Bola A. Akinterinwa
The Sahel normally refers to a region, not as a region of Africa as defined in Article 1(d) and 1(e) of the 1991 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community, but simply as a biogeographic region comprising only Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. As explained in https: //www.britannica.com, the Sahel stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso, Southern Niger, northeast Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into Sudan.’ Put differently, Sahel ‘stretches along the Sahara desert’s southern rim from the Atlantic to the Red Sea.’
Sahel, which in Arabic is called Sahid and meaning shore or coast, has been described by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, as a ‘microcosm of cascading global risks. Our concern today is not about the biogeographic character of The Sahel but about The Sahel, as the new name of the currency that has just been created by Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The establishment of The Sahel as a currency appears to be the beginning of a new scramble for autonomous and respected sovereignty in Africa, particularly in Francophone Africa.
Three main dynamics are responsible for this development. First is the United States unconscious policy of self-destruction which underscores self to the detriment of global peace and security. For example, United States policy attitude towards Israel, especially on the Israelo-Gazan war, has attracted much hatred from the world in the face of Israeli’s indiscriminate killing of internationally-protected people in Gaza. This development has prompted the rise in support for Africa from Turkiye (former Republic of Turkey), Russia, and China which is also seeking to replace the United States as the new world leader.
Secondly, France disregards anti-French sentiments in Africa. France has been protecting NATO interests in Africa and the United States has always supported France, regardless of their intra-NATO disagreements. Recall here that the NATO headquarters used to be in Paris. When France was dissatisfied with the mainmise of the American NATO Commander, the NATO headquarters was moved to Brussels in Belgium. But this has not prevented joint collaboration in the exploitation of African raw materials and war on terror.
Thirdly, China, Russia and Turkiye support the Francophone countries revolting against France. Turkiye has its own disagreement with the NATO. Turkiye also has sympathy for the Arab Palestinians and has always openly criticized Israel for its humanitarian excesses. All these dynamics have become catalysts in the United States’ unconscious self-destruction as a global power and France’s self-effacement as an African power and power in Africa.
Self-Destruction and Self-Effacement
At the level of the United States, the Washingtonian authorities cannot see that the disregard for the basic principles of conflict resolution cannot qualify the United States to be respected or be considered as an objective mediator in international relations. Grosso modo, a mediator is considered a neutral person or a country trying to help parties in dispute to reach an agreement. Mediation, which can be of two types, evaluative and facilitative, is an act or method of conflict resolution the outcome of which may not be binding. The important operational word required of any mediator is ‘neutrality.’
The United States has neither acted as an evaluative mediator nor as a facilitative mediator basically on the consideration of its partisan interests in most of the cases it is seeking conflict resolution. The Israelo-Palestinian conflict is a case in point. In evaluative mediation, the mediator is required to direct the parties’ thinking by evaluating the merits, weaknesses of each party’s position and advising them. Unlike evaluative mediation, facilitative mediation requires the mediator to help the parties to communicate and negotiate but does not ‘offer advice or comments on the merits or otherwise intervene in the dispute,’ to borrow the words of Bryan A. Garner in the Black’s Law Dictionary. The critical point here is that any mediator who already has a partisan interest cannot be capable of any objective mediation be it evaluative or facilitative. This is one major reason for the prolongation of the Israelo-Arab conflict. When gleaned from this non-neutrality perspective, the United States is internationally perceived to be dishonest in the global quest for peace and security. This is a pointer to self-destruction.
Additionally, when most Africans either decided to abstain or vote against the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly seeking to condemn Russia for its alleged unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, US President, Joe Biden, disregarded the principle of sovereign equality of all the Member States of the international community by warning them, particularly the African States, that any country that votes against United States’ foreign policy interests will be duly sanctioned.
Obviously, this warning of sanctions cannot apply to any of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. They cannot apply to the allies of the United States. The developing countries which are targeted have been pushed to the extent of seeking alternative shelters elsewhere. It is against this background that the doors of Africa are now increasingly being opened particularly to the Chinese and the Russians. This American attitudinal disposition is precisely what France is also being accused of in Africa. It has prompted some Francophone West African countries to declare France unwanted in their countries.
Africa as a target of US foreign policy can also be explained at the level of the International Criminal Court. The United States wanted the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, arrested at the last BRICS Summit in South Africa if he opted to attend and to be surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for trial. True, the Court, which was established by the Rome Statutes on July 1, 2002 and headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, had issued a warrant of arrest on President Putin. The ICC has the mandate of investigating and prosecuting all those responsible for grave offences of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. The ICC only has 123 members out of the 193 member countries of the international community. The 123 signatories to the ICC statutes do not include the membership of the United States and the other powerful countries, like Russia, China, and India.
