Alliance of Sahel States: A breakthrough for pan-Africanism and decolonization
Heads of state of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali at the First Summit of Alliance of Sahel States. | Photo via Peoples Dispatch

The first inaugural summit of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) took place on July 6 and 7, confirming the new anti-imperialist confederation in Africa. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – the biggest states in the Sahel/West African region – have now officially broken away from the French and Western-controlled Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Last summer, People’s World reported on the recent coup that shook the region in Niger, at least the 10th coup in the area within the last 15 years, and how the policy choices of the respective new leaders were a significant departure from French neocolonial control. With this past weekend’s summit, it’s now officially a new power bloc in the region and the world.

Mali and Burkina Faso represent Africa’s third- and fourth-largest gold producers and maintain sizable deposits of copper and other rare earth minerals. Niger’s uranium deposits were powering one-third of all lightbulbs in France. Yet, 40% of Burkinabes live below the poverty level, and 80% of Nigerians don’t have electricity. In 2022, the UN reported that nearly 18 million people in the Sahel were at risk of starvation.

Including the hundreds of years of colonial and imperialist exploitation and oppression in the region, it was bound to explode in a backlash against AFRICOM and French control of the area. The explosion of far-right violence in the Sahel region after the NATO-backed overthrow of Libya fueled years of conflict and unrest. French and U.S. military interventions in the Sahel region only exacerbated the issues.

The three respective leaders of the Confederation – Assimi Goita (Mali), Ibrahim Traoré (Burkina Faso), and Abdourahamane Tchiani (Niger) – while all receiving some degree of U.S. military training, have gone against Western control of their region.

They have all denounced France and the U.S. specifically while crafting ties with Russia, Nicaragua, and China. Niger cut all uranium and gold exports to France last year, while Russia has forgiven 90% of Africa’s debt – $23 billion exactly – and given 50,000 tons of free grain to the Sahel region.

The three leaders all come from the military, which is why Western media has decried this movement as purely a coalition of military juntas. However, they’ve all engaged with and brought in the civilian sector. Burkina Faso’s current Prime Minister, Apollinaire Kyélem de Tambèla, is a renowned Marxist and Pan-Africanist who served with the famous revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara before his assassination, which many believe was supported by France.

In a speech at the summit, Traoré gave an electrifying speech, declaring, “[T]he imperialists see Africa as an empire of slaves.” He said they falsely and chauvinistically believe “Africans belong to them, our land belongs to them, our subsoils belong to them…this is deplorable…this is why we have decided to revolt and to take the fate of our countries in our own hands…we came to break the chains.”

During the summit of the AES, agreements were made to work towards financial sovereignty. The development of an investment bank that can be used rather than the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank was a key point.

With finance capital being the heart of imperialism, and the French financial system of the CFA Franc having a notorious reputation in the region, this could eventually be seen as a monumental step toward dismantling neocolonial systems of control.

The “free movement of peoples and goods” between the Confederation’s states was also agreed upon in order to foster economic and social development. These are the first steps in the long road of decolonizing Africa. The Pan-Africanist AES has chosen self-determination and sovereignty in the face of imperialism and colonialism.

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Matthew Hunter
Matthew Hunter

Matthew Hunter is the secretary of the Southeast Los Angeles Club of the CPUSA. He produces the Trending Now! Network on YouTube.