In crises, women are always the resistance leaders—in Africa and everywhere else / by Vijay Prashad

via Transcontinental

Originally published in the People’s World on March 24, 2023

What constitutes a crisis worthy of global attention?

When a regional bank in the United States falls victim to the inversion of the yield curve (i.e., when short-term bond interest rates become higher than long-term rates), the Earth nearly stops spinning.

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)—one of the most important financiers of technology start-ups in the United States—on March 10 presaged wider chaos in the Western financial world. In the days after the SVB debacle, Signature Bank, one of the few banks to accept cryptocurrency deposits, faced bankruptcy, and then Credit Suisse, an established European bank set up in 1856, fell due to its longstanding poor management of risk (on March 19, UBS agreed to buy Credit Suisse in an emergency deal seeking to halt the crisis).

Governments held emergency Zoom conferences, financial titans called the heads of central banks and of states, and newspapers warned of system failure if safety nets were not quickly sown underneath the entire financial architecture. Within hours, Western governments and central banks secured billions of dollars to bail out the financial system. This crisis could not be allowed to escalate.

Other serious developments in the world might be called a crisis, but they do not elicit the kind of urgent response undertaken by Western governments to shore up their banking system.

Three years ago, Oxfam released a report that found that the “world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa.” That fact, which is more shocking than the failure of a bank, has moved no agenda, despite the evidence that this disparity is caused largely by the predatory, deregulated lending practices of the Western banking system.

Silence greeted the publication of a key report this past January on the regression of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being met on the African continent. The 2022 Africa Sustainable Development Report, produced by the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, and the UN Development Programme, showed that, because of the failure to finance development, African countries will not come anywhere near abolishing extreme poverty.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 445 million people on the continent—34% of the population—lived in extreme poverty, with 30 million more people being added to that number in 2020. The report estimates that, by 2030, the number of people in extreme poverty on the continent will reach 492 million. Not one alarm bell was rung for this ongoing disaster, much less the rapid apparition of billions of dollars to bail out the African people.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that women in Africa are more likely to be struck hard by the pandemic. The data, the IMF reported, is camouflaged by the prevalence of self-employment amongst women, whose economic difficulties do not always appear in national statistics. Across Africa, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past year to question their governments about the cost-of-living crisis, which has evaporated most people’s incomes.

As incomes fall, and as social services collapse, women take up more and more of their households’ workload—tending to children, to elders, to those who are sick and hungry, and so on. The African Feminist Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Statement, written by a pan-African feminist platform, offered the following assessment of the situation:

“The absence of social safety nets needed by women due to their greater fiscal precarity in the face of economic shocks has exposed the failures of a development trajectory currently prioritizing productivity for growth over the wellbeing of African people. Indeed, COVID-19 has made evident what feminists have long emphasized: that the profits made in economies and markets are subsidized by women’s unpaid care and domestic work—an essential service that even the current pandemic has failed to acknowledge and address in policy.”

On March 8, International Working Women’s Day, protests across Africa focused attention on the general decline in living standards and on the specific impact this has had on women’s lives. That evocative statement from Oxfam—the world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa—and the realization that these women’s living conditions appear to be deteriorating have not provoked a crisis response in the world.

There have been no urgent phone calls between the world’s capitals, no emergency Zoom meetings between central banks, no concern for people who are slipping deeper and deeper into poverty as their countries forge a path of austerity in light of a more and more permanent debt crisis.

Most of the protests on March 8 focused their attention on the inflation of food and fuel prices and on the precarious conditions that this is creating for women. From the Landless Workers’ Movement’s public action against slave-like labor practices in Brazil to the demonstration against gender-based violence by the National Networks of Farmers’ Groups in Tanzania, women organized by rural and urban trade unions, by political parties, and by a range of social movements took to the streets to say, with Josie Mpama, “Make way for women who will lead.”

At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we have been tracking how the pandemic has hardened the structures of neocolonialism and patriarchy, culminating in CoronaShock and Patriarchy (November 2020), which also presented a list of the people’s feminist demands to confront the global health, political, social, and economic crisis.

Earlier that year, in March 2020, we released the first study in our feminisms series, Women of Struggle, Women in Struggle, in which we pointed out how economic contraction and austerity cause more women to be unemployed, put more pressure on women to care for their families and communities, and lead to increased femicide.

In response to these horrendous conditions, we also wrote about the rise of protests by women across the world. At that time, we decided that one of our contributions to these struggles would be to excavate the histories of women within our movements who have been largely forgotten.

Over the past three years, we have published short biographies of three women—Kanak Mukherjee (India, 1921–2005), Nela Martínez Espinosa (Ecuador, 1912–2004), and now Josie Mpama (South Africa, 1903-1979). Each year, we will publish a biography of a woman who, like Kanak, Nela, and Josie, fought for a socialism that would transcend patriarchy and class exploitation.

In the early 1920s, Josie Mpama, born into South Africa’s Black working class, joined the informal workforce, washing clothes, cleaning homes, and cooking. When the racist regime tried to enforce policies and laws to restrict the movement of Africans, she entered the world of politics and fought the oppression that came with decrees such as the lodger’s permits in Potchefstroom (in the country’s northwest).

The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA, today known as the South African Communist Party), established in 1921, provided shape to the myriad protests against segregationist laws, teaching the workers to use their “labor and the power to organize and withhold it,” as their flyers declared. “These are your weapons; learn to use them, thereby bringing the tyrant to his knees.”

In 1928, Josie joined the CPSA, finding support both for her organizing work and for her desire for political education. In the 1930s, she moved to Johannesburg and opened a night school for ideological training as well as for basic mathematics and English. Later, Josie became one of the first Black working-class women to enter the senior leadership of the CPSA and eventually traveled to Moscow using the pseudonym Red Scarf to attend the Communist University of the Toilers of the East.

Under Josie’s leadership as the head of the party’s women’s department, more and more women joined the CPSA, largely because it took up issues that spoke to them and encouraged women to struggle alongside men and fight for more radical conceptions of gender roles.

So much of this history is forgotten. In contemporary South Africa, there is a focus on the importance of the Freedom Charter (adopted on June 26, 1955). But there is less acknowledgment that the year before, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) passed a Women’s Charter (April 1954), which—as we say in the study—“would eventually become the basis for certain constitutional rights in post-apartheid South Africa.”

The Women’s Charter was passed by 146 delegates who represented 230,000 women. One of those delegates was Josie, who attended the conference on behalf of the Transvaal All-Women’s Union and became the president of FEDSAW’s Transvaal branch. The Women’s Charter called for equal pay for equal work (yet to be attained today) and for the right of women to form trade unions.

Josie’s leadership in FEDSAW caught the eye of the South African apartheid regime, which banned her from politics in 1955. “Josie or no Josie,” she wrote to her FEDSAW comrades, “the struggle will go on and ours will be the day of victory.”

On Aug. 9, 1956, 20,000 women marched to South Africa’s capital of Pretoria and demanded the abolition of the apartheid pass laws. That date—Aug. 9—is now celebrated as Women’s Day in South Africa. As the women marched, they chanted: Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, uzokufa (You strike the women, you strike the rock, you will be crushed).

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism / Black Agenda Radio with Margaret Kimberley

Countries facing sanctions imposed by the United States | Credit: Black Agenda Report

Nina Farnia is an Assistant Professor at Albany Law School and a member of the steering committee of the International People’s Tribunal on US Imperialism . The Tribunal is holding hearings on the impact of sanctions, economic coercive measures, in 16 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. She joins us from Albany, New York to discuss the tribunal’s work.

Margaret Kimberley is Executive Editor and Senior Columnist at Black Agenda Report, which she co-founded in 2006 with Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon. She is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents, Steerforth Press, 2020. Her work can be found on twitter @freedomrideblog and at

Black Agenda Radio is a project of the Black Agenda Report offering News, commentary and analysis from the black left.

Targeting China, the U.S. brings its New Cold War to Africa / by Vijay Prashad

President Joe Biden and other leaders at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Dec. 15, 2022. | Andrew Harnik / AP

The United States government held the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in mid-December, prompted in large part by its fears about Chinese and Russian influence on the African continent. Rather than routine diplomacy, Washington’s approach in the summit was guided by its broader New Cold War agenda, in which a growing focus has been to disrupt relations that African nations hold with China and Russia.

This hawkish stance is driven by U.S. military planners, who view Africa as “NATO’s southern flank” and consider China and Russia to be “near-peer threats.” At the summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin charged China and Russia with “destabilizing” Africa.

Austin provided little evidence to support his accusations, apart from pointing to China’s substantial investments, trade, and infrastructure projects with many countries on the continent and maligning the presence in a handful of countries of several hundred mercenaries from the Russian private security firm, the Wagner Group.

The African heads of government left Washington with a promise from U.S. President Joe Biden to make a continent-wide tour, a pledge that the United States will spend $55 billion in investments, and a high-minded but empty statement on U.S.-Africa partnership.

Unfortunately, given the U.S. track record on the continent, until these words are backed up with constructive actions, they can only be considered empty gestures and geopolitical jockeying.

