Biden’s little chat with Tinubu says a lot about the realities of what is going to happen and what can happen on the ground.
Three interesting facets of news over Niger appear to be doing the rounds. Firstly, that a terrorist group in Nigeria has openly appealed to the Nigerian President – who also happens to be the ECOWAS leader – to avoid at all costs a military intervention in Niger; secondly, that Joe Biden took the initiative to meet the same gentleman Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the corridors of the United Nations, hinting that huge amounts of U.S. investment could be directed towards Nigeria if Tinubu played ball; and thirdly, that just recently, the stakes were raised in Niger when its junta announced that it had invited the armies of both Mali and Burkina Faso onto its soil to help defend themselves against an “intervention” which ECOWAS has threatened was on the cards only days earlier.
But Biden’s little chat with Tinubu says a lot about the realities of what is going to happen and what can happen on the ground as clearly his administration does not want another proxy war between East and West on its hands before the re-election run up next year. The question of whether the U.S. would support ECOWAS militarily has been answered by Biden’s bribe to the Nigerian president. It’s not going to happen.
Tinubu, who is certainly the man at the centre of events, gives the impression in interviews that he is under great pressure from ECOWAS members to intervene, but he is the one cooling tempers and looking for a diplomatic solution. And yet, his comments to the press seem to have been written by the U.S. state department such is the proximity of his office and the U.S. administration – debunking the myth of how much ECOWAS is influenced by France (given that the majority of the countries are former French colonies). The Nigerian president’s role as ECOWAS chief is under the spotlight.
What does he really want? Are his objectives focussed more on Nigeria rather than the bloc?
Joe Biden’s offer of a fresh injection of investment from U.S. firms hasn’t seemed to hit the mark. It seems that Tinubu is after even faster and even easier cash.
Tinubu said that African democracies are “currently under assault by anti-democratic forces within and outside the continent”, which is really state department jargon for “the Russians are coming”.
He then called on the “American-backed development finance and multilateral institutions, which were designed to support war-torn Europe after World War II, to adopt a swift and comprehensive reform to meet the developmental requirements of young democracies in Africa”.
The translation isn’t too cryptic. Can the U.S. intervene and, also, while they’re at it, pump our central bank full of never-never-pay soft loans from IMF and World bank? Cheers!
Neither Biden nor Tinubu though seem to be bothered about the possibility of a fourth francophone African country falling into the hands of Mother Russia. Mali and Burkina Faso, who both can be assumed to be vassals of Russia have shown great solidarity with Niger which has lost no time kicking the French out and becoming a major pain in the arse for western elites who are confused about the events and want to oversimplify the nuances. “We lost Niger to the Russians” may be the well worn cliché although the facts on the ground and more complicated. There certainly seems in Niger to be an endearment towards the new junta’s government but Russia’s role so far is unclear.
About the only thing that Putin and Biden agree on is they don’t want a war in Niger.
It’s easy to forget though that Niger was a key player in ECOWAS and that many of its members placed great importance on Niger’s front line assault on Islamic groups in the region – which, if given more freedoms, could cause havoc right across West Africa but in particular in neighbouring Nigeria.
For the moment though, the so-called pressure from ECOWAS is unlikely to manifest itself beyond chest beating. ECOWAS members may have the hunger for intervention but they don’t have the guts for a war, which neither the U.S. or Russia will bankroll, so sobriety is likely to take over the narrative in the coming days. The war in Ukraine, the abysmal foreign policy blunders of Biden, the deluded arrogance of Macron and the emergence of BRICS have all contributed to the current crisis in Africa as the old relationship with the West is put to the test, with disastrous consequences. The only thing left of Obama’s “soft power” idea he conjured up in 2015 after his humiliation in Syria is a suitcase full of cash for a corrupt West African leader to share with his cabal. Pretty pathetic.