Coup, Africa passing through another phase of liberation struggle –Amb Arikana Chihombori-Quao

In about two years, seven African countries have witnessed military coups, toppling democratically elected administration. In this interview monitored from The Bottom Line on Aljazeera, a former Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United States, Ambassador Arikana Chihombori- Quao says the coups are a reenactment of the struggle to free Africa from neocolonialism

What is driving the recent string of military coups in Africa? The West might interpret it to mean that there are some problems for them. How do you see it?

There is a serious problem for the West for sure. I think the West did not see it coming. However, I think it was naive for the western nations to think that the exploitation of Africa was going to continue unabated forever.

The West may be pissing in their pants now because what is happening in Africa is indeed a revolution and a revolution that’s way past due.

What kind of revolution do you see on the way?

Well, I’ll like to use the Bible term – revelation. This is a revelation. A revelation among Black People; they’re waking up and realising that what has been happening is wrong, is wrong and is wrong. Change must come and for true change to come, it must be brought by the people.

What you are seeing is an African electorate that is now awoken, that is informed and understand the real issues. In the past, Africans have been misinformed, misled and given false information and being thrown a shiny object and being told that only the African Heads of State are the problem.

But now, they understand the invisible hand and the role that the invisible hand is playing to make sure that Africa remains the way they want Africa to be. The African Heads of State, particularly those Heads of State of the former French colonies, majority of them were supported, put in place to continue the same French legacy which basically boxed them in where it said, you have no control of your military, you have no control of your natural resources and you have no control of your finances.

If you continue with those three areas, you’re free to rule your country any which way you want. What power does that President have? In the past, any President who had tried to do something about taking control of their financial resources….and I’m talking about African countries depositing their bank reserves in France; I’m talking about African countries giving up their natural resources, no value addition.

France has the right of first refusal for all the natural resources that have been discovered and yet to be discovered. France companies have the right of first refusal for all contracts, large, small, private or public. France has military presence in those countries and France has the ability to invade them in the event that they see that their interests have been violated.

France makes sure that the security forces in those countries can only be trained by the France military. The military equipment can only be bought from France. Come on! Our people didn’t understand all these. So, we can change those African Heads of State of former French colonies like we change clothes, but if those fundamentals are not addressed, nothing is going to change.

The Africans now understand where the real problem is. The real problem, like I’ve always said, the biggest risk to peace and security in Africa, is France. Let’s make no mistake about it. We have other former colonisers. Yes, they still have a stronghold in Africa through their multinational companies that continue to siphon billions of dollars out of Africa every year.

We’re aware of that. But the biggest problem when it comes to the former French colonies is France. Its roots are so entrenched in those countries and now France is expanding it to other nations. Until we address those agree- ments which African countries were forced to sign, nothing and I mean nothing we would do that is going to bring us the true economic liberation which is what Africa needs; which is what Africa was denied when African countries were being given their independence. We are now dealing with an African electorate that understands what is really going on in Africa.

Let’s take Niger for a moment. President Mohammed Bazoum is a popular figure in the West. The IMF likes him, the World Bank likes him, the US likes him, French people like him. Can you help us understand the gap between that popularity and performance of someone like Bazoum in office and what makes that revolution and coup a different story that we are seeing?

The performance that you’re talking about is the performance of what that Nigeriene minerals are doing to French Education, French Health- care and French Infrastructure. You tell me why is it that 95 per cent of Nigerien uranium is powering over 30 percent of France while over 70 per cent of Nigerienes have no electricity?

How is that okay? How is even President Bazoum proud of himself with that fact. There is no development in Niamey. I was in Niamey a few years ago when we had the AU Summit and it was pitiful to see the level of underdevelopment that Niger has. There is no development in Niger. Let’s make no mistake about it.

Niger is the second poorest country in Africa or in the world. What development is he talking about? Are you talking about development in France? There is no development in Niger. It is one of the poorest countries on earth and of course, IMF would love them, World Bank would love them, France would love him (Bazoum) because he is allowing the pilfering, the exploitation to continue.

That is why the people are rising up to say if you cannot stand up to the bullies and tell them that the exploitation can no longer continue …. and look at President Macron in the face and say: President Macron, how is it okay that my money, my bank reserves, my natural resources are funding French Education, are funding French Healthcare, are funding French Infrastructure?