Debt bondage vs. debt lifeline

There was not one word in the summit’s final statement on the most pressing issue for the continent’s governments: the long-term debt crisis.

An SGR cargo train leaves from the port containers depot on a Chinese-backed railway costing nearly $3.3 billion, opened by Kenya’s president as one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects since independence, in Mombasa, Kenya. | Khalil Senosi / AP

The 2022 U.N. Conference on Trade and Development Report found that “60% of least developed and other low-income countries were at high risk of or already suffering in debt distress,” with 16 African countries at high risk and another seven countries—Chad, Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—already in debt distress.

On top of this, 33 African countries are in dire need of external assistance for food, which exacerbates the already existing risk of social collapse.

Most of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was spent pontificating on the abstract idea of democracy, with Biden farcically taking aside heads of state like President Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria) and President Félix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo) to lecture them on the need for “free, fair, and transparent” elections in their countries while pledging to provide $165 million to “support elections and good governance” in Africa in 2023.

Most of the debt held by the African states is owed to wealthy bondholders in the Western states and was brokered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These private creditors—who hold the debt of countries such as Ghana and Zambia—have refused to provide any debt relief to African states despite the great distress they are experiencing.

Often left out of conversations about this issue is the fact that this long-term debt distress has been largely caused by the plunder of the continent’s wealth.

On the other hand, unlike the wealthy bondholders of the West, the largest government creditor to African states, China, decided in August 2022 to cancel 23 interest-free loans to 17 countries and offer $10 billion of its IMF reserves for use by the African states.

A fair and rational approach to the debt crisis on the African continent would suggest that much more of the debt owed to Western bondholders should be forgiven and that the IMF should allocate Special Drawing Rights to provide liquidity to countries suffering from the endemic debt crisis. None of this was on the agenda of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

Instead, Washington combined bonhomie towards the African heads of government with a sinister attitude towards China and Russia. Is this friendliness from the U.S. a sincere olive branch? Or a Trojan Horse with which it seeks to smuggle its New Cold War agenda onto the continent?

Trashing China

The most recent U.S. government white paper on Africa, published in August 2022, suggests that it is the latter. The document, purportedly focused on Africa, featured ten mentions of China and Russia combined, but no mention of the term “sovereignty.” The paper stated:

“In line with the 2022 National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense will engage with African partners to expose and highlight the risks of negative PRC [People’s Republic of China] and Russian activities in Africa. We will leverage civil-defense institutions and expand defense cooperation with strategic partners that share our values and our will to foster global peace and stability.”

The document reflects the fact that the U.S. has conceded that it cannot compete with what China offers as a commercial partner and will resort to military power and diplomatic pressure to muscle the Chinese off the continent.

The massive expansion of the U.S. military presence in Africa since the 2007 founding of the United States Africa Command—most recently with a new base in Ghana and maneuvers in Zambia—illustrates this approach.

The United States government has built a discourse to tarnish China’s reputation in Africa, which it characterizes as “new colonialism,” as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2011 interview. Does this reflect reality?

In 2017, the global corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Company published a major report on China’s role in Africa, noting after a full assessment, “On balance, we believe that China’s growing involvement is strongly positive for Africa’s economies, governments, and workers.”

Evidence to support this conclusion includes the fact that since 2010, “a third of Africa’s power grid and infrastructure has been financed and constructed by Chinese state-owned companies.” In these Chinese-run projects, McKinsey found that “89% of employees were African, adding up to nearly 300,000 jobs for African workers.”

Certainly, there are many stresses and strains involved in these Chinese investments, including evidence of poor management and badly designed contracts, but these are neither unique to Chinese companies nor endemic to their approach.

U.S. accusations that China is practicing “debt trap diplomacy” have also been widely debunked. The following observation, made in a 2007 report, remains insightful: “China is doing more to promote African development than any high-flying governance rhetoric.” This assessment is particularly noteworthy given that it came from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental bloc dominated by the G7 countries.

Who killed the African electric car?

Helicopters carrying U.S and Moroccan special forces take part in the African Lion military exercise, in Tafraout base, near Agadir, Morocco, June 14, 2021. | Mosa’ab Elshamy / AP

What will be the outcome of the United States’ recent $55 billion pledge to African states? Will the funds, which are largely earmarked for private firms, support African development or merely subsidize U.S. multinational corporations that dominate food production and distribution systems as well as health systems in Africa?

Here’s a telling example of the emptiness and absurdity of the U.S.’ attempts to reassert its influence on the African continent. In May 2022, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia signed a deal to independently develop electric batteries. Together, the two countries are home to 80% of the minerals and metals needed for the battery value chain.

The project was backed by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), whose representative Jean Luc Mastaki said, “Adding value to the battery minerals, through an inclusive and sustainable industrialization, will definitely allow the two countries to pave the way to a robust, resilient, and inclusive growth pattern which creates jobs for millions of our population.” With an eye on increasing indigenous technical and scientific capacity, the agreement would have drawn from “a partnership between Congolese and Zambian schools of mines and polytechnics.”

Fast forward to the summit: After this agreement had already been reached, the DRC’s Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula and Zambia’s Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo joined U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in signing a memorandum of understanding that would allegedly “support” the DRC and Zambia in creating an electric battery value chain. Lutundula called it “an important moment in the partnership between the U.S. and Africa.”

The Socialist Party of Zambia responded with a strong statement: “The governments of Zambia and Congo have surrendered the copper and cobalt supply chain and production to American control. And with this capitulation, the hope of a Pan-African-owned and controlled electric car project is buried for generations to come.”

It is with child labor, strangely called “artisanal mining,” that multinational corporations extract the raw materials to control electric battery production rather than allow these countries to process their own resources and make their own batteries.

José Tshisungu wa Tshisungu of the Congo takes U.S. to the heart of the sorrows of children in the DRC in his poem, Inaudible:

Listen to the lament of the orphan
Stamped with the seal of sincerity
He is a child from around here
The street is his home
The market his neighborhood
The monotone of his plaintive voice
Runs from zone to zone

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including “The Darker Nations” and “The Poorer Nations.” His latest book is “Washington Bullets,” with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

People’s World, January 5, 2023,

Decolonizing the mind / by Margaret Kimberley

Queen Elizabeth II in Barbados on November 1, 1977. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images/Black Agenda Report)

Originally published in Black Agenda Report, 09.14.2022

It is vital to free ourselves from belief in the systems of white supremacy and imperialism that are inculcated in the educational system and are affirmed and amplified by the media and establishment opinion. The recent death of Queen Elizabeth II puts the need for political and psychological liberation in high relief. We are encouraged to admire an anachronistic monarchy, and are exhorted to join in mourning an individual and a system that have caused great harm to Black and other oppressed people around the world.

It is important to point out that British prime ministers are heads of government while the monarch is head of state. Elizabeth bore responsibility for every UK government action during her 70-year long reign. The concentration camps and torture in Kenya during the independence struggle were her responsibility. So was the U.S. backed decision to undermine the commonwealth nation of Australia, and dispatch Gough Whitlam, the elected prime minister, who strayed too far from the imperialist consensus. The Windrush scandal which deprived Caribbean immigrants of their rights happened under her reign, as did Britain’s invasion of Iraq and support for the destruction of Libya.

Yet anyone who questions the monarchy’s role as part of the western axis of domination is rarely given access to media, making it difficult to be free of propaganda that is used to elicit fealty to monarchs, presidents and the people and institutions who empower them. From childhood we are taught that invaders of other nations, enslavers, and colonizers are worthy of respect and admiration. Centuries of criminality are passed off as benign and we are admonished to remember that the criminals in question were “products of their time” and are to be thought of with fond reverence.

The corporate media didn’t begin lionizing the queen of England just this week. Her private life and that of her ancestors are the stuff of endless histories that permeate popular culture. Eras in British history are directly identified with past monarchs and called Elizabethan or Victorian or Edwardian. The idea that Americans should also be interested in the royals is the result of heavy-handed indoctrination.

This columnist was the recipient of a Eurocentric education, beginning with an emphasis on European history in high school. College continued this unstated belief in the superiority of the people being studied, that is to say white people who either were from the ruling classes or worked to further their interests. History lessons were full of emphasis on the blood lines of monarchs, and stories of which king or queen did what to whom were staples of the curriculum. It is a somewhat interesting factoid that the monarchs of Great Britain, Russia and Germany in the early 20th century were all related but that information doesn’t reveal anything about the causes of World War I. The lede was buried under historical fluff but teachers and professors don’t announce that they are brainwashing students.

Of course that is why the very deliberate confusion continues. The narrative that the U.S. and Britain have a “special relationship” is based on manufactured sentimentality rather than the fact that the founding state acts in concert with its settler colony. The indoctrination process can be like a sledgehammer, as it will be for the next few days, but can also be more subtle. None of my teachers said that the deaths of white people were worse than the deaths of people of color, but the only time I heard the word genocide in a classroom was if the Nazi killings of Jewish people were discussed. I was taught nothing of Belgian King Leopold’s personal theft of the Congo’s resources or of the killing of some 15 million people there. Nor was the word genocide used to describe the trans-Atlantic slave trade or chattel slavery as practiced throughout the Americas or the deaths by invasion, slaughter, and disease of indigenous people which also took place in this hemisphere. The elevation of one group as the sole victims of genocide and the erasure of others as not being worthy of the designation sends a subtle message that seeps into the mind and is imprinted in memory.

