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Britain’s Hidden Helicopter War in Niger – Consortium News

As Niger expels U.S. troops, Declassified UK reveals British helicopters operated a taxi service for French forces in the uranium-rich African state, Phil Miller reports.

RAF Chinook helicopters land on HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth, 2018.(Defence Imagery, OGL, CC BY 2.0)

By Phil Miller
Declassified UK

  • The RAF flew 39 helicopter missions into Niger before first publicly mentioning them
  • Niger has been a “significant source” of uranium for EDF, the French company that runs Britain’s nuclear power plants

Royal Air Force helicopters flew more than 100 missions into Niger and Burkina Faso ahead of military coups across west Africa.

The revelation comes as Niger’s junta expelled U.S. forces on March 17. Thousands of French troops had already been kicked out last year following the coup.

America and France, the former colonial power, stationed troops in Niger throughout the war on terror in a supposed effort to stamp out attacks by Islamic extremists.

However their presence had become deeply unpopular after they failed to stop a surge in violence that spilled over from NATO’s toppling of Libya’s Gaddafi regime in 2011. 

[See: Niger, ECOWAS & Western Imperialism in Africa]

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries despite being a major supplier of uranium for nuclear power plants.

Little is known about British involvement with France’s failed counter-terrorism campaign in Niger. The RAF only made a one reference in passing to the Niger sorties in a wider press release about a deployment to Mali. 

It said the twin-rotor Chinook helicopters 

“first arrived in West Africa during July 2018 to provide a heavy lift helicopter support capability to [France’s] Op Barkhane. The Chinooks therefore regularly carry out troop movements, resupply missions and logistical support to the French forward operating bases and desert locations around Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.”

RAF engineer servicing an RAF Chinook Ch-47 helicopter deployed to Mali in support of the French-led Operation Barkhane, August 2018. (Royal Air Force, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

While most publicity focused on the Chinook operations in Mali, their cross-border flights largely escaped scrutiny.

Declassified has found that RAF Chinooks flew 57 sorties into Niger from Mali between February 2019 and June 2022, and a further 58 into Burkina Faso. The data was disclosed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The RAF did not publicly mention the Niger sorties until mid-2021, by which time Chinooks had flown 39 missions into the country.

Records show there were up to three cross-border sorties a day, transporting dozens of French troops and tonnes of supplies. Based at Gao in a remote region of Mali, the Chinooks flew to Niger’s capital and parts of Burkina Faso, at a cost of more than £13 million per year.

(Declassified UK/ Created with Datawrapper)


All three countries have recently seen military coups, largely in protest at the failure of Western interventions to bring stability. The coups worried NATO elites who feared Russia’s Wagner group would fill the vacuum and jeopardise uranium supplies.

French state-owned energy giant EDF, which runs all of Britain’s nuclear power plants, told a U.K. parliamentary committee months after the coup: 

“Canada and Kazakhstan make up over 50 percent of our uranium ore supply. Niger remains a significant source, but due to the recent instability our large supply chain has been flexed to cover any disruption and no issues have been seen.”

Energy security minister Andrew Bowie was initially unable to tell MPs where Britain obtained its uranium, as “the sourcing of fuel for the U.K.’s operational civil nuclear power plants is a commercial decision for the plant operator”.

British troops pulled out of Mali in November 2022 following an anti-Western coup, ending all Chinook operations in the Sahel region. Niger’s military staged its coup last July and immediately indicated French troops would have to leave. 

Abdoul Kader Amadou Mossi, from the Diaspora Association of Niger Republic Nationals in the United Kingdom (Darn-UK), said: “We want the French army out of Niger.”

Speaking to Declassified from a protest outside the French embassy in London, he explained: “Despite their presence, the terrorists are killing a lot of people. There is no peace in our country.”