How is that okay, President Macron? Answer us. Africans in Niger, they want to know. So, when you tell me that he (Ba- zoum) is favoured by the West, it makes sense but he is definitely not favoured by the people because there is no development in Niger. Let’s talk seriously. Let’s stop pushing lies about what is happening.

They know that exploitation is happening; it’s happening in Niger; it’s happening in Burkina Faso; it’s happening in Mali and it’s happening in every African country. Let’s make no mistake about it. We’re sick and tired about giving up our lunch to western nations. African children, they need to eat too. African children, need to go to school.

African children, need good healthcare systems. Behind all that abuse, we need to let the western world know that there are millions of African children who are going hungry; millions of African children who are dying; millions of African women who are dying while giving birth to another life; millions of African youths who are unemployed all because the Western world is continuing with the agenda of exploitation, exploration and exploitation of the African continent. That era is over and we are coming together as Africans and saying, enough is enough. This has got to stop.

From a practical viewpoint, I just want to challenge you for a moment. I think a lot of people in France might say we have an obligation to do something, but these resources are necessary. How do we ensure that Africa grows on its own terms but is not necessarily cut off from the rest of the world?

I think that’s a very important question you’re asking. We are not asking that the Western countries, we should just cut them off. No. We’re saying, the parasitic relationship that these western countries have with African countries has got to come to an end. We are simply saying, we do not need aid, we need trade.

They must come to Africa, treat us with respect and treat us as equals. You take for example; Niger is selling its uranium to France for 80 cents per kilo when the rest of the western countries are buying the same uranium at €200 (200 Euros) per kilo.

It is amazing that over 99 per cent of the value of their uranium is going to France and other western nations. Value that should be coming to Niger. That is wrong. It is slavery of the highest order. We are simply saying come to Africa and treat Africans fairly. Trade with the Africans fairly, just like you trade with other nations.

We need Foreign Direct Investments, we need our western allies, but our western allies must understand that Africans are human too. Their needs are just as important as the needs of the citizens of those western nations.

We are talking about France because all the coups that have happened took place in African countries are part of its colonial history in Africa. But some of the other big players in the world may be complicit in some of these things as well. Are you worried that this sort of exploitation might continue in other forms by countries such as US, China or Russia?

I think now that they’ve realised that they can no longer continue to exploit the Africans, I would advise all of them that it is time for all of them to call for a time out if this was a basketball game. Now, I’m going to start with the United States.

The US is actually in a very interesting position when it comes to their relationship with France. Today, France is like a wounded shark. France is like a wounded elephant. You know like the saying goes, when you’re swimming with the shark, when one starts bleeding, you get out of the water. My advice to the US would be: France is bleeding really really badly, France is wounded really really badly when it comes to its relationship with Africa, so I would advise the United States to get out of the water.

Distance yourself from France because you do not want the negative sentiments, really bad sentiments that the Africans have about France to bleed over to you the United States, whom I still feel are in a very good position to take a leading role in their trade relationships with Africa. To the United State, I’ll say France is bleeding, get out of the water.

To the rest of them, they have already realised that. China for example, built their relationship with African on the mistakes being made by the Americans, the mistakes that were being made by the European nations. China was coming to Africa realising that when it comes to funding, European nations would talk and talk about funding.

They’ll talk about building an airport; they’ll talk about building a bridge, but 10 years later there is no airport, there’s no bridge. It’s all talk. All kinds of road blocks and red tapes are put forward in order to access funding. So, China decided that they’ll make it easy for African countries to access funding.

So that’s why you find a lot of infrastructure projects are being built by China because they realised where the Americans, the Europeans are dropping the ball and they are coming in with a different strategy. Therefore, it has been easier for China to woo the Africans to their side because they’re doing things differently from what the Americans and Europeans are doing.

So to the United States, I’ll say, look at the mistakes that France has made, do something differently. Revisit the American policy when it comes to Africa because the US still stands in very good position to win the Africans over but this time, win them the right way. Treat them fairly, no more playing games, no more divide and conquer.

Stay away from the local politics. You do not need to get involved. Let these African countries did it out, one child to the other. I’ll like to say that opposition parties and ruling parties are the children of the same mother fighting for their breast milk. Let them fight for their mother’s breast milk alone and without interference.