Decolonization is hard work and serious business. It requires a rejection of what passes for news and conventional wisdom. Of course, its meaning can be changed at an opportune moment, as recently happened when the neo-conservative fantasy of breaking up Russia was reimagined as decolonization. That sort of trickery is proof that political education is key.

Our political education must take place within revolutionary educational structures. If it doesn’t, we will believe that World War II started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It actually began in 1937 when Japan attacked China. What ought to be a simple and commonly known fact is lost because white supremacy centers the European experience. When we learn new information and unlearn falsehoods, the process of decolonizing begins. At that point no one has to direct us to ignore royal weddings or funerals or unveilings of Barack and Michelle Obama’s new portraits. We know the truth and free ourselves from believing in state propaganda.

Decolonized people know that the prestigious universities they are told to admire receive funds from the Defense Department and the military industrial complex. They know that think tanks that are treated as oracles not to be questioned are also an extension of the state. Corporate media are also compromised. The publisher of the Washington Post played a key role in Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s plan to control the media. Of course the current owner, Jeff Bezos, has CIA contracts through Amazon so little has changed. The decolonized know that the media act as scribes for police departments as much as they do for the state department.

Most importantly, radical and independent media, like Black Agenda Report, are a must for anyone who wants to free their thinking. BAR is one of the few publications, even left publications, which seriously analyzed the NATO attack on Libya, or the coups against the people of Haiti, or the U.S. role that began the current crisis in Ukraine. Reading BAR on a regular basis is an antidote to mental colonization.

So beware when a narrative is spun 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In all likelihood it is one that must be opposed, and in the best decolonized fashion possible.

MR Online, September 17, 2022,

Prospects Ahead for the Fighting Communist Party of Swaziland / by W. T. Whitney Jr.


Life expectancy in Swaziland, in southern Africa, is the world’s 7th lowest; its HIV/AIDS prevalence is the world’s highest at 26%. Unemployment is 41%, and wages for 80% of workers are less than $2 dollars per day. Swaziland is an autocracy ruled by a king.

A Communist party has existed in Swaziland since 2011. Political parties are illegal there. Many activists, Communists, live abroad, mainly in South Africa. What follows is information about the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), its activities and goals, aspects of Swazi history, and current realities. The CPS needs international solidarity.

Its recent story begins in early May 2021 with the mysterious death, presumably at police hands, of law student Thabani Nkomonye. The police violently disrupted his memorial services.

The National Union of Students mobilized masses of young people and the police retaliated repeatedly with tear gas and bullets. The CPS called for legalization of political parties, overthrow of the “tinkhundla system” [of control by chiefs in rural areas] and removal of the king.

During May and into June, the National Union of Students organized additional marches; 3,000 students advancing on a police station met with tear gas and arrests. Anti-government protesters prevented 30,000 textile workers from entering their factories. The government banned demonstrations.

The CPS called for a National Democracy Conference at which “a common minimum program could be achieved for transform[ing] the state from a monarchy into a republic.” There was no conference. Writing a year later, analyst Joseph Mullen explains:

In this moment … the anti-monarchy forces were themselves deeply divided. While the CPS represented the radical force pushing for the abolition of the monarchy and the prosecution of the King, some opposition forces expressed willingness to settle for a constitutional monarchy with an elected government … They afforded too much power to bourgeois forces, who sought simply to reform the monarchy.

Nationwide anti-government protests, continuing for weeks, climaxed on June 29, 2021. Swazi police and soldiers initiated violent repression. Within days, 70 people were dead and hundreds wounded.

Nationwide agitation returned almost a year later as opposition groups prepared for the one-year anniversary of the massacre. The CPS, playing a leading role, was targeted early. The police captured and tortured member Bongi Nkumbula on March 23. On July 13 they were surrounding and approaching his house. He escaped.

CPS cadres organized weekly “sunset rallies.” They urged communities to form “security councils” to protect against police incursions and organized “welfare councils” to deal with unmet housing, food, education, and healthcare needs.

In cooperation with the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, “a platform of political parties, trade unions, civil society and other groups,” the CPS carried out vigils, set barricades and called for schools and businesses to be closed on June 29, the anniversary day.

Police attacks continued. Security “forces shot live bullets at CPS members and activists” on June 26. Descending on sections of Mastapha municipality on June 28, they raided two houses CPS members were using as organizing centers.

The anniversary passed without killings, as was the case with an earlier period of turmoil connected to the Party’s experience. In 2011, days of anti-government agitation by students, unions, and democracy organizations anticipated the fateful day of April 12. That was the day in 1973 when King Sobhuza II, father of the present king, banned political parties and repealed the Constitution the British colonial power had granted in 1968. He ruled thereafter by decree. The CPS chose April 11, 2011 as the day for announcing its presence in Swaziland.

King Sobhuza II ruled from 1921 until he died in 1982. His reign is the longest in human history. On becoming king in 1986, his son Mswati III reinstated parliament. His government devised a constitution that went into effect in 2006 and continues. It enables the king power to appoint the prime minister, cabinet, all judges, two thirds of the upper-house members, and 12% of lower-house members. The remaining legislators require approval from tribal chiefs, appointed by the King. A harsh Suppression of Terrorism Act took effect in 2008.
A writer in 2011 summarizes: The Swazi monarchy “crushed the ambitions of all Swazis, [except for] a small parasitic elite based within the monarchy. The ambitions of the middle classes were curtailed by banning political parties and those of the working classes by suppressing the labor movement. The monarchy also enhanced its power grip … by controlling mineral royalties, business, and land administration.”
According to, “the royal family receives a 25% cut of all the mining deals … and as of 2016 has a budget of $69.8 million. The King, Mswati, has a net worth of $200 million and he controls a trust worth $10 billion.”

The Swaziland monarchy has enjoyed absolute power for centuries, even during the period of European colonial domination during the late 19th century. A British commissioner governed Swaziland from 1902 until Swazi independence in 1968. Even so, the monarchy exercised complete control over 33% of Swaziland known as the “native reserve.” On April 19, 2018, the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence,
King Mswati III renamed Swaziland. Now, officially, it’s “the Kingdom of Eswatini”.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), formed in 1983 and a member of the Socialist International, plays a major role in Swazi opposition politics. Others are: the Political Parties Assembly, the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland, and the Swaziland Liberation Movement.

United States, Taiwan, and a few other nations provide the monarchy with military supplies. Two Taiwan-supplied and U.S.- built helicopters were used for firing upon protesters in June, 2021. The United States annually hosts 15 Swazi police officers at its International Law Enforcement Academy in Botswana, and trains security personnel in the United States. The U.S.-based World Bank and Taiwan have provided Swaziland with generous loans. Swaziland is the only African country that recognizes Taiwan diplomatically.

South Africa’s government loaned 355 million euros to the cash-strapped monarchy in 2011 and maintains supportive relations. Swaziland looks to South Africa for 85% of its imports and 60% of its exports. The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party have expressed support for democracy efforts in Swaziland, without taking strenuous action.

CPS goals and strategies are evident in the statement the Party issued on its first appearance in Swaziland in 2011. These sections are revealing:

We join Swaziland’s mass democratic movement for change and pledge our full support to building that movement, led by PUDEMO, to bring about a National Democratic Revolution in Swaziland … [But] We do not want see the monarchic autocracy reformed or dressed in democratic trappings to appease the liberal sensibilities of any interest group or the imperialist international community.

The CPS calls for the “ending of the monarchic autocracy and the transfer of much of its wealth to the immediate tasks of fighting disease and the worst aspects of poverty (such as access to water and sanitation) [and] the confiscation of all crown property.”

Also: the “demand for democracy [as] a first step in an ongoing struggle to set our country on a totally different development path towards meeting all the needs of our people and creating a socialist system.”

In a statement appearing on on July 6, 2021, the CPS
urges Communist Parties of the world to pay attention to “news of what is happening in our country, to pressure the authorities in your respective countries to condemn the Mswati regime, … to lobby South Africa … to take more decisive positions against the lack of democracy and human rights in Swaziland.”

Our concluding emphasis is on Swaziland’s youth. They are many. Of 1.18 million Swazi people, 36.6% are less than 15 years of age. Young people have loomed large in opposing the regime, especially activist youth organizations like the National Union of Students and the Swaziland Youth Congress, PUDEMO’s youth group.

A report appearing on the CPS website highlights the plight of young people. Students had refused to take university exams. They claimed inability to study due to economic hardship. University authorities postponed the exams, but backtracked. Students protested, the police attacked, and the students sat for the exams on July 4. Afterwards student Sphelele returned to his room and killed himself. The report notes that eight Swazi university students had recently committed suicide.

The CPS reporter cites the “Condition of the Working Class in England” (1845) written by “Comrade Frederick Engel.” He quotes: “[O]nce a system has placed the working class under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long, and thus gradually undermine the vital force of the working class, little by little, and so hurry them to the grave before their time, such is nothing but social murder.”

