From Volume 37, Issue 7 of EIR Online, Updated Feb. 25, 2010
Africa News Digest

Coup in Asia-Allied Niger

Feb. 19 (EIRNS)—The African government of Niger was toppled in a coup yesterday. The nominal leader of the coup is a lower-ranking colonel. President Mamadou Tandja had made a large uranium deal with France during his eight years in office, and had made or was negotiating several more development deals with Asian nations. African countries that are collaborating economically with China and other Asian nations are being targetted by advocates of the British imperial financial system.

Last year, when Tandja moved to overturn the term limit which required that he leave office on Dec. 22, 2009, Western nations in the orbit of the British empire cut off aid to the very impoverished country, and encouraged the internal opposition. As soon as Tandja announced a referendum in July to change the constitution to allow extending his Presidency beyond two terms, the European Union suspended more than $600 million in annual budgetary support and development aid. On Dec. 22, the United States froze an estimated $50 million of non-humanitarian support. Because drought and pest infestations last year cut food production by 26%, this aid cutoff generated internal pressure against Tandja, which contributed to opening the way for the coup.

The coup has been widely condemned in Africa, since there had been negotiations, mediated by African institutions, between Tandja and the opposition. Senegal authorities announced Feb. 17 that President Abdulaye Wade had been named by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to oversee mediation efforts, and his foreign minister, Madicke Niang, was on the way there when the coup took place. Also, Nigerian Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar had been mediating on behalf of ECOWAS. South African President Jacob Zuma condemned the coup, and pointed out that efforts were underway to resolve the internal conflicts.

But the British press service Reuters asserted, the day after the coup, that it provides the best chance for elections. And Alex Vines, of Britain's Chatham House (home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs), came to the defense of those who carried out the coup, saying they were more professional than other military officers who have led coups in Africa. The Niger civilian opposition supported the coup, and the new military junta has assured the French state-owned nuclear group Areva, that it has nothing to worry about.

Will the British empire now be able to steer the country away from its newly developed Asian collaborators?

Niger: One of World Largest Uranium Producers

Feb. 19 (EIRNS)—Niger, most of whose territory is in the Sahara Desert, has large uranium reserves. It is the world's fourth-largest producer of uranium, as the second-largest deposit in the world is presently under development. Ousted President Tandja had begun several mammoth projects, worth billions of dollars, including a hydroelectric dam, an oil refinery, and what will be the largest uranium mine in Africa.

Niger is near the bottom on the UN's Human Development Index. Tandja brought a level of economic advancement which the country had never seen before. The French nuclear company Areva began working on a deposit last year, which is the largest in Africa. Areva has already invested $1.5 billion in the mine. This deal was expected to push Niger into the #2 spot of uranium producers in the world, behind Canada.

During Tandja's tenure, Korea, India, and China also became involved in Niger. Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) signed a deal with Areva to jointly develop a uranium mine in Niger. According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the latest deal came after the South Korean state-run power company purchased a 10% stake in the French group's subsidiary, Areva NC Expansion, which owns a 67% stake in the Imouraren mine in Niger, at an investment of 300 billion won ($258 million). In March, 2009, it was announced that Korea also bought 5% of a uranium mine in central Niger from China. This mine has a reserve of 13,000 tons, and is scheduled to begin production this year, with an initial output of 800 tons/year. Korea imports 97% of its minerals and energy; gets 40% of its power from nuclear plants; and is Asia's fourth-largest crude oil importer. An Indian company also had a mining permit in Niger.

In 2008, China National Petroleum Company signed a $5 billion deal for oil exploration in Niger, that was supposed to start producing this year. China is also involved in uranium in Niger.

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