Africa is waking up and the Global South is on the rise
China stands out as a model that is gaining global traction – not by being invoked by regimes and governments to justify their authoritarian rule, as it was in the past, but by infiltrating public opinion.
On the surface, there is no direct relationship between the series of coups/revolutions in Africa and the unprecedented ascendency of BRICS, especially since the historic Johannesburg summit.
The summit was distinguished by the attendance of over 40 heads of state, but BRICS chose to limit its membership for the most part and admit only six new nations, at least at this stage. However, under the surface, we find a causal relationship between the rapid developments in Africa and the rise of the Global South.
Were it not for influential BRICS powers China and Russia managing to extend their influence over vast areas of the African continent and their growing power to provide economic, security, and military alternatives, and indeed, offering a political umbrella to new African leaders, we would not have witnessed this multi-episode series of military coups with broad popular support, nor would the concerned leader have been able to pose the challenge to old-new colonialism that we have witnessed in certain Sahelo-Saharan countries in particular. The events unfolding in West Africa and the Sahelo-Saharan region today are a testing ground, and for the first time since the end of the Cold War and the rise of the unipolar world order, it is succeeding in revealing the features of a new multipolar order.
Each of the coups the continent has witnessed during the past three years has its own story and narrative and its own political and security circumstances, which is only natural and understandable. However, this does not at all diminish the significance of the common factors that unite them, the most important of which are four:
First: Most of the coups generated massive popular traction. They may not have been the product of popular revolution, but they did serve as the spark that ignited a surge of popular outrage directed primarily against Western colonial powers, especially France. Not content with having plundered and looted the resources of these nations, some of them – like Niger – for over two centuries, France still dreams of prolonging its control, plunder, and looting for years and decades to come. The truth is that Africa's new coups are not 'alone of their kind.' Consider how many coups led to comprehensive political, economic, and social revolutions (a shining example being the July 23, 1952, Egyptian revolution) and how many of them arrived on the shoulders of a revolution only to abort it.
Second: The 'democratic' systems built in these countries decades post-'independence' were extremely fragile and fake in both form and substance. 'Westernized' local forces that were reared in the colonizers' embrace and often served their interests and strategies became integrated into these structures. Gabon, in particular, provides a glaring example of this. Its 'procedural democracy', which was a sham in both form and substance, enabled the father-son Bongo dynasty to rule the country with a corrupt, iron fist for over half a century. But this veneer of democracy was quickly exposed as a deplorable farce that was, as always, approved, heralded, and engineered by the old colonial power that still casts its pall over the country, its people, and its resources.
Third: Some regional African organizations that are supposed to oversee the affairs of the continent or certain regions of it to further public interest in terms of living conditions, economics, livelihood, and security – especially ECOWAS – have shown 'Parisian' inclinations. As a result, they have been leading weapons in the Sick Man of Europe's war to preserve its colonies and means of enrichment for its companies and nuclear reactors.
Not only have these organizations proven too fragile to withstand the heavy winds of change blowing across the continent, but the division over Niger within ECOWAS augurs a regional war in the heart of Africa should the organization's military council cling to its position and decide to wage war against Niger. As if it were not enough that some countries support war-mongering, other nations are threatening to beat the war drums in retaliation should the unthinkable happen.
Fourth: The West refuses to abandon its old-new habits. It is once again exercising double standards. There are 'good' coups that can be tolerated and do not attract censure stemming from 'the deepest concerns for democracy and human rights,' as in the case of Gabon. Then there are the bad, evil coups that warrant mobilizing armies, waging wars, enforcing embargoes and boycotts, and engaging in various forms of demonization, as in the case of Niger. The West, and France especially, have forgotten that their soft stance towards the Gabon coup has stripped their harsh stance towards Niger of any meaning or substance. These double standards and hypocrisy have landed softly on the generals of Niger.
In Africa, as in other places, the West continues to invoke the old rules of the game at every turn: Colonialism begets colonialism, and colonialism inherits colonialism, with no mercy for 'allies' should they display signs of weakness, as is the case with France today. We saw this happen in our region in the 1950s and 60s, when Washington replaced London and Paris in controlling the fates of our nations. The same thing is happening today with the U.S.'s effort to supplant France in its old colonies. The dispute between Paris and Washington (and some other European capitals) over Africa is on the verge of becoming public, and President Macron is practically choking on the gag of his allies' betrayal.
As a side note, here we recall another experience of abandonment, but this time in Lebanon, where Mr. Le Drian is struggling to jump over the obstacles installed by his Quintet [US, France, Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia] allies, including Washington, perhaps having to expend even more difficult and arduous efforts than he will have to make with the parties to the Lebanese crisis.
In any case, Africa has nothing to lose if it tries to break the shackles of its old-new colonizers and their instruments and regimes that were engineered in Paris. No development has been achieved despite the passage of fifty or sixty-odd years since achieving independence, nor have true democratic systems been established that meet the people's aspirations for freedom and dignity. The cities of oil, gas, and uranium-producing African nations wallow in darkness, while lights flooding the cities of colonizing powers practically turn night into day, without anyone batting an eye.
We are not supporters of military coups, nor will we ever be. And we are not, nor will we ever be, proponents of doctrines that advocate military intervention in politics and economics. However, in countries whose societies lack the factors of change or the instruments and means to effect it, change – whether for better or for worse - remains contingent on the only organized power: The military.
And while we are also not proponents of the doctrine of 'a just authoritarian' and we still believe that democracy, although not a perfect system, is the best system that humanity has found to date, we nevertheless cannot turn a blind eye to the sign of profound shift in the mood of global public opinion, especially in the Global South. Its nations now prioritize development and stability, along with a reasonable level of governance, over the volatile democratic experiments that have failed to bring development or freedom. They have been like plants unable to sprout or hold ground.
On that note, China stands out as a model that is gaining global traction – not by being invoked by regimes and governments to justify their authoritarian rule, as it was in the past, but by infiltrating public opinion among nations that have grown tired of chaos, poverty, and regression while suffering from severe underdevelopment, often without gaining freedom and democracy. In the Arab world, as well as Africa and central Asia, there are many examples that illustrate this, which make it very difficult indeed to herald a new wave of democracy – especially while democracy faces its most critical tests in its nations of origin.
In these circumstances, Africa is awakening in tandem and in sync with the rise of the Global South. True, the game is still in its early stages and its outcomes are yet unknown, but it is also true that the new world has begun to raise its head again, this time from Johannesburg, the Sahelo-Saharan countries, and West Africa.
While the first birth pangs of the new world appeared in Ukraine with the war against it, it is not unlikely for the process to be completed on the shores of Taiwan and in Chinese territory and waters.