When the Empire Strikes Back, Will the African World be Ready?

These are dark days for the empire. The Zionist pogrom against the Palestinians in Gaza that has evolved into full-scale genocide has opened the eyes of the world, and everyone sees that the imperialists have no clothes. In a panic, and with knowledge that they cannot erase the mental images of their greedy, amoral, violent nakedness, imperialists are striking out wildly and recklessly against any living thing that makes even a gesture of opposition to Zionist murder. Even students who are generally treasured as the promise of society’s future are not exempt from brutal retaliation.

Though the events in Palestine have left the empire dazed and reeling, it continues to stagger, throwing punch-drunk blows at anyone it can reach. However, the recent events in the Sahel region of Africa not only stripped the empire of its oppressive, exploitative, and manipulative raiment exposing its filthy, disgusting buttocks, but it also forced it to scramble out of Africa in shame.

It all started in Niger when that country’s military seized control of the government from a neo-colonial lackey last year and established the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland. This event triggered the crafting of a new reality for the relationship between Niger and France, its paternalistic colonizer. With respect to events in Niger in 2023, Aljazeera reported:

“France withdrew 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger five months after the military seized power in Niamey, with one of its major demands being the withdrawal of the French force. On December 22, the Nigerien army took control of French military bases in the country, as the last of France’s forces took their leave. The move sealed previous withdrawals from Mali in 2022 as well as from Burkina Faso early this year and dealt further blows to France’s marred military reputation. That same week, the French embassy in Niamey shut down, claiming that it could no longer continue its services unhindered after a blockade. In August, France at first refused to pull out its ambassador despite a 48-hour ultimatum from the government. The military rulers then proceeded to block the entrance to the embassy. Ambassador Sylvain Itte eventually left in September. On December 25, Nigerien authorities also announced they were suspending all cooperation with the Paris-based International Organization of Francophone Nations, which seeks to promote the French language. The organization had already restricted relations with Niamey following the July coup.”

For its part, the U.S. stood by, pathetically impotent and powerless to stop the anti-imperial momentum in the region, even after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) served as a U.S./French proxy and issued toothless threats to use military means to put the Nigerien upstarts in their place. Not only did ECOWAS make the prudent decision to refrain from military aggression, but in February, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso left ECOWAS to establish their own confederation called the Alliance of Sahel States.

Finally, the crowning achievement was the decision by Niger’s government in March to sever its military ties with the U.S.  The move was described by commentator Catherine Nzuki as: “… a blow to the ability of the United States to project power in the region. In the past decade, Niger had emerged as a U.S. foothold for military operations in the Sahel region, with two major U.S. bases and roughly 1,000 military personnel in the country. In central Niger, a drone base referred to as ‘Nigerien Air Base 201’ cost $100 million to install and only completed construction in November 2019, a sign of how quickly U.S.-Niger relations have deteriorated in the past year.”

All these developments would have made Kwame Nkrumah smile broadly. The tendency toward African unity and the expulsion of imperialists from Africa were fundamental to his Pan-African vision. But having watched how ruthless and cunning imperialists can be, Nkrumah would have cautioned against premature celebration. A retreat by France and the U.S. today is no guarantee they will not return tomorrow – angry and better prepared. The question for the African World is will it be ready?

Perhaps the most effective strategy is to throw a monkey wrench into the imperialists’ machine before they can crank it up. A good first step is to ensure that when Africa moves against its enemies, any actions taken will be justifiable under international law. In this regard, South Africa’s effort to have the International Court of Justice rule that Israel’s mass murders are genocide is instructive. A ruling of that kind impacts how resistance to Zionism is regarded by the world. If the ICJ determines that Israeli violence is genocide, it makes it far more difficult for Zionists to brand Palestinians who fight back as “terrorists.” Likewise, if Africa preemptively, by United Nations resolutions or otherwise establishes that the past and anticipated actions of the U.S. and France in the Sahel amount to violations of international law, then it becomes more difficult for imperialists to credibly discourage or challenge resistance. 

Yet another tactic is inspired by the collaboration between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Those three countries have begun the movement toward mutual defense, and other African countries can be encouraged to also sign on to a Pan-African defense pact. Visits by activists throughout the African Diaspora to the embassies of African countries to urge a united front against imperialist incursion can create a climate conducive to collaboration. Embassy personnel can be asked to remind their respective government officials that France and the U.S. might have their eye on the Sahel today, but their aim may shift to other regions of Africa tomorrow, and it is in Africa’s interest to not delay a decision to stand united. 

A plea can also be made during these embassy visits for African governments to reevaluate and rescind their agreements to work with U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Continuing association with AFRICOM even as Africa prepares to defend against U.S. military intervention is a stark contradiction that only African countries can address. For its part, Chad has already taken effective steps to part ways with the U.S. military.

Those concerned about intervention are also able to make a formal collective pledge of resistance to imperialist aggression against Africa. That resistance can take many forms, ranging from civil disobedience to boycotts and strikes to other actions that threaten to destabilize business as usual in the U.S., France and other countries that might sign on to their imperialist adventures. Essentially, the empire must know that its war against Africa will have to be fought on multiple fronts, including the home front.

Finally, as the imperialist drums begin to rumble, there may be value in organizing a steady stream of delegations of U.S. and French nationals into countries that appear to be in the crosshairs of imperialist gunsights. There are many who believe that this practice may have significantly contributed to a reluctance by Ronald Reagan to launch a full-scale military invasion of Nicaragua in the 1980s to attack that country’s Sandinista government. The prospect of U.S. and French civilians caught in the crossfire and returning in body bags is not appealing even to western politicians hellbent on dominating Africa.

This year, the global commemoration of African Liberation Day on May 25th will occur during an electric, exciting moment in the history of Africa’s long struggle for redemption. The recent victories are even sweeter because of how they have come about. Deborah Melom Ndjerareou, an analyst from Chad, noted:

“The political shifts and diplomatic ruptures that have sapped the French presence and influence in the Sahel region are partially due to the youth’s bold activism. In Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, youth took to the streets with signs and chants asking France to leave. Sahelian youth pushed forward the desire for a change in international cooperation, specifically French foreign policy in the Sahel. With these regime changes, and the growing ‘anti–French’ discourse, the youth are likely to cause even more change in the relationship between France and the Sahelian nations.”

This militant engagement by the young offers potential for sustained continuity of the struggle – something that is not always present in movements for change.

Africans have every right to celebrate recent successes, but because of the potential for imperialist retaliation, it is equally important for the African World to take Kwame Ture’s cue and remain “ready for the revolution.”


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Mark P. Fancher is an attorney and writer. He is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace Africa Team and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of organizations with which he is affiliated. He can be contacted at mfancher[at]comcast.net.