THIS week has been one of the most tumultuous with the plucking of Wagner chiefs from the sky, France’s renewed bid to invade Niger and fires thrashing North America, to the dramatic rescue of Pakistani school children after 16 hours of dangling from a broken cable car hundreds of metres above a ravine.
The week beginning August 20, 2023 found the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, reduced to a weather forecaster constantly threatening brimstones over Niger Republic and withdrawing the threats with declarations for peaceful means of reversing the Nigerien July 26 coup. The less active African Union, playing the same role as ECOWAS, became a louder voice.
The reality that Africans are not ready to shed the blood of their brothers and sisters in Niger finally dawned on France. It therefore decided to carry out the invasion itself. So, on Monday it approached Algeria for permission to use its airspace to invade Niger.
An enraged Algeria must have been quite hurt that France, which massacred some two million Algerians in an effort to annex the country, would insult it by making such a request. It immediately made public the satanic request of imperialist France, a country that has for over four centuries, stolen resources from Africa. What was Macron’s France thinking by approaching Algeria, a country it invaded in 1830 and has always tried to exploit?
While the coup plotters in Niger might have had narrow intentions, the desperate international attempts to reverse the coup has resulted in an unprecedented anti-imperialist sentiment sweeping through Africa. Not even in the days of Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Ben Bella, Patrice Lumumba, Felix Moumie and Albert Luthuli were such sentiments so strong.
In North America, the wildfires are a powerful reminder that nature can be quite stubborn, so we need to do all in our power to live in harmony with it, including taking climate change serious. This Tuesday, over 1,000 wildfires were raging through Canada alone with 650 of them acknowledged to be out of control. This week, that country has lost over 37.8 million acres to the fires. But the Canadian situation is better than the fires razing through Maui, Hawai where with over 1,000 persons missing in those fires; the official body count this Sunday was 115 killed and 850 persons missing.
As noted earlier, Asia produced the good news of eight persons, including six school children snatched from the jaws of death when their cable car hung high in the sky. India also added the good news of landing in the moon, while the news from Cambodia is that after being in office for 38 years, Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped down while his eldest son, Hun Manet, stepped up to replace him. The new Prime Minister was seven years old when his father was sworn in as the Cambodian leader in 1985.
Meanwhile, some of the most dramatic sketches are playing out in Thailand. Former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by the anti-democracy and pro-monarchy military on September 19, 2006, returned from 15 years in exile to serve an eight-year jail sentence. You can be sure that his August 22, 2023 return is part of a political script; he was checked into a hospital, and same day his preferred candidate, Srettha Thavisin, was voted the new Prime Minster.
The leader of the Russian mercenary Wagner group had suddenly resurfaced on social media on Monday apparently speaking from somewhere in Africa. He and six other Wagner leaders, including 53-year old co-founder, Dmitry Utkin, boarded one of his private jets from Moscow, and half an hour later, the aircraft fell from the sky. Given the drone attacks by Ukraine in the past days, it could have been friendly fire. Whatever it was, the Wagner chiefs had made a fatal error in deciding to mutiny and march on Moscow on June 24, 2023 and then suddenly withdrawing. The only elevation a failed mutineer, especially in the military tradition, can hope to get is promotion to heaven.
But the most awaited event in the week was the August 22-24 summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, famously known by its acronym: BRICS. Although BRICS says its aims are to promote peace, security, development and cooperation leading to a more equitable and fair world, its clear objective is to create a new system in opposition to the dominant Euro-American world. It is to create a counter weight to the unipolar world. A world dominated by the United States, its allies and institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Trade Organisation, WTO, which they control. BRICS aims to change a world in which the dollar is the reserve currency and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, is the world’s policeman.
To give a sense of their formidable weight, host President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said the five BRICS members make up a quarter of the global economy, a fifth of global trade and more than 40 per cent of world population. BRICS had before its summit, listed over 40 countries said to have expressed interest in working with it or becoming members.
One of the major issues at this 15th Summit was the issue of expanding membership with some BRICS nations expressing caution. This was resolved in favour of expansion and six of the over 20 countries that applied for membership were admitted. These include three hitherto staunch allies of the US: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, UAE; and Egypt. Also admitted is Iran, a country with a streak of anti-Americanism, Argentina and Ethiopia. They became full members in January 2024. With these new additions, the building of BRICS brick by brick on the foundation of the five founding countries, have begun. It is unclear if a change of name is in the offing.
The summit itself focused on global recession, international trade, food, climate change and international security.
Ramaphosa in reflecting on his country’s Apartheid nightmare, said: “We have always believed that the freedom we won – and the international solidarity from which we benefited – imposes a duty on us to support the struggles of those who continue to experience colonialism and racial oppression. That is why we will continue to support the struggles of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara.”
BRICS may eventually float its own currency which in contrast to the euro, would be more universally acceptable and used. A vastly expanded BRICS would signal the decline of the dollar and the American Empire. However, the US will not go down without a fight; so we have to prepare for a world of wild fires lit by a declining world power.