Five minutes of foreign policy

What’s going on in Niger? I wonder. My next thought is: How strange the press is! Today, I’ve checked AP, Reuters and Al Jazeera – these are the most common sources that feed local papers in the West about situations in places to which a news outlet may not be able to send its own correspondents. Naturally, I have also checked my own country’s national broadcasting company, and the one daily paper I tend to follow.

They all say the same thing: The army has deposed the president of Niger, who is now a prisoner in his palace. The new president is a general. In other words a coup. There is some uncertainty as to whether the French are planning military intervention. There is universal condemnation of the coup. Some countries are evacuating their citizens from Niger. Most countries are suspending aid to Niger and even contemplating sanctions.


What they don’t explain is: Why has there been a military coup in Niger? Well, yes, of course the military is dissatisfied, but why?

By the way, in case you were wondering, the demonym for Niger is Nigerien, as opposed to Nigerian. Hear the pronunciation here. And you might look up the pronunciation of Niger, while you’re at it. No, I did not know it, not until just now, which just goes to show, not only how ignorant I am, but also how forlornly anonymous Niger is.

So how come many sources fail to explain why western leaders are worried about an imprisoned president whose name they probably don’t even remember? After all, he’s imprisoned in a palace. Julian Assange’s plight in Belmarsh Prison is far, far worse.

Take a look at this LA Times article of 31 July, for instance: Not a word – NOT ONE WORD – about the uranium deposits tersely mentioned in Britannica:

Niger’s known reserves of uranium rank among the most important in the world, and the country is one of the world’s top 10 leading producers of uranium.

 Or the oil deposits.

There were intensive exploration activities on the Agadem block between 2008 and 2017, when the CNPC drilled 166 exploration wells, enabling the discovery of 106 new oil deposits containing 2P recoverable reserves of 815m barrels. The petroleum is high quality with an API gravity of 30 degrees and a very low sulphur content.

CNPC, by the way is China. China has found that Niger’s oil reserves are so important that they are building a pipeline to export 90,000 barrels pr day.

The Niger–Benin pipeline, measuring 1950km and connecting the Agadem block in eastern Niger to the Beninese side of Sèmé, will be the longest pipeline in Africa. The construction work began on 5 July 2021.


The Nigerians must be filthy rich. Actually, uranium isn’t all that expensive, but still.

So I can just imagine why there has been a coup. I guess you can too. And I can just imagine why France already has at least 1,500 troops and a drone base in Niger, and why the US has at least 1,100 troops and two drone bases in Niger. Why, surely everybody understands that it’s the most natural thing in the world for the US to protect people from themselves here there and everywhere, and for French troops to be just casually hanging around in former colonies. After all, the US and France are democracies, i.e. rule-of-law and can-do-no-harm-countries, as opposed, of course, to China and Russia that are both do-no-good-countries.

All for now.

Addendum on 2 August 2023:
An article by Vijay Prashad and Kambale Musavuli answers my questions.