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, July 27, 2022,

Massacre of African migrants by U.S.- backed Moroccan armed forces condemned / by Black Alliance for Peace

Riot police cordon area after people crossed fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco (J Bernardo/AP)

Video images captured the horrific actions of Moroccan security forces armed and trained by the United States through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and working on behalf of the Spanish government, systematically beating and slaughtering African migrants on June 24, 2022. The migrants’ only crime was attempting to cross from Morocco to Europe via the Spanish held enclave of Melilla. For that, at least 39 human beings were beaten to death, as recorded by the NGO Walking Borders. This racist barbarism by a U.S.-backed neo-colonial regime and the lack of swift and unambiguous condemnation by the U.S. State demonstrates, yet again, that human life, especially African lives hold no value for U.S. officials.

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) denounces first, the Moroccan government’s security forces and the Spanish government for their collaboration in this massacre and their ongoing dehumanizing treatment of African asylum seekers. We must note that, as the Moroccan police were beating and hog-tying the African migrants, AFRICOM was carrying out “Operation African Lion” – military exercises in Morocco with more than 7,500 troops from Western nations and African neo-colonies. Soon after, NATO nations (the coterie of U.S. minions) held their meeting in Spain, with no acknowledgement of the massacre.

We especially condemn the United States government for its unmitigated hypocrisy in claiming that its presence and policies in Africa are to “promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.” The only securing and stabilizing AFRICOM and U.S. policy are doing in Africa are for the prosperity of international finance capital and hegemony of U.S. interests. We know that U.S. militarism – which guarantees European imperialism on the African continent, while giving cover to the repressive actions of neo-colonial states such as Morocco – will continue to be the main cause of escalating violence for the African people.

“All evidence suggests that U.S. militarism and training of police, and other repressive forces in Africa has only intensified death and destruction;” says Netfa Freeman, Co-Coordinator of BAP’s Africa Team.

BAP extends solidarity to all the African migrants and their families, victims of the brutal racist attack. We also demand a full independent investigation and indictment of the actions of Morocco, Spain, and the U.S. And we demand, once again, that the U.S. get out of Africa and that NATO and AFRICOM be shut down!

The Black Alliance for Peace calls on all anti-imperialists to join the U.S. Out of Africa Network to help us achieve this imperative.

U.S. Out of Africa!

Shut Down AFRICOM!

No Compromise! No Retreat!

Black Alliance for Peace (BAP),

MR Online, July 8, 2022,

Civilian Deaths Beyond Bucha / by Nick Turse

Victims of the Narang night raid that killed at least 10 Afghan civilians, including eight schoolchildren. Photo: RAWA–CC BY 3.0

Madogaz Musa Abdullah still remembers the phone call. But what came next was a blur. He drove for hours, deep into the Libyan desert, speeding toward the border with Algeria. His mind buckled, his thoughts reeled, and more than three years later, he’s still not certain how he made that six-hour journey.

The call was about his younger brother, Nasser, who, as he told me, was more than a sibling to him. He was also a close friend. Nasser was polite and caring. He loved music, sang, and played the guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Bob Marley were his favorites.

Abdullah finally found Nasser near the village of Al Awaynat. Or, rather, he found all that remained of him. Nasser and 10 others from their village of Ubari had been riding in three SUVs that were now burnt-out hunks of metal. The 11 men had been incinerated. Abdullah knew one of those charred corpses was his brother, but he was at a loss to identify which one.

If these bodies had recently been found strewn about in the village of Staryi Bykiv, in the streets of Bucha, outside a train station in Kramatorsk, or elsewhere in Ukraine where Russian forces have regularly killed civilians, the images would have been splashed across the Internet, earning worldwide attention and prompting fierce — and justified — outrage. Instead, the day after the attack, November 29, 2018, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issued a press release that was met with almost universal silence.

“In coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), U.S. Africa Command conducted a precision airstrike near Al Awaynat, Libya, November 29, 2018, killing eleven (11) al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terrorists and destroying three (3) vehicles,” it read. “At this time, we assess no civilians were injured or killed in this strike.” Photos of the aftermath of the attack, posted on Twitter that same day, have been retweeted less than 30 times in the last three and a half years.

Ever since then, Abdullah and his Tuareg community in Ubari have been insisting to anyone who would listen that Nasser and the others riding in those vehicles were civilians. And not just civilians, but GNA veterans who had fought terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and even, alongside the United States two years earlier, the Islamic State in the city of Sirte. For more than three years now, despite public protests and pleas to the Libyan government for an impartial investigation, the inhabitants of Ubari have been ignored. “Before the strike, we trusted AFRICOM. We believed that they worked for the Libyan people,” Abdullah told me. “Now, they have no credibility. Now, we know that they kill innocent people.”

Hellfire in Libya

Earlier this month, Abdullah, along with a spokesperson for his ethnic Tuareg community and representatives of three nongovernmental organizations — the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Italy’s Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, and Reprieve, a human rights advocacy group — filed a criminal complaintagainst Colonel Gianluca Chiriatti, the former Italian commander at the U.S. air base in Sigonella, Italy, from which that American drone took off. They were seeking accountability for his role in the killing of Nasser and those other 10 men. The complainants requested that the public prosecutor’s office in Siracusa, where the base is located, prosecute Colonel Chiriatti and other Italian officials involved in that air strike for the crime of murder.

“The drone attack of 29 November 2018 where 11 innocent people lost their lives in Libya is part of the broader U.S. program of extrajudicial killings. This program is based on a notion of pre-emptive self-defense that does not meet the canons of international law, as the use of lethal attacks of this nature is only legitimate where the state is acting to defend itself against an imminent threat to life. In this circumstance, the victims posed no threat,” reads the criminal complaint. “In light of this premise, the drone attack on Al Awaynat on 29 November 2018 stands in frontal contrast to the discipline, Italian and international, regarding the use of lethal force in the context of law enforcement operations.”

For the last two decades, the United States has been conducting an undeclared war across much of the globe, employing proxy forces from Africa to Asia, deploying commandos from the Philippines to the West African nation of Burkina Faso, and conducting air strikes not only in Libya, but in AfghanistanIraqPakistanSomaliaSyria, and Yemen. Over those years, the U.S. military has taken pains to normalize the use of drone warfare outside established war zones while relying on allies around the world (as at that Italian base in Siracusa) to help conduct its global war.

“Clearly, a drone operation employing lethal force is not routine,” said Chantal Meloni, legal advisor at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. “While AFRICOM is directly responsible, the Italian commander must have known about and approved the operation and can therefore be criminally responsible as an accomplice for having allowed the unlawful lethal attack.”

That November 2018 drone attack in Libya was anything but a one-off strike. During just six months in 2011, alone, U.S. MQ-1 Predator drones flying from Sigonella conducted 241 air strikes in Libya during Operation Unified Protector — the NATO air campaign against then-Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi — according to retired Lt. Col. Gary Peppers, the former commander of the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. The unit was responsible, he told The Intercept in 2018, for “over 20 percent of the total of all Hellfire [missiles] expended in the 14 years of the system’s deployment.”

The U.S. air war in Libya accelerated in 2016 with Operation Odyssey Lightning. That summer, the Libyan Government of National Accord requested American help in dislodging Islamic State fighters from Sirte. The Obama administration designatedthe city an “area of active hostilities,” loosening guidelines designed to prevent civilian casualties. Between August and December of that year, according to an AFRICOM press release, the U.S. carried out in Sirte alone “495 precision airstrikes against Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, heavy guns, tanks, command and control centers, and fighting positions.”

The Shores of Tripoli

Those military strikes were nothing new. The United States has been conducting attacks in Libya since before there even was a Libya — and almost a United States. In his first address to Congress in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson spoke of coastal kingdoms in North Africa, including the “least considerable of the Barbary States,” Tripoli (now, the capital of modern Libya). His refusal to pay additional tribute to the rulers of those kingdoms in order to stop their state-sponsored privateers from seizing American sailors and cargo kicked off the Barbary Wars. In 1804, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring nighttime mission, boarding a captured U.S. ship, killing its Tripolitan defenders, and destroying it. And an attack the next year by nine Marines and a host of allied mercenaries on the North African city of Derna ensured that “the shores of Tripoli” would have prime placement in the Marine Corps hymn.

Libya has also been a long-time proving ground for new forms of air war. In November 1911 — 107 years to the month before that drone attack killed Nasser Musa Abdullah — Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti conducted the world’s first modern airstrike. “Today I have decided to try to throw bombs from the aeroplane,” he wrote in a letter to his father, while deployed in Libya to fight forces loyal to the Ottoman Empire. “I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing.”

Gavotti not only pioneered the idea of launching air raids on troops far from the traditional front lines of a war, but also the targeting of civilian infrastructure when he bombed an oasis that served as a social and economic center. As Thomas Hippler put it in his book Governing from the Skies, Gavotti introduced aerial attacks on “hybrid target[s]” that “indifferently mingled civilian and military objectives.”

