Has the African coup mania of the past two years paved the way for a cataclysmic regional war that will send another swarm of migrants hurtling toward Europe? Almost certainly so.
The overthrow of a tinpot pro-Western regime in Niger may seem like an inconsequential story to Irish people but its fallout can and will have an eventual demographic impact on the housing estates of Finglas and Ballybrack if the geopolitical dice fall a certain way.Gunfire was heard inside the Nigerien Presidential Palace in Niamey last month as renegade military officers turned against the country’s pro-Western leader Mohamed Bazoum in what has all the fingerprints of a Russian/Wagner-influenced coup d’etat.
A francophone nation of 25 million, before this bout of turmoil modern Niger was renowned for two things internationally:
Having one of the world’s highest birth rates (6.89 per woman) accompanied by crippling poverty – woeful by even West African standards.
Being one of the few Sahel nations where Western troops and companies could operate freely without getting shot at by Russian mercenaries, Islamists or anti-western juntas. America has used Niger as its primary West Africa base of operations since the 00s with France famously relying on Niger for its uranium supplies.
As is known by now, French influence in Africa has been in freefall the past decade as Paris lost some of its remaining neo-colonial possessions in Mali and Burkina Faso to a rising crest of Islamism, Russian meddling, and opportunistic juntas who rightly judge that they can manage their affairs better than busybody foreign NGOs and political machinations bent on keeping them as resource exporters to the West.
The entire Sahel is gripped by a self-propelling spirit of national liberation buoyed on by Kremlin arms and propaganda not seen since the 1950s, as decolonisation reaches a new and final chapter. Not just in West Africa, Uganda and the mineral-rich Congo are drifting away from the Western camp as a new Great Game emerges on the African continent.Gas-rich Algeria is spoiling up for a war with the EU-aligned Morocco with Algiers furnished with Russian arms. Ethiopia is in and out of civil war against US-backed Tigrayan rebels while Sudan is still ablaze with faction fighting between pro and anti-Western militias.
Opponents of mass migration know too well what the foreboding news of warfare in Africa means for Europe’s already tattered-looking asylum policy with regional conflict in the Sahel likely to be of an order magnitude worse than even Syria potentially in the decades ahead.
Where the final battle lines are drawn in Ukraine matters much less to Europe than the emergent Sahel storm and the macabre prospect of millions of displaced Africans running at Europe like a zombie horde, with Russia only too happy to weaponise migration as is being seen in Belarus.
Right now Niger is the scene of a geopolitical Mexican standoff as Western powers ponder intervening against what is developing into a proxy battle with Russia. Algerian forces are mounting on the Niger border while Nigeria of all places looks set to lead a pro-Western African military coalition to restore the ousted government in a move that may trigger war with Mali and Burkina Faso.
Nigeria has already commenced informal talks with the West to side with Paris, Washington and London in exchange for visa deals as Europe runs out of bargaining power to deal with the Global South. The Nigerian, Indian and even South American middle classes wish to get a foot in the door to Europe for work and travel with diminishing geopolitical pull forcing (if much force was even required) European governments to offer cut-price visa deals.
Far from the era of gunboat diplomacy, Western hegemony in Africa is running aground by the growing wave of self-confidence in certain African nations as multipolarity blows the doors off post-war neo-colonial power relations.
Western policymakers are scraping the barrel when they need to exchange visas for geopolitical leverage in Africa and South Africa but that is increasingly the price even supposedly-populist governments like Italy are paying to even rhetorically stem the influx.
Ireland, already at the end of the conveyor belt when it comes to international relations, will bear the brunt of this new form of visa diplomacy even as members of the Defence Forces train to deploy to West Africa to shore up the ailing French Empire or even act as wingmen to American intervention.
I predict that Irish soldiers will be engaged in combat to prop up Western despots in the not-too-distant future as shown by the Mali farce, while smug ministers at home swamp Irish housing estates with Africans to “fulfill our international obligations.”
The inordinate acceptance of Ukrainian refugees was the Irish elite’s admission fee to be part of the Western alliance without having functional defence forces with the precedent all too relevant when it comes to this new Cold War in Africa.
As anti-imperialists, we Irish know that Africa is morally and politically in its rights to sever ties with a decadent West and to chance its arm with a future on its own terms. The question is can the Irish do similar, or even acknowledge that they are under occupation in the first place.