NIGER: Military steps into political stalemate
NIGER: Military steps into political stalemate
By Lanre Arogundade
Prior to the coup that toppled Mamadou Tandja’s government it was clear that something would give way. Tandja, a former military junta leader-turned-civilian ruler, had virtually emasculated the opposition and muscled his way into what was bound to be a life presidency.
As it used to be said about the situation in Nigeria under the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari before General Muhammadu Buhari struck in December 1983, power was virtually lying on the streets. But in this specific instance, it wasn’t just a case of ‘anybody could pick it up’, but that only the Army could re-pick it.
Although Niger had in the past suffered under successive military regimes, there was no doubt that the people had no sympathy for the toppled regime. Many of them actually heaved some sigh of relief that a notorious civilian dictator had been sent packing.
In his bid to self-perpetuate in power, Tandja had late last year rigged a referendum that gave him an illegal third term after he had spent the constitutionally allowed two terms. The new constitution made his presidency and council of Ministers superior to the National Assembly whose only function is the passage of the annual budget. Whatever they approve is subject to further approval by a newly created Senate, two-third of which shall be appointed by Tandja and whose decisions he could easily override or jettison.
Protests against these un-constitutional acts were ruthlessly suppressed and even at a stage, Tandja dissolved the Courts for daring to intervene in the political impasse. The so-called opposition politicians never also helped the matter. When the Constitutional Court ruled against the juicy allowances by government officials, they were the first to oppose it not minding the fact that majority of the population live in abject poverty. The opposition politicians would later support same Constitutional Court when it ruled that Tandja could not use a referendum to determine whether he could have a third term. Tandja of course dissolved the court.
In the absence of organized working class political intervention and leadership therefore, the latest coup by Squadron-Leader Salou Djibo, who heads a so-called Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy was inevitable. But although sections of the populace have welcomed the coup, they need to be warned that the junta cannot be trusted to urgently or fundamentally restore democracy unless it comes under the mass democratic pressure of the working peoples, youths and peasants. Indeed it is not ruled out that Djibo might become another Tandja after exploiting mass discontent to seize power. The fact that the same junta that has proclaimed making Niger “an example of democracy and of good governance” has suspended the constitution and dissolved all elected bodies should be a lesson.
It is all too much a familiar tale of ‘soldier go, soldier come’ as the Nigerian revolutionary singer, late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once sang. For example the Captain Daddis Camara led military-junta in Guinea has reneged on its promise to hold elections in 2009 on coming to power after the death of Lansana Conte and collapse of his unpopular regimein December 2008. The Guinean junta has actually since gone on the offensive against the opposition forces that coalesced against Conte. On a black Monday in October last year, a mass protest against Camara’s bid to run for the presidency was ruthlessly crushed. In that instance of total madness inside the Conakry National stadium, the Chinese Tiananmen square massacre was somewhat re-enacted as soldiers shot dead over one hundred people and openly raped women.
Working class elements must note that similar developments could unfold in Niger. They must also note that the Niger’s experience itself could recur in other countries where so-called civilian rulers have ended up subverting the constitution and discountenanced the popular wishes of the people. Here in Nigeria, the failure of a seriously ill President Yar’ Adua to constitutionally surrender power due to incapacitation has plunged the country into yet another political crisis amidst continuing corruption, poverty, unemployment and job losses and the growth of ethnic and religious militancy. Today there is an unseen President and an Acting president; a so-called Commander-In-Chief that the military top brass has been openly defying. This kind of rudderless political situation can, at a stage be exploited in the absence of the working class providing a viable political cum social alternative, by the military to once again attempt to seize power.
Niger, a former colony of France, like other ex-colonies in Africa suffers from ethnic divisions, corruption and poverty. It is a largely agrarian country that is however rich in precious minerals like uranium and petroleum. Much of its economic activities are driven by aid (to which are tied neo-liberal policies like privatization, deregulation and increase in prices of goods) from imperialists like France, Nigeria, Russia, U.S., and China. Among Niger’s politicians, the struggle for power is as much the struggle for the control of the millions of dollars from uranium just as petro-dollars defines the ‘do or die’ policy of Nigerian capitalist politicians. There is nothing to suggest that the new junta will not continue with the looting while imposing austerity measures on the ordinary peoples.
Niger has a small working class population but despite this, it could step into the political void by providing an alternative working class political platform that uses solidarity to build a mass movement of the masses, offers socialist alternative to replace neo-liberal-capitalist policies and appeals for the support of the broader working class movement in the West African sub-region and the African continent.
The Nigerien workers and youths should demand an immediate end of the military junta. Specifically, workers and youths must fight for an immediate convocation of a Constituent Assembly made up of democratically elected representatives of the trade unions, the youths, the political parties, women, communities etc., whose functions among other things would be to write a more democratic constitution. This will also be a stepping stone to a truly democratic general elections. In such elections the political party of the working class would be expected to stand elections on such programs that oppose neo-liberalism like the nationalization of the major sectors of the economy under the working class democratic control and management. That way, the resources that would have been looted by the military-civilian clique can be used for the purpose of providing for the basic necessities of the people.
CABINDA: No to terrorism! Yes to working peoples’ struggle and unity
By Dagga Tolar
Not a lot of people both on the African continent and outside have heard of Cabinda, until the attack claimed by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) on the Togolese national football team in Angola. The attack on the Togolese, who were on their way to take part in the recently concluded 2010 African Cup of Nation, resulted in the death of three people, leaving the rest members of the team in a state of shock such that they had to subsequently pull out of the tournament.
