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Africa will decide its own destiny

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu at an Ecowas crisis summit last month. Kola Sulaimon/AFP/Getty

There has been plenty of talk about the crisis in Niger turning into a “proxy skirmish” between America and Russia, says Nesrine Malik in The Guardian. Columnists point to the presence of Wagner mercenaries as evidence of “Russian mischief”, with the “diplomatic scrambling” by the US further entrenching the idea that Moscow and Washington will dictate the region’s fate. The reality is “more complicated, and perhaps even oddly hopeful”. First, Wagner is hardly establishing a pro-Russian regime in Niger. Its main concern is “economic piracy”: nabbing gold, diamonds and uranium. It’s an enabler rather than a cause of Africa’s recent uprisings; far more important factors are government weakness, military strength, and a “demographic bulge” of underemployed young people.

What’s more, neighbouring governments clearly want to stop this “contagion” of coups disrupting the continent’s prospects. As it stands, the airspace over Libya, Niger and Sudan is basically closed, making it harder to transport cargo and destabilising the region’s economy. The result has been an “unprecedented” response from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), threatening military action if democracy is not restored in Niger. Last week, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria warned that the alliance may have to intervene because “no one else will do it for us”. It was a “clear-eyed declaration” that Africans, not Moscow or Washington, will “plot the continent’s path”.