM as an incubator of military coups in Africa. Rather than embark on an agenda that addresses mass poverty and abolished austerity, comprador leadership seeks protection from the people through neo-colonial relationships with the Pan-European, capitalist patriarchy. Then their youthful and neo-colonial trained military personnel get it into their heads that, rather than serve an aged and widely unpopular dictator, they will take control themselves.
In Guinea, “the TV address featured nine unnamed soldiers, several draped in the red, gold and green national flag, who said they had taken over because of rampant corruption, mismanagement and poverty,” Yahoo News reported. Similar claims were made in Mali by Colonel turned Mali president, Assimi Goïta.
In and of itself a coup does not necessarily indicate that the action is against the people’s interest, whether the nature of the incoming government is revolutionary or neo-colonialist. Thomas Sankara, “The Upright Man ” and revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, came to power through a coup. Hugo Chavez’s first attempt to power in Venezuela was via coup. The case of the Arab Pan-Africanist of the Libyan Jamahiriya , Muammar Gaddafi was the same.
A hugely significant factor with these leaders and those who followed them was that they were imbued with an anti-imperialist imperative. They understood that the primary contradiction was not the particular comprador leadership who held state offices. The primary contradiction is the capitalist, European imperialist global order. They knew that the only solution for the people of the Global South was to embark on a bottom up process of control over their land, resources, or economic systems.
The coup in Guinea has been widely condemned by the US, the UN, the AU, ECOWAS, and others. In contrast, news of the coup sparked celebrations in some parts of the capital, where hundreds of people applauded the soldiers.
African people face such dire circumstances at the hands of neocolonialism and neoliberalism that they welcome the remotest possibility of change. The outward faces of their oppression are the Black faces that only appear to be in charge. Too many African presidents don’t actually preside over their countries. They kowtow.
An indication that AFRICOM incubated coups will likely not result in any fundamental change is that those leading the coups do not even make mention of the principles they are for, or that they are even against foreign domination. They make no attempts to create participatory programs of transformation that redistribute land, nationalize natural resources, or establish universal health care and education.
In our March 2021 article, Movements Not Saviors: Lessons from Bobi Wine’s Tweet for Juan Guaido, co-author Jemima Pierre and I explained that:
“The goals of African people must be more advanced than simply replacing a dictator. Imperialism is a global system that requires enforcement of certain conditions everywhere. This is precisely why autocratic leaders are supported by imperialism. These governments are the neocolonial political cover for the West’s control of the land, labor and markets of the colonized. A return to the oppressive conditions for the people will be inevitable if a dictator is removed but not the West’s ultimate control.”
A upgraded, popular Pan-Africanist movement must be rebuilt to demilitarize and depose imperialism from Africa. This will require constructing a mass based geostrategic vision that intensifies in Africa opposition to AFRICOM and other European military projects.