More than a century later, in 2016, Operation Odyssey Lightning again made Libya ground zero for the testing of new air-war concepts — in this case, urban combat involving multiple drones working in combination with local troops and U.S. Special Operations forces. As one of the drone pilots involved was quoted as saying in an Air Force news release: “Some of the tactics were created and some of the persistent attack capabilities that hadn’t been used widely before were developed because of this operation.”

According to Colonel Case Cunningham, commander of the 432nd Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada — the headquarters of the Air Force’s drone operations — about 70% of the MQ-9 Reaper drone strikes conducted during Odyssey Lightning were close-air-support missions backing up local Libyan forces engaged in street-to-street combat. The drones, he reported, often worked in tandem with one another, as well as with Marine Corps attack helicopters and jets, helping guide the airstrikes of those conventional aircraft.

“The Deaths of Thousands of Civilians”

Despite hundreds of attacks in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the employment of U.S. proxies in counterterrorism missions, combat by American commandos, and more than $850 million in U.S. assistance since 2011, Libya remains one of the most fragile states on earth. Earlier this year, President Biden renewed its “national emergency” status (first invoked by President Barack Obama in 2011). “Civil conflict in Libya will continue until Libyans resolve their political divisions and foreign military intervention ends,” wrote Biden, failing to mention the U.S. “foreign military intervention” there, including that November 2018 airstrike. “The situation in Libya continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

In early 2021, the Biden administration imposed limits on drone strikes and commando raids outside of conventional war zones, while launching a review of all such missions, and began writing a new “playbook” to govern counterterrorism operations. More than a year later, the results, or lack thereof, have yet to be made public. In January, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed subordinates to draw up a “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Plan” within 90 days. That, too, has yet to be released.

Until the Defense Department overhauls its airstrike policies, civilians will continue to die in attacks. “The U.S. military has a systemic targeting problem that will continue to cost civilians their lives,” said Marc Garlasco, formerly the Pentagon’s chief of high-value targeting — in charge, that is, of the effort to kill Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein in 2003 — and now, the military adviser for PAX, a Dutch civilian protection organization. “Civilian deaths are not discrete events; they are symptoms of larger problems such as a lack of proper investigations, a faulty collateral-damage estimation methodology, overreliance on intelligence without considering open-source data, and a policy that does not recognize the presumption of civilian status.”

Such “larger problems” have been revealed again and again. Last March, for example, the Yemen-based group Mwatana for Human Rights released a report examining 12 U.S. attacks in Yemen, 10 of them airstrikes, between January 2017 and January 2019. Its researchers found that at least 38 Yemeni noncombatants had been killed and seven others injured in those attacks.

A June 2021 Pentagon report on civilian casualties did acknowledge one of those incidents, the death of a civilian in al-Bayda, Yemen, on January 22, 2019. Mwatana’s investigation determined that the attack killed Saleh Ahmed Mohamed al Qaisi, a 67-year-old farmer who locals said had no terrorist affiliations. The U.S. had previously acknowledged four to 12 civilian deaths in a raid by Navy SEALs on January 29, 2017, also chronicled by Mwatana (though it reported a higher death toll). As for the remaining allegations, Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told Mwatana in an April 2021 letter that it was “confident that each airstrike hit its intended Al Qaeda targets and nothing else.”

Rigorous investigative reporting by the New York Times on the last U.S. drone strikeof the Afghan War in August 2021 forced an admission from the Pentagon. What General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had originally deemed a “righteous strike” had actually killed 10 civilians, seven of them children. A subsequent Times investigation revealed that a 2019 U.S. airstrike in Baghuz, Syria, had killed up to 64 noncombatants, a toll previously obscured through a multilayered cover-up. The Times followed that up with an investigation of 1,300 reports of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria, demonstrating, wrote reporter Azmat Khan, that the American air war in those countries was “marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.”

Since the Sirte campaign ended in late 2016, U.S. attacks in Libya have slowed considerably. AFRICOM conducted seven declared airstrikes there in 2017, six in 2018, four in 2019, and none since. But the U.S. military has made little effort to reevaluate past strikes and the civilian casualties they caused, including the November 2018 attack that killed Nasser Musa Abdullah. “U.S. Africa Command followed the civilian casualty assessment process in place at the time and determined that the reports were unsubstantiated,” said AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Cahalan. Despite the criminal complaint filed on April 1st, the command is not reexamining the case. “There is nothing new or different regarding the Nov 30, 2018 airstrike,” Cahalan told me by email.

Africa Command has clearly moved on, but Abdullah can’t. Memories of his brother and those charred bodies are irrevocably lodged in his mind but get caught in his throat. “I was in shock,” he told me when discussing the phone call that preceeded his dash across the desert. “I’m so sorry, but I can’t explain in words what I felt.”

Abdullah was similarly stuck when he attempted to describe the grisly scene that greeted him hours later. He was eloquent in speaking about the justice he seeks and how being branded a “terrorist” robbed his brother and their community of dignity. But of his final memory of Nasser, there is simply nothing that can be said, not by him anyway. “What I saw was so terrible,” he told me, his voice rising, ragged and loaded with pain. “I can’t even describe it.”

This column is distributed by TomDispatch.

Copyright 2022 Nick Turse.

Nick Turse is an American investigative journalist, historian, and author. He is the associate editor and research director of the blog TomDispatch and a fellow at The Nation Institute.

Counterpunch, April 28, 2022,

Burkina Faso gives way to justice / by Julio Morejon Tartabull

Havana (Prensa Latina) Paraphrasing an African sentence, it could be affirmed that in Burkina Faso “no matter how high the grass grew, it failed to hide the truth”, regarding the assassination of President Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara in 1987.

Almost three and a half decades after the assassination of the president and a group of his close collaborators, the trial against the perpetrators of the crime – to which the Blaise Compaoré government vetoed any substantial reference – shows signs of interest in doing justice, although its full exercise is limited by the absence of two defendants.

The results of the trial opened in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, were at first convincing -according to the media- after learning that the three main defendants in the murder of Sankara (1949-1987) received life sentences, who was He calls him the African Che Guevara.

According to politicians and public opinion, this judicial decision put an end to impunity and improved the face of the new government led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who came to power through a coup in January 2022.

In the hearing that took place in a military court, Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso (1987-2014), and Hyacinthe Kafando, head of his security device, were sentenced in absentia to prison for life, while nine others culprits received various sentences for the 1987 coup.

Applause erupted in the courtroom as the long-awaited verdict was read, bringing down the curtain on a case that has afflicted the impoverished and volatile state for 34 years.


Compaoré, who during his mandate delayed the holding of the process to clarify what happened on October 15, 1987, acted cunningly as Joseph Mobutu did in the Congo -later Mobutu Sese Seko- in 1961, both betrayed their respective bosses and companions in the performance of power.

Mobutu destroyed the aspirations of Patricio Emery Lumumba to maintain Congolese sovereignty in the face of the neo-colonial offensive of the transnationals; Blaise Compaoré first stopped and then reversed the nationalist process that brought former Upper Volta out of political anonymity, then Burkina Faso (Country of worthy men).

“Yes, justice has been done. For the people, because they are 34 years of struggle of a people. We must not forget, it is 34 years in which the Burkinabe people fight against impunity. And with this case, I think it’s a great victory,” Prospere Farama, attorney for the prosecution, told the press.

In 2016, the then president of the country, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, ousted by the military coup in January, alluded to Sankara’s murder when he opined that the solution to the case would be “the starting point of a true reconciliation, awaited by the entire national community”.

Details of the friction between Sankara and Compaoré surfaced in the judicial investigations that lasted six months and several witnesses underlined the existence of an international conspiracy to depose the leader for considering him problematic by challenging the world order and publicly and openly criticizing the former metropolis. , France.

“The tragedy of October 15, 1987 was the result of pressure exerted by various heads of state, including Félix Houphouët Boigny,” said Abdoul Salam Kaboré, Minister of Sports in the Sankara government, referring to the role of the former ruler of Costa de Ivory and a key ally of Paris in the plot.

Regarding the absence of the main defendant, Mariam, the widow of Thomas Sankara, said: “It is not fair, it really is not fair, that he is not here. I should be, I should have the courage to be here, but you know, not everyone is brave, they run from the truth.

Lawyers for the family of the murdered president demanded that Compaoré be extradited from the Ivory Coast – where he is in self-exile – for his guilt in the death of the anti-colonial leader.


The crime was officially given a tribal connotation to demarcate it from its political character and Compaoré himself referred to the event on more than one occasion as an “accident”, but despite trying to cover it up, the truth made its way through the bushes .

Long before the judicial process, the media insisted on the subregional dimension of the assassination and coup d’état, which was linked to guerrillas of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), as one of them, Prince Jormie Johnson, confirmed in his memoirs.

The notorious torturer and assassin of the Liberian president Samuel Kanyon Doe in 1990 pointed out that the conspiracy against the president was related to the permanence in Burkina Faso territory of a faction of the NPFL and that was only possible with the support and influence of the plotted military chiefs against Sankara.

Another explanation of the events appears in Ludo Martens’ book “Sankara, Compaoré et la révolution burkinabé”, in which former general Gilbert Dienderé stated: “We had been warned that Compaoré, Lingani and Zongo would be arrested that night (…) Our reaction was to arrest Sankara before the irreparable (…).