No doubt, this terrorist attack has not helped in anyway to advance the struggle for the liberation/secession of Cabinda as an independent sovereign state, as intended by FLEC. How then can liberation be truly achieved.
Angola won her independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975 and was soon plunged into a civil war, as struggle broke out amidst the various liberation groups for perks of office. This struggle became a “hot” part of the then “cold war” between the imperialist-capitalist west and Stalinist USSR. The eventually victorious MPLA was supported by the then USSR and Cuba while UNITA was supported by the apartheid regime in South Africa and the US imperialist government. In 1976 Cuban troops played a crucial role in defeating South African army units fighting alongside UNITA. The Angolan working masses had to endure and pay enormous sacrifice in the struggle, first to end the colonial domination of the Portuguese and then against South African and US intervention, in the hope that independence would mark the beginning of better things to come.
It was not until 2002 after the killing of Jonas Savimbi and routing of UNITA that the civil war ended and the working masses could now look forward to an improvement in their living conditions, as the ruling elite would no longer fall back on the excuse of war to hold back the task of developing the commanding sectors of the economy and meeting the needs and aspiration of the working masses. And a key factor to this is the oil-rich region of Cabinda with a population of 250,000 and geographically cut off from the other parts of Angola by Republic of Congo. The people of Cabinda had being in struggle for liberation from Portugal since 1960s. It was made a part of Angola with the independence of the latter from Portugal without consultation with Cabindans.
As socialists, while recognizing the right of any group of individuals to self-determination, we are however very critical of any methods that seek to divide the working masses against themselves. We hold that the unity and solidarity of the working masses is imperative in the overthrowing of capitalism, without which the struggle for self-determination on its own can become nothing but another means to give some few individuals the right, in the name of nationalism, to exploit the working masses at the altar of greed and profit.
It is from this point of view that socialists condemn the attack on the Togolese team. This attack has achieved nothing more than mere gaining of world-attention through the mass-media in a very negative light. If FLEC is banking on a situation where its attack and the attention it had generated would transform to a sort of pressure that would force the Angolan ruling elites to grant its demand, or act as a pressure on the so-called “international community” made up of leading imperialist nations to intervene in a way that the Angolan ruling elites would be humbled to grant the demand for independence for Cabinda, this in reality only amounts to a pipedream.
Such expectation is entirely naÄve and ignores the fact that both the Angolan ruling elites (including those from Cabinda) and imperialism are the main beneficiaries of the current status quo and exploitation of Cabinda. This scenario is not much at variance from the situation in Niger Delta oil-rich region of Nigeria, wherein years of neglect have resulted in armed militant groups, who attack oil installations and kidnap sometimes of even oil workers, ostensibly to fight for the liberation of the masses of the Delta region.
The weakness of the working class movement in the whole of Angola is the reason why groups like FLEC would still dictate the direction of struggle of Cabinda for liberation for a long time to come. But employing terrorism, as a method of struggle, has proved worldwide as only a path to a blind alley. The method of terrorism would only in the end bring more sufferings to the working masses of both Cabinda and Angola. It is the working people, irrespective of nationality, who are usually made to bear the brunt of what is entirely the fault of the ruling elites and their capitalist system.
Socialists have always prized the initiatives and actions of the working masses over and above the armed actions of individuals or groups of individuals. Such actions shut out the working masses and reduce them to spectators, when only their mass action alone can sufficiently guarantee the victory that would make it possible for capitalism to be overthrown and society to be transformed in a truly democratic and just fashion.
The current regime is not capable of permanently developing and transforming Angola into a state that can sufficiently meet the needs of all the working masses, even with Cabinda as part and parcel of Angola. There is need for a workers’ and farmers’ government that will nationalize the oil-industry and other commanding sectors of the economy, and place them on democratic control of the working people and not the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorship imposed on Angolan by the MPLA.
Moreover, on the basis of capitalism, FLEC cannot guarantee, on a lasting basis, the genuine liberation of people of Cabinda in term of social economic development and provision of basic needs of life. Besides, the method of terrorism being employed cannot in the first place guarantee the independence of Cabinda from Angola. To be meaningful to the socio-economic needs of the ordinary masses of Cabinda the struggle for self-determination has to be formulated to embrace total economic control over Cabinda’s oil resources. This approach will be ferociously resisted by both imperialism and the local capitalist elites. Consequently, it will be necessary for both the working masses of Cabinda and Angola to jointly struggle for the defeat of the Angola’s budding capitalists and their imperialist backers.
To a very large degree, the question of the liberation of Cabinda is only possible within the framework of a united working class programme that would mobilize and organize the working masses to lead and champion the struggle for the liberation of Cabinda. This also requires the creation of a political platform of workers, poor farmers, and other strata of the oppressed masses both within Cabinda and across the entire Angola, armed with a socialist programme, that struggles to defeat capitalism in order guarantee the use of the rich resources of Cabinda for the benefit of the working masses and society in general.
Also importantly, without the working masses of Cabinda seeking the solidarity and allying itself with the Angolan working masses, the liberation of Cabinda cannot come about or be sustained. There should also be a movement of working class people in Angola who struggle for a socialist transformation of the country and support the rights to self-determination for the working people of Cabinda. This will create an enabling condition for creation of a socialist federation of Angola and Cabinda which in turn should seek the overthrow of capitalism in countries like Congo (Brazzaville) and Congo (Kinshasa) for a possible socialist confederation of southern Africa.