The United States that has not signed the statutes still wants to take advantage of the same ICC. Why? The reason cannot be far-fetched: US troops have been engaged in several war crimes, aggression, and genocide. Signing the Rome Statutes cannot but require the trial of US troops by the ICC. The US government does not want the trial of any American soldier outside of America. What the United States is trying to do is to go through any friendly signatory to the Rome Statutes to protect its national interest. The United States wants to eat its cake and still have it. As noted by Claire Klobucista and Mariel Ferragamo in their ‘The Role of the International Criminal Court,’ (vide cfr.org), ‘some forty countries never signed the treaty, including China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Several dozen others signed the statute, but their legislatures never ratified it. These include Egypt, Iran, Israel, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and the United States.’
More important, ‘two countries have withdrawn from the ICC. Burundi left in 2017, following the court’s decision to investigate the government’s crackdown on opposition protests. Philippine’s President, Rodrigo Duterte, pulled out in 2019, after the court launched an inquiry into his government’s war on drugs, saying domestic courts are sufficient to enforce the rule of law.’ The import of the foregoing quotation is to ask if the withdrawal of some countries from the ICC and the refusal by some other countries to sign the ICC is not as a result of the United States own policy attitude? This policy attitude has not been helpful to the international image of the United States. It has only enhanced the perception of a superpower in decline and why the influence of Russia and China is on the incline.
Perhaps more interestingly and disturbingly, political governance in the United States is largely dominated by the American Jews who also influence Israeli policies. Israel appears to be wrapped up in the glory of its achievements in the new world of technology. Brigitte Gabriel in a video-post has listed the ranking of Israel in the world and what Israel has contributed to the growth and development of the world: Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world apart from Silicon Valley. Israel accounts for the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Israel is number two in the world for venture capital funds after the United States and has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies outside United States and Canada. Israel’s economy is worth 100 billion dollar and is larger than those of all its neighbours combined. This is in spite of the fact that Israel does not have oil. Israel not only has the highest standard of living in the Middle East but also has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 in the world. Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books and more museums per capita than any country. Voicemail technology was developed in Israel and four young Israelis developed the technology for AOL Instant Messenger, which all Arabs and non-Arabs are using.
Besides, Brigitte Gabriel has added that the first PC antivirus software was developed in Israel and that the cell phone was developed in Israel by Motorola which has its largest development centre in Israel. The firewall software was also developed in Israel. Israel is the cornerstone of most computer security systems. Israel made the PillCam which is a camera device designed to be swallowed and designed to help diagnose and treat infections like intestinal disorders and digestive system cancers. The flexible Stent was created in Israel and has helped save millions of people’s lives since 1996. It is a device used to open up arteries to help treat heart diseases and all the complications that come with it. This helps avoid the need for open heart surgery.What about the Drip irrigation system? It was developed in Israel in the 1960s and it is Israel’s mega contribution to global agriculture. It has revolutionalised agriculture around the world. Cherry tomatoes were invented in Israel. Waze is a GPS system now used worldwide. It was developed in Israel and sold to Google in 2013. Are these achievements the reasons for Israel’s abuse of humanitarian law and criminal recklessness?
The Sahel and Tinubuplomacy
The fact of a new currency sponsored by Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger cannot but signal the loss of Francophone Africa by France. It points to an emerging war between Africa and the West, in general, and between Africa and France, in particular. This cannot therefore but be a major challenge for Tinubuplomacy at the level of the ECOWAS of which President Tinubu is currently the Chair and for Nigeria, of which he is also the president.
France is necessarily Nigeria’s immediate neighbor by geo-political propinquity. In this regard, how does Tinubuplomacy cope with the declining influence of the United States and France and the inclining of Russian and Chinese influence in Africa? How will Tinubuplomacy respond to The Sahel currency which is meant to cover the Sahelian countries, the Echo designed for the whole of Francophone West Africa, and the ECOWAS own currency, the name of which is yet to be reviewed and meant to cover the whole region with the exception of Mauritania? In other words, will there be three distinct currencies in the region: ECOWAS currency, Francophone’s Eco, and The Sahel? What about the US-French policies of unconscious self-destruction and effacement?
These questions are raised because, if France has any problem with the Sahel as a geo-political region, particularly in light of the Tuareg insurrection and terrorism, there is no way Nigeria’s foreign policy will not be called to question because of the need to maintain regional and sub-regional stability. In this regard, is Nigeria well prepared for a proxy war in its second foreign policy concentric circle?
Again, it is a truism to say that France will have problems with the existence of The Sahel as a currency. The CFA franc currently used by the Francophone West African countries is guaranteed by France in terms of its convertibility to the Euro. Besides, more than 50% of the foreign reserves of the Francophone countries are kept in France’s Central Bank. Consequently, the replacement of the CFA franc with The Sahel, will in the near future imply the withdrawal of whatever might have been saved in the French Bank by Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic. France has been able to sustain its great power status in international relations, thanks to the various resources from its former colonies. Now that the resources from the former colonies are dwindling, and more so that France is increasingly being declared non-grata, France is on the path of self-effacement. The most recent example is the call on the Government of Senegal to declare France unwanted in Senegal.