The former general, the only one present at the Ouagadougou hearing of the three main defendants, was referring to Major Jean Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Captain Henri Zongo, executed in 1989 by Compaoré. Some investigators affirm that he eliminated them to get rid of the other two linked to the assassination.

Dienderé, identified as the ideologue and architect of President Sankara’s death, was removed as chief of the General Staff on November 27, 2014, shortly after the overthrow of Compaoré, but in 2015 he led a failed coup attempt for which he currently serving 20 years in prison.

All this is commented on after the sentence was passed against those involved in the assassination of the revolutionary, whose example shined the dome of continental honor and inserted the country of worthy men in the trajectory of world progressive work.

At the 25th Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) -predecessor of the African Union (AU)- Sankara described foreign debt as a colonial tool used to strangle and keep Third World states in poverty.

His government lasted four years and among the priorities he assumed were the fight against hunger and misery, the development of educational programs and the guarantee of an elementary health system for all the citizens of Burkina Faso, plans frustrated by the assassination, although his ideological legacy persists.

Julio Morejon Tartabull is a journalist for the Africa and Middle East newsroom of Prensa Latina.

Prensa Latina, April 16, 2022,

Book Review: The Struggles and Travail of Anti-Colonialist W. Alphaeus Hunton / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Alphaeus Hunton, second from left in the foreground, along with Petitioners Julian Mayfield, Alice Windom, W.A. Jeanpierre, and Maya Angelou Make, deliver a petition to the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, in 1963. | New York Public Library

Tony Pecinovsky, Edited by and Introduction by; The Cancer of Colonialism – “W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946;” (International Publishers, New York, 2021);; ISBN- 9780717808816, pp 355, $19.99

Political movements and activists seeking to serve the people move toward unity of purpose and action. Separate struggles come together. Beginning in the mid-1930s, W. Alphaeus Hunton was constantly widening the scope of his work and teaching. From a grounding in labor activism and fight for racial and economic equality, he embraced national liberation in Africa and peace and cooperation among nations.

Hunton grew up in Brooklyn, his family’s refuge from racist violence in Atlanta. As professor of English literature at Howard University, he organized a faculty labor union. Anticipating the National Negro Congress (NNC), Hunton arranged for a large meeting at Howard. Anti-communists attacked him. That was in 1935.

Alphaeus Hunton addressing four thousand people at Abyssinian Baptist Church to open the famine relief campaign. Josh Lawrence, Paul Robeson, Rev. Shelton Bishop, and Adam C. Powell Sr. are seated behind the cans and bags of food. | Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Hunton joined the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) in 1936. That year he organized the first national conference of the NNC, an offshoot of the Party. As suggested by historian and labor educator Tony Pecinovsky, “The CPUSA was the only organization on the left to make Africa -American equality a centerpiece of its work.” 

The central theme of Pecinovsky’s new book is Hunton’s contribution, now mostly forgotten, to ongoing resistance against economic and political oppression of Africans and African Americans alike. His internationalist perspective was exemplary.  The book, The Cancer of Colonialism, is clearly written, well-organized, and full of information. Detailed footnotes are a side-benefit. 

The book’s first section, modestly labeled “Introduction,” is a stand-alone resource. It covers intersecting historical features of the inter-war, wartime, and post-World War II periods. Figuring prominently are national liberation struggles playing out in Africa, and also in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Korea. The author traces the twists and turns of U.S. Communists in dealing with racism at home and independence struggles abroad.

The reader learns how the Communist International, and later the Soviet Union, stimulated, prodded, facilitated, and provided material support for national liberation struggles. The author cites the complicity of U.S. imperialism with mass murders, take-downs of newly independent governments, harassment of liberation movements, and anti-communist provocations. He touches upon the prolonged debate within the CPUSA as to whether African Americans constitute an oppressed nation.

Spreading the word  

The second section of Pecinovsky’s book tells about Hunton’s political life. From 1936 on, he organized national conventions for the NNC, edited its publications, and planned education programs. Hunton gained recognition nationwide and in Washington as a leader in opposing racial discrimination and police violence against Black people. 

With chapters in 26 cities, the NNC established the Southern Negro Youth Congress that would set up chapters in 11 southern states and recruit more than 10,000 members. Both organizations were typical of “popular front” groups promoted by the CPUSA. Joining were Communists and, according to the author, “anyone willing to fight for workers’ rights and African American equality.”  The Communist International had launched its popular-front strategy in 1935 in order to fight fascism.

Under fire from anti-communists, Hunton in 1941 was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities (“Dies”) Committee. He resigned his professorship at Howard in 1943. The NNC merged with the CPUSA-backed Civil Rights Congress (CRC) in 1947, and disappeared. 

Alphaeus Hunton was “the administrative and intellectual mainstay” of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) between 1942, when it began, until its demise in 1955. Paul Robeson was the organization’s co-founder and chairperson and W.E.B DuBois, its vice-chairperson. According to Pecinovsky, The CAA “brought together African Americans fighting for equality with Black liberation movements in Africa while both sought allies within ascendent socialism.” Historian Gerald Horne regards the CAA as “the vanguard organization in the U.S. campaigning against colonialism.” 

Hunton was the CAA’s education director. He edited and wrote for its publications, organized events, mentored young activists, arranged for humanitarian aid deliveries to Africa, and, with Paul Robeson, was a “fixture” at the United Nations. Time and again, he returned to South Africa’s freedom movement. 

International Publishers, 2021

Anti-communist harassment was a constant. Having refused to provide federal investigators the names of donors to the CRC bail fund, Hunton went to prison for six months in 1951. Rather than turn over CAA correspondence to the government in 1955, Hunton dissolved the organization. 

Hunton in 1957 published his book Decision in Africa. He traveled to Ghana, to the Soviet Union, and to Guinea, where he taught and wrote. He moved to Ghana in 1962 to work on DuBois’s Encyclopedia Africana. A CIA-assisted coup forced Hunton to leave Ghana in 1966 for Zambia. He died there in 1970 at the age of 67.

Daily Worker

“The Cancer of Colonialism” concludes with a collection of columns Hunton wrote for the Daily Worker from July 20,1944 to January 19, 1946. A present-day reader of the columns becomes his or her own historian in tracing a transition from optimism to frustration.   

Vice President Henry Wallace is quoted as anticipating “freedom everywhere … under just and democratic principles.” Hunton applies the example of the Soviet Union to the problem of colonies. What Britain failed to do in 100 years, he notes, the USSR did in 25 years. 

Hunton expects that the United States, Britain and Soviet Union would collaborate in shaping a new world and the new United Nations. The worldwide labor movement in the works would help out.

He praises Churchill and Roosevelt’s Atlantic Charter agreement (1941) and the outcome of the Teheran and Yalta conferences in 1943 and 1945, when Stalin joined the other two.  He assumes that agreements on the right of all nations to self-government and on collaboration in securing world peace would last.

Hunton lauds conferences in 1944 at Dunbarton Oaks and Bretton Woods where new trade and financial arrangements were fashioned that, as he expected, would assure the development even of small nations. 

International Publishers, ©1965

He reports on the 1945 San Francisco conference and the agreement there on a United Nations Charter. He offers several columns on South Africa, where the job remained of “liquidating fascism.”

Now Hunton is uncertain. He sees colonialism returning to Korea, Indonesia, Malaya, and Indochina (think Vietnam). He critiques U.S. aggressiveness in demanding to exercise UN-sanctioned trusteeship over Japanese islands and the Pacific islands that had hosted allied bases. Signs crop up of U.S. anti-Soviet hostility. The Cold War is beginning.

Finally, Hunton comments on a Daily Worker article on “Leninism” by William Z. Foster. Having returned to head the CPUSA, Foster, as quoted by Hunton, mentions “dangerous illusions as to exaggerated possibilities” associated with “New Dealism” (Hunton’s term). Hunton cites “reformist illusions [that] act as, [in Foster’s words], a ‘barrier to the movement to socialism.’” 

Hunton’s world had shifted. CPUSA leaders had shared his optimism, so much so that they had taken the CPUSA out of commission – which Foster’s return had remedied. And Hunton’s expectation of continuing amity between the capitalist powers and the Soviet Union was splintering. 

Ultimately, Pecinovsky’s narrative testifies to the commanding role of anti-communism in Hunton’s political life. Pecinovsky borrows from analyst Michael Parenti to say that anti-communism is “the most powerful political force in the world.”

Concluding, we recognize the contribution of International Publishers for not only having presented The Cancer of Colonialism, but also for having republished Alphaeus Hunton’s 1957 book Decision in Africa and Alphaeus Hunton: The Unsung Valiant, Dorothy Hunton’s 1986 biography of her husband.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

Coups, Insurgency, and Imperialism in Africa / by Amy Niang

Across the Sahel, young people are restless. So are soldiers. The region is in the grip of an unprecedented wave of coups d’état that have followed each other within a short period of time: within a year or so, five coups d’état have successively rocked Mali, Chad, Guinea, and Burkina Faso in widespread unrest that risks destabilizing the entire region again.