The US is very good at interfering with the electoral processes in Africa. That’s a bad precedence because sooner or later everybody figures it out and then you become the enemy. So, stop it. Stay out of local politics. To Russia, again Russia is looking and asking: Where is the West going wrong? They’re coming in they see a weakness.

Russia came in during the liberation wars in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola and all those Southern African countries that attained independence through liberation wars. Russia and China came in and realised that the western world was on the wrong side of the equation. So, they came and said: if we are going to win these people over, let’s support their struggle.

Truly, Russia came in to support these African nations when they really needed help. So, you can’t blame them because they found and opening and they came in and supported a cause that was right and just. Therefore, you can see that Rus- sia is being accepted because of what they have done in the past. People are not going to forget the friends that came in when they were needed.

It is about looking at what is going on but after all said and done, we are saying to the world, no more shall we continue to exploit Africa. The Africans have gone through centuries of being stupid or being ignorant or being dummies, of allowing the world to just piss all over us. But that period is over.

Africans now want to know what is truly going on. If you want an African leader that will survive this revolution, you have to be an African leader that will be anti- imperialism, an African leader that is anti- neo colonization, an African leader that is going to stand with the people in their push back against the West, against the East and anybody else that thinks they can come to Africa and exploit us. They can no longer walk over us anymore.

In our last interview, you said that America and the White House were not showing Africa respect and that they were continuing in their policies of racism and neglect. Do you feel like any progress has been made in America on some of the issues you raised since last December?

Well, let me take you back to the recent visit to Africa by Vice President Kamala Harris. You know, it was quite interesting that with all the issues that were going on in Africa, for example when she went to Zambia, there were mudslides that were killing hundreds of people next door in Malawi. She did not go to Malawi.

She did not even mention Malawi but she spent a lot of time in Zambia pushing an LGBTQ Agenda, an agenda that Africans across the continent are saying, it’s really not an issue for us. We have more important things to worry about, but Vice President Harris spent a lot of time on the LGBTQ.

I’m not saying it is not an important issue, but when it comes to the greater scheme of things, the Africans are telling you that this is not a priority for us. We grew up with people who were “trans” and who. . I remember growing up in my village with men who looked feminine. They hanged around women, nobody cared.

They did their thing. We had women with women; we called them “spinsters” and nobody cared. You know, I grew up seeing people who were clearly gay- looking and it was never an issue. So, the Africans are telling you that it is not a primary issue to us, stay away from it. But she did not listen to them.

She kept pushing that agenda. So, it’s like- she was saying: We don’t care what you think. We’re gonna tell you what you need to do. That trip of Vice President Kamala Harris was very disappointing and I have spoken to a lot of prominent African citizens and they were also very disappointed with her position.

Do these new military leaders really represent the people? Who do you see really stand out that can bring out plans, bring out strategies than can actually make this popular revolution successful?

That’s a very important ques- tion and I’ll like to caution Africans as well as we go through these coups. Let’s take for example, what happened in Gabon. I want everybody to push back a bit. Don’t be quick to equate what’s happening in Gabon to what happened in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea.

Each situation is different and the dynamics within what I call “revolutions” are different. Yes, we like to see change but not every General means well for the people. The Gabon situation, you’ve got some family issues there, I don’t want to go there.

So, we have to look at it and say of the three parties, let’s dissect them, let’s unbundle them. We have the President; we have the President’s wife and we have to look at that with a critical eye. We have the General himself, who is a family member.

Then we have the sister to the deposed President who is siding with the General and then we have the opposition party which now feels betrayed. So, it is a different dynamic in the Gabon issue before we bind it all up. Even look at the manner in which the General was dressed when he was being sworn in; he looked very western.

So, we have to treat each situation very differently. But I would say, in my humble opinion, the sentiments coming out of Burkina Faso, out of Mali, out of Niger, are the sentiments and solidarity that we are looking for.

Those who are clearly standing up and denouncing neo- colonisation, denouncing imperialism and demanding that the exploitation of the continent can no longer continue. That is the common message that each of them carried. But we are not getting that from Gabon, which makes me wonder who is really behind the coup in Gabon?

We need to understand that. Why is the General shying away from that sort of strong message to the people. That is what Africa is ready for right now. That is what the people listen to have taken place in Africa.

Any leader who does not stand for anti-imperialism, anti-neo colonisation , anti-continued exploitation of the continent, that is the sort of leader that African people are not going to support be it a civilian or military leader. (New Telegraph)

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