He added: 

“Before NATO intervened in Libya, our African leaders, especially my president, had approached Barack Obama and Western leaders to catch their attention that they should not intervene in Libya because…it’s going to affect the whole region. They didn’t listen to him…and after Gaddafi died, the regime has fallen but there’s no peace any more.”

Phil Miller is Declassified UK’s chief reporter. He is the author of Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes. Follow him on Twitter at @pmillerinfo

This article is from Declassified UK.

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COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage — World Health Organization African Region, 2021–2023 | MMWR – CDC


Despite the improved supply of COVID-19 vaccine starting by late 2021, coverage in the African Region increased slowly. Regional coverage with a primary series reached 32% in 2023, with 38% of the population receiving ≥1 dose. Among the subset of countries that reported coverage for high-risk groups, 48% of health care workers and 52% of older adults received a primary series. Variation in coverage among countries was substantial. Four (9%) of the 47 countries in the region achieved the WHO target of 70% primary series coverage in the total population in 2022 (Liberia, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Seychelles); 29 (62%) countries reported primary series total population coverage <40%. Eritrea has not introduced COVID-19 vaccines, and Burundi delayed introduction in the general population and focused on vaccination of health care workers.

Several reasons likely account for low coverage with COVID-19 vaccines, including limited political commitment, logistical challenges, low perceived risk of COVID-19 illness, and variation in vaccine confidence and demand (3). Country immunization program capacity varies widely across the African Region. Challenges include weak public health infrastructure, limited number of trained personnel, and lack of sustainable funding to implement vaccination programs, exacerbated by competing priorities, including other disease outbreaks and endemic diseases as well as economic and political instability. The total population for each country was used as the denominator for vaccination coverage calculations. However, the eligible population for COVID-19 vaccination differed among countries; most countries targeted persons aged ≥16 or ≥18 years, but some countries vaccinated persons aged ≥5 years. In countries with large populations aged <18 years, meeting coverage targets was not possible (7).

Vaccination of high-priority groups remains critical for optimizing the impact of COVID-19 vaccines (4). Morbidity and mortality are highest among older adults and those with comorbidities (5), yet only two countries in the African Region have achieved >70% coverage among older age groups. The low coverage emphasizes the importance of targeted approaches to generate demand and address population concerns and of new delivery strategies to reach high-priority groups.

In May 2023, the public health emergency of international concern was officially declared over by WHO (8). In October 2023, SAGE recommended using a simplified primary vaccination series of a single dose of any COVID-19 vaccine and updated recommendations on revaccination for high-priority groups (5). SAGE recommended the continued prioritization of high-risk groups as described in the updated SAGE roadmap (5). The recommendations also reinforced the need for sustainable programs and COVID-19 vaccination integration into primary health care and other relevant services. The aim was to optimize resources and build sustainable immunization delivery platforms throughout the life course in alignment with the Immunization Agenda 2030 goals (9).

In November 2023, the Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group for the African Region endorsed the SAGE recommendations, encouraging countries to continue COVID-19 vaccination as aligned with national priorities (10). Many countries in the African Region are integrating COVID-19 vaccination into their routine health services and exploring new entry points for vaccinating high-priority populations as part of primary care and other relevant services, including through multiantigen periodic intensified routine immunization activities.


The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, immunization coverage estimates are based primarily on administrative data, which might contain inaccuracies resulting from errors in recording doses administered or in population estimates. Second, although reporting is highly encouraged, in 2023, many countries stopped reporting COVID-19 vaccination data because of competing priorities. In addition, fewer than one half of the countries are reporting doses administered among high-priority groups, including doses for health care workers and older persons. Finally, population estimates for high-priority groups are available only in some countries in the African Region, making assessing coverage challenging.