This self-effacement is most likely to be aggravated by the promise of the Elysée presidency and the Matignon government to remove the Abdourahamane Tchiani military junta in Niamey by special operation the name of which is yet to be given. The operation has the potential to backfire as PBAT is not likely to enjoy domestic support if he tries to use the ECOWAS framework to assist France. The intention of President Emmanuel Macron to use PBAT and ECOWAS to intimidate the military junta in Niamey has failed as the military governments in West Africa enjoy unprecedented popular support.
Consequently, and contrary to the observation of Folahanmi Aina, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who has argued that the Alliance of Sahel States is only stoking anti-French sentiments than fighting violent extremism. As he put it, ‘a new West African Security Pact is bound to fail.’ This observation is overstated not only in light of France’s own strategic limitations, but also in light of France’s own request for ECOWAS assistance in restoring the Mohammed Bazoum administration in Niger.
Besides, Folahan Aina appears to have also forgotten that many countries, outside of the support of Mali and Burkina Faso giving support to Niger, the Alliance of Sahel States have the support of China, Turkey, and Russia. Algeria’s support cannot be ruled out since the country is also in support of Niger. Whatever is the case, the whole of Africa is awaiting the French military invasion of Niger Republic anytime France is ready. But it can be predicted that the experiences of Indochina and Algeria may not be comparable simply because both Russia and China, and countries like North Korea, Iran, and if not Turkey are waiting for the slightest opportunity to also vex their anger on the US-led Western world. Most unfortunately again, many African countries have quietly and gradually been taking their distance from Western imperialism.
Since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT) came to power on May 29, 2023, he has been hobnobbing with the French President. He appears to have come closer to the Francophone countries than to the Anglophones and Lusophone countries. The rapprochement with the Francophones partly explains the active support given to PBAT to assume the chairmanship of the ECOWAS and the prompt determination to lead the ECOWAS into war against the coupists and the people of Niger.
The problematic for Nigeria’s foreign policy is the incompatibility of Franco-Nigerian interests. First, France does not want or intend to call it quit in Africa. France still needs Africa’s raw materials. In fact, the foundations laid for French presence in Africa appear to be indestructible. Recall that in April 1883, the then French government instituted a primary school curriculum based on the recommendation of Mr. Jules Ferry. The curriculum prohibited the teaching of other languages including local or indigenous ones. And true enough, only a few of those who entered school long enough acquired literacy or learnt a skilled trade.
Secondly, General Charles de Gaulle agreed to the idea of political independence for the colonies on the basis of acceptance of sustained cultural and economic rapprochement with France. He introduced the signing of bilateral agreements with every colonial country when some countries refused to go with the idea of Franco-African Community which was initially accepted by the évolués, that is, those Africans that have been considered civilized by virtue of their having acquired literacy, French education and culture. As explained by Douglas A. Yates when the most loyal African leader, Houphouet-Boigny, refused to join Charles de Gaulle’s proposed Community, the idea of the Francophone Federation was allowed to die. De Gaulle opted for bilateral agreements covering trade, education, natural resources, currency, finance, security, defence, etc. [vide his “France and Africa,” in Dawn Nagar and Charles Mutasa, eds., Africa and the World: Bilateral and Multilateral International Diplomacy (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp.95-118],
All these foundational policies aimed at sustaining the continuity of French imperialism are currently the object of controversy and dynamic of France’s unwanted self-effacement. If some Francophone West African countries do not want France, will Nigeria associate herself with France to undermine the other African countries? Can Nigeria also afford the luxury of working against Sino-Russian interests in Africa, especially in light of the Chinese serious economic presence in Nigeria and in light of the 2019 Russo-Nigerian agreement on the need to complete the Ajaokuta steel complex?
Nigeria’s foreign policy attitude towards France is to prevent France from using Francophone Africa, particularly the neighbours of Nigeria, against Nigeria’s policy interests in the ECOWAS region. The French attitude towards Nigeria is not different: prevent Nigeria from instigating Francophone West Africa against France’s privileged ties with Africa as a whole. Is it in Nigeria’s national interest to have France declared persona non grata, bearing in mind that French investments in Francophone West Africa, all put together, have not reached the level of French investments in Nigeria? In terms of the sub-regional currency, The Sahel, one Sahel is the equivalent of 1000 CFA. The Ministers of Finance and Economy of the three sponsoring States met on November 25, 2023 in Bamako to lay a concrete foundation for the new currency. A new finance bank has been established and will be financed by Russia, China, and Turkey. A common airline company, and a common judicial system have also been put in place. Henceforth, gold mining will no longer be done outside of Mali, Niger, and Burkina. Most importantly, a central civilian nuclear centre with regional scope has been created. The Malians have said that Africa’s true independence now begins from Mali. How does Tinubuplomacy of 4-Ds respond to this new development nationally and regionally?