Since the mid-1990s, coups had become exceptional events that occurred mainly during moments of perceived chaos, with the aim to disrupt the normal constitutional dispensation in order to restore order. Increasingly however, they occur as a form of political intervention designed to correct regular politics that has fallen into a permanent state of crisis and repression.

This moment is a historical shift but also a harbinger of an uncharted future. Not only are the recent coups not contested, but they are also seen as an opening into a new politics of liberation. They could signal a return to a long period of tumult, equally they could also be an opening for a different kind of politics.

The ongoing instability lays bare the accumulated effects of decades of aggressive neoliberal reforms that have eroded the social fabric, the growing significance of a politicized, young generation of Africans that do not share the same political culture as their elders, and the massive failure of the war against terror in the Sahel that has produced neither security nor stability. It also points to some of the ways in which fierce geopolitical battles are likely to wreak havoc in the African continent as Western hegemonic influences declines in the region.

In this long-read for, I want to argue that the present dilemma has to be seen as an inflection point in both the democratization and decolonization process in West Africa and Africa more generally.

A democratic impasse

One cannot fully make sense of the recent coups d’état in Africa without a full understanding of concomitant popular uprisings that have been occurring on a regular albeit sporadic manner in different parts of the continent. The common impulse, from Mali to Sudan, from Guinea to Burkina Faso is a desire for change, meaningful change.

The much celebrated constitutional order has been discredited in a context where constitutions are routinely violated, regulating mechanisms are often neutralized, and incumbent presidents consistently violate term-limits. For instance, Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara and Guinea’s Alpha Condé both violated constitutionally locked term-limits to run for presidential elections. As the Nigerian writer Jibrin Ibrahim demonstrates, under the current nominal democracy, elected Presidents have also perpetrated coups of an electoral or constitutional nature. In Tunisia, the government of President Kaïs Saïed has taken a de facto authoritarian turn in July 2021. Through rule by decree, Saïed has tempered the constitutional and judicial structure and therefore neutralized any meaningful checks and balance.

In the 1990s, the demand for democratic opening was externally driven by development aid partners and Bretton Woods and other multilateral agencies. The democratic norm was being push through as African states were also being pressured to cut public expenditure in education, health and other social services. Yet the ongoing demand for democracy is internal in kind, it is a popular demand for a different kind of politics and a different kind of democratic participation and not a ‘performance’ on the basis of the Mo Ibrahim index or similar instruments.

Yet, overwhelming media attention of the military government’s standoff with the ‘international community’ muddies an understanding of very urgent crises that will not be resolved by another round of elections. As long as fundamental problems of economic sovereignty, of the state’s capacity to raise financial resources internally, to provide security and social services to its population are unresolved, rushing to elections will merely enable a change of guards to run the same derelict institutions. The democratic struggle is first and foremost a struggle for a political model that is responsive to people’s demands for basic public goods.

Popular uprisings are also an indictment of the failure of formal civil societies organizations that have either become too institutionalized if they are not entirely coopted by governments. Their ability to fully perform their responsibility as safeguards of people’s rights against state excesses has been hampered by an attachment to the orthodoxy of electoral liberalism. A major shortcoming has been its inability to harness into a cogent political project strident current popular demands for an alternative political order. The greatest insecurity that plagues Sahelian communities is linked to food security, and to limited human development.

It is clear to many careful observers of West African politics that something fundamentally different has been simmering over the past few years. The disconnect between governments and people has become more pronounced in the prolonged context of insecurity since 2012. The coronavirus pandemic has furthermore eroded public trust in governments’ ability to deliver public goods or foster greater democratic opening.

There is a question that lingers in everybody’s mind: has the specter of coups and countercoups returned to African politics? More specifically, is West Africa about to fall back into a vicious pattern of coups and countercoups without any seeming logic or order? The fear of a domino effect is real, and one cannot rule out the possibility of another elected government falling under another coup.

Linking coups and popular protests

The five most recent coups in Africa have been directly or indirectly prompted by popular protests of insurgent magnitude. This is significant.

Between April-August 2020, massive crowds gathered in Bamako and in major Malian cities to denounce endemic misrule, a series of corruption scandals involving specifically the purchase of military equipment amid insecurity across the country. The government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had also been marred by the accusation of massive fraud in the legislative elections of March 2020. Mali’s security situation had deteriorated drastically since 2015. The country fell into a state of chronic instability with burgeoning violence coming not only from jihadist forces, but also from government-backed militias and self-defense groups. Following months-long popular mobilization led by the M5 RFP coalition–the 5 June Mouvement and the Rally of Patriotic Forces–crowds literally escorted the military to the presidential palace. These are the circumstances that saw the takeover of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) military council.

In Burkina Faso, days of uninterrupted public protest preceded the putsch last year. On 14 November, 2021, the country experienced the most brutal attack on security forces. Fifty-three gendarmes were killed in Inata. The public later learned with dismay that the exhausted gendarmes had been without food and supplies for days and could not withstand the ambush. Inata eventually sealed the fate of the president Roch Kaboré. This wasn’t the first recent coup in Burkina Faso. In 2014, months-long street protests culminated into the resignation of 27 year-reigning Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré fled to Cote d’Ivoire where the Ouattara government offered a safe haven against demands for his extradition to Burkina Faso to face justice in the trial on the murder of Thomas Sankara. The military transition that ensued enabled the organization of relatively free elections for the first time in post-independence Burkina Faso.

Although every coup is different and responds to specific circumstances, the same causes can be said to have produced similar effects in both Burkina and Mali. Further, there are embedded historical inequities within armies themselves that mirror existing and widespread social inequities. Coups today may no longer be anchored in revolutionary nationalist or Pan-Africanist politics but some of them, like in Burkina Faso, articulate certain popular demands for social justice and democratic renewal. In the speeches of Paul-Henri Damiba–the interim president and coup leader– Sankara stands as an avatar of an aborted military-driven radical experiment. Army cadets are also politicized in a way that engraves the role of the military in ongoing struggles to reimagine social contracts across Africa. The fact that officers are fighting an internal battle that is also about repositioning a professional military hints at an enduring backdrop to recurrent coups.

It is important to note that public ‘demand’ for the disciplining authority of the military has often been a trojan horse that allows the military to ‘rise up to their responsibility’ as a now familiar, almost scripted ritual announcement that every new coup makes it a point to deliver.

In both Burkina Faso and Mali, transition military governments have initiated country-wide consultations (‘assises nationales’) to collect a wide-range of views from political formations and civil society on constitutional reform. To what extent the military’s move to act democratic-like is likely to lead to substantive change is a different question altogether. If the strategy is quite unprecedented for a military government, the reason for the shift is to be found in the growing importance of struggle on the ground–from popular forces from below.

In toppling civilian governments and ‘installing’ the military, protestors often aim to trigger a speedy change outside of the ballot box. Needless to say, this also heralds an uncertain future that gives no guarantee of success. Military coups are rarely transformative. Further, the military itself is a institution in its own terms that has its own logic of power accumulation. Obviously, if the military was the solution, neither Burkina Faso nor Mali would have gone through multiple coups. Mali has experienced five coups since independence while Burkina holds a record of seven coups with a total of 47-years ruled under various military governments. At any rate, the gains of popular movements hang on a fragile thread that is constantly threated by the encroaching logic of external internal intervention especially in countries whose natural resources are highly coveted.

In 2019, Algerian and Sudanese decades-long regimes fell through popular pressure. Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir were deposed by public pressure. In contrast to Mali and Burkina Faso, Sudan has a robust, deep-rooted tradition of political activism led by well-organized leftist movements, especially student movements. Not only have the Sudanese “resistance committees” been able to force concessions from the military, they proactively forged ahead with a political charter for transition presented on 27 February, 2022. The Charter for the Establishment of the People’s Authority seeks to reverse decades-long military-led governance and restricted civic participation.

Two dilemmas are apparent in the trends mentioned above. On the one hand, it is nearly impossible to assess the extent to which popular protests express representative, legitimate, and uncoerced grievances. On another, to read military coups from a liberal institutional framework which demarcates the ‘civilian’ and the ‘military’ as distinct spheres of action has time and again proven reductive. Such thinking does not allow us to consider solutions outside of injunctions to restore the normal ‘constitutional order’. Neither does it take into account the specificity of the formation of African military systems within a colonial context and their development in postcolonial states.

Contested regional leadership

The default reaction of the West African bloc ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) to the recent coups has been to distribute sanctions on account of ‘norms’ uncritically enforced in a bureaucratic and uncreative approach. The coup policy of both the African Union’s Lomé Declaration of 1999 and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ADC) is systematic sanctions against unconstitutional changes of government even when these are the outcome of compelling popular protests. However, the continental body has neither been consistent nor impartial in its approach. In Chad for instance, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) determined that the country was under threat of destabilization from Libya and did not therefore enforce sanctions against the Transitional Military Council. Although the dislocation of Libya has had tremendous consequences in the subsequent destabilization of the Sahel, more specifically Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the AU security assessment is all the more surprising as Chad has been relatively unaffected by the Libyan civil war. However, Chad remains France and the West’s staunchest ally in the Sahel in the fight against terrorism. For many observers, the AU buried its legitimacy in Chad by endorsing both a military coup and a dynastic takeover.