Implications for Public Health Practice

The African Region has low COVID-19 vaccination coverage. Community engagement is needed to better understand drivers of vaccine confidence and develop more targeted strategies to improve vaccine demand (4). Integration of COVID-19 vaccination into routine immunization and primary health care services would help build sustainability and support recovery of routine immunization services (9). Strengthening adult immunization platforms would contribute to pandemic preparedness and global disease prevention goals (4). To protect vulnerable populations and prevent additional COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in the African Region, progress must continue to be made in vaccination of priority populations at highest risk for disease.

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After the euphoria of Nelson Mandela’s election, what happened next? Podcast – The Conversation

It was a moment many South Africans never believed they’d live to see. On 10 May 1994, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of a democratic South Africa, ending the deadly and brutal white minority apartheid regime.

To mark 30 years since South Africa’s post-apartheid transition began, The Conversation Weekly podcast is running a special three-part podcast series, What happened to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa?

In the first episode, two scholars who experienced the transition at first hand reflect on the initial excitement around Mandela’s election, the priorities of his African National Congress (ANC) in the transition and the challenges that lay ahead for South Africa as it set out to define its post-apartheid future.

In the months leading up to South Africa’s 1994 elections, Steven Friedman was seconded to work in the monitoring division of the Independent Electoral Commission. It was a tense period, he remembers:

The actual experience of working in the commission was incredibly challenging, I think, for everybody involved, and quite scary at times … I remember looking down from my office at the street where large numbers of Inkatha Freedom Party members were marching in an attempt in effect to stop the election, and wondering whether they were going to storm the building.

The Inkatha Freedom Party didn’t storm the building, but there was a lot of pre-election violence and an estimated 20,000 people were killed.

Today, Friedman is a professor of political studies at the University of Johannesburg and an expert in South Africa’s political transition. In his work, he’s argued that the role of the ANC in overthrowing apartheid has been overblown.

To be blunt, the ANC didn’t liberate the country … it was a combination of a variety of factors … I’m not saying they played no role at all, but I think it was common among ANC people at the time, and I think remains part of ANC mythology, to vastly overestimate the ANC’s role in internal resistance.

Friedman says it’s “easy to romanticise” Mandela, but he stresses he was hugely important in the transition.

Mandela played a huge role at the time, but he’s not coming back. And as long as we expect somebody like him to come back, we remain in a cul de sac … The downside to the Mandela phenomenon is that we spent a lot of time over the last 30 years, particularly when things got bad, really blaming the fact that the Messiah is no longer here.

A new kind of security

One of the biggest challenges facing the new ANC-led government after 1994 was reform of the security services, which had enforced the brutal apartheid regime under a highly militarised state. Sandy Africa, an associate professor of political sciences at the University of Pretoria, explains that “violence had been so integral to upholding the apartheid system.” A former student activist and ANC member, Africa was brought into the new ANC administration as head of a training facility called the Intelligence Academy.

By the time that the 1990s arrived, there began to emerge a consensus that in a democratic society, the security forces would have to play a very different role. That was certainly not a repressive one, but one where they really served as protectors of the people and their rights and their interests.

Africa says that there were real fears that the security forces would reject the changes. “If there was going to be a coup from any quarter, it would have been from that quarter,” she says, but in the end “the enlightened forces prevailed”.

Fears of those who thought that they had too much to lose were assuaged by sunset clauses – essentially promises that they would have relatively soft landings, that there would be no retribution for the atrocities committed under apartheid, and that, in fact, reconciliation would be the order of the day, rather than anything else.

Listen to interviews with Steven Friedman and Sandy Africa on The Conversation Weekly in the first episode of our What happened to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa? series.

A transcript of this episode will be available shortly.

Disclosure statement

Steven Friedman and Sandy Africa do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Newsclips in this episode from SABC News and AP News.

Special thanks for this series to Gary Oberholzer, Jabulani Sikhakhane, Caroline Southey and Moina Spooner at The Conversation Africa. This episode of The Conversation Weekly was written and produced by Mend Mariwany, with production assistance from Katie Flood. Gemma Ware is the executive producer. Sound design was by Eloise Stevens, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