The AU is not the only discredited regional institution. ECOWAS has long been seen as a club of the malleable who speak with one tutored voice. Never before has ECOWAS been so disconnected from its populations. Having turned the other way over a series of constitutional coups which paved the way for military coups for instance in Guinea, ECOWAS has emerged as a discredited entity.

According to the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), the West African bloc violated its own statutory rules in imposing sanctions that fall outside of its normative instruments, most specifically the 2001 ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Besides, the region’s economies are already badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions imposed on Mali have consequences for other ECOWAS members. For instance, Mali accounts for 20% of Senegal’s trade volume; most export goods destined to Mali transit through the port in Dakar.

Waning Western tutelage

One could almost speak of an anachronism between on the one hand the perception of post-colonial stagnation in which the Sahelian region is believed to be steeped and the way in which ‘partnership’ continues to be discussed as the framework of engagement that structures the Sahel’s relations with the former colonial power France. France specifically appears like a stubborn guest that stays on when the party is over.

At the request of the government of Mali fearful that Jihadists were advancing towards Bamako, France launched Operation Serval which led a swift ‘victory’ in early 2013. The succeeding Operation Barkhane–a 5000 strong force that constitutes the backbone of French counter-terrorist intervention in the Sahel, over the years fell into a predictable pattern. In other words, it became locked into its own narrow logic, merely responding to French understanding of its strategic security interests in the Sahel. Despite France announcing a drawdown of Barkhane, as a result of intense pressure in Mali itself, it categorically opposed Mali’s seeking support from other governments to help it restore stability across the country.

The government of Assimi Goïta – who has been serving as interim president since May last year–has always shown suspicion regarding French ambivalence towards Tuareg’s desire of autonomy. After all, the French army command enforced a de-facto partition of Mali by preventing the national army from access to the Tuareg rebellion stronghold in Kidal and used its hegemony as leverage against the Bamako government. There is another reason for the French to seek to institute a buffer zone in Northern Mali. Kidal is about 300 km from Arlit where French giant ORAN (former AREVA) exploits uranium yellowcake. There are also important uranium reserves to the south of Arlit in addition to strategic minerals, arable land and water. The maintenance of military forces in Northern Mali therefore becomes the condition for continuing to supply its nuclear plants.

Furthermore, the Taoudeni Basin–from Mauritania to Algeria and north Mali–is a much-coveted oil basin as the world moves towards a period of depletion of oil resources. Mali itself has large limestone, salt and gold deposits in addition to oil, iron ore and bauxite minerals that are largely unexploited. Given all this, France puts tremendous pressure on WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union) leaders to apply sanctions on Mali. Further, taking advantage of the rotating presidency of the EU, the French President has been lobbying other EU members for support. On 19 January this year, at his inaugural speech as rotating President, Emmanuel Macron declared in no uncertain terms: “It is in Africa that global upheaval is partially being played out, and a part of the future of this [European] continent and its youth […] and our future”.

France is neither ready nor willing to deal with its former African colonies on equal footing. For a long time, it has relied upon clientelist relations to ensure sustained access to African minerals for an unfair price. The maintenance of compliant regimes was always the condition for unimpeded access and control.

The ongoing geopolitical struggle with Russia in fact comes down to this: the argument about delayed elections and democratic governance in reality masks strategic and security interests that France is keen to protect at any cost. Declining western hegemony in the region goes hand to hand with intensified competition for access and control over Africa’s mineral and natural resources. Whereas the security crisis is real across Mali and the Sahel, the crisis that emerged out of disagreement over the presence of French troops and so-called Russian mercenaries has been engineered. Despite much noise about famed Wagner Group, there is little factual information about its presence or operations in Mali. Even so, there is nothing unusual about states using mercenary units for ‘special operations’. One recalls that France itself developed the Foreign Legion–a traditional pathway for citizenship for individual adventurers hired to serve unorthodox French operations around the world, in Africa in particular.

The ongoing stand-off between the West and Russia over the occupation of Ukraine throws into stark relief the importance of Russia’s growing presence in Africa. Russia supplies weapons and military equipment to 30 African countries. Russia is said to be the largest supplier of weapons to Africa of the past few years.

It would be a mistake to see in the thousands of young Africans occupying the streets of Bamako, Kayes and Ouahigouya or blocking French military convoys anarchic crowds that are neither rooted in a solid political culture nor hold a clear vision of what they are yearning for. It would equally be a mistake to see in the popular protests against French military presence in the Sahel as some kind of reactionary resentment of the subaltern or a revanchist postcolonial fury. Underlying the protesters’ outburst is a widespread pursuit of a sovereignty most imagine to have been lacking in their countries since the time of independence. Young people’s demand for ‘meaningful sovereignty’ is explicitly framed against a postcolonial condition that maintains their countries under neocolonial control. Theirs is a struggle for a second independence.

A foundering war

The Sahel was poised to become the new cauldron of the war on terrorism following the France and NATO-led armed intervention in Libya in 2011 and the latter’s subsequent disintegration. The securitarian logic pursued by Sahelian states and intervention forces had two predictable consequences. Firstly, as armed groups and militias proliferated in response to perceived arbitrary injustice in relation to both the state and jihadist groups, the state could label any peripheral or dissenting group ‘terrorist’ and thus give itself license to kill legitimately. Secondly, the fabric of state-society relations has deteriorated in the process as the fight against terrorism came to trump all other economic and social objectives.

Counterterrorist policies have in the main reinforced the repressive capacities of Sahelian states. As many a report have shown, more civilians have died in the hands of Sahelian states and Operation Barkhane than they have under terrorist violence. Yet, the overwhelming majority of so-called militants in the various insurgent groups operating in the Sahel are Malians and Burkinabè nationals from villages and communities known to their neighbors. They need to be engaged through dialogue and concertation.

Dwindling resources under the accelerating effects of climate change have led to deteriorating standards of living and compounded conflicts amongst communities over access to scarce resources. The Sahel faces frequent droughts and food shortages. Embattled and impoverished populations are leaving villages and those that can afford it have fled further afield into neighboring countries if they are not risking their lives in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. Further, at a time when Sahelian states have also become the enforcers of EU border policies, some youth are treated like trespassers and criminals in their own states.

In their unqualified commitment to the fight against ‘terrorism’, it would seem that Sahelian countries have delivered more insecurity than they have delivered jobs and economic security for their populations. Ordinary people are having a hard time understanding why after almost 10 years of intervention, a 13000 soldiers strong UN mission, a 5000 strong Barkhane force, including French-led European Takuba Task Force, and G5Sahel, the security situation has deteriorated rather than it has improved. The G5Sahel is a 2017 French initiative to coordinate the fight against Jihadist among five Sahelian countries–Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. It has been a dismal failure. A UN report explains the joint operation’s slow progress and the absence of tangible security gains as the result of a narrow military outlook, divergent priorities amongst concerned countries and a fraught relation with civilians.

If Afghanistan is anything to go by, military intervention campaigns are rarely transformative enterprises.

Interventions have become ritualized forms of action in which external actors use the cover of ‘peace’ ‘security’ and ‘order’ to justify intervention by itself. It produces discursive tropes that validate militarization as a new-age normative crusade of human rights, democratization and liberation of economic activity. Since the 1990s, states have been reduced to enforcers of Bretton Woods injunctions to liberalize if they are not busy enforcing ‘partner countries’ security policies.

People may not understand the intricacy of decision-making processes that have led to the present fiasco, but they perceive the relative inefficiency of the billions of dollars that have been spent on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Barkhane Operation–which cost around 1 billion euros per year–and other international forces while Sahelian armies remain underfunded, underequipped, lacking the technological resources to collect reliable intelligence. One recalls that the March 2012 coup and that of August 2020 were both prompted by widespread public dissatisfaction with the blatant inefficacy of the Malian army fighting the Tuareg rebels and Jihadists. The Malian army was then ill-equipped–and they still are–to fight the jihadists. The public perceives that something is fundamentally wrong. What is peacekeeping in a country that is in active conflict? Failing to impose peace, what is MINUSMA exactly doing in Mali?

A historical shift?

We may just be at the cusp of a revolution of a new kind, one that first and foremost opposes different generations whose experience of, and outlook over the postcolonial present barely overlap. The generational shift affects both the political and the military elites.

There is in fact more to the recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso than meet the eye. It would be absurd to pose the problem in terms of a choice to be made between military regimes vs. liberal democracy. The coups themselves are not the ultimate objective. The military is called upon to break a deadlock, to upend the status quo as neutral arbiters. Some of the protestors in Burkina Faso made that much clear in stating their determination to occupy the streets again should the military government fail to deliver on promises. However, coups potentially provide an opening for a necessary debate on a serious social project, something that has not been a preoccupation of previous governments since the time of the revolutionary Thomas Sankara.

Amy Niang is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Africa Institute in Sharjah. She is the author of ‘The Postcolonial African State in Transition: Stateness and Modes of Sovereignty’. Courtesy: ROAPE (Review of African Political Economy).

Janata Weekly, March 27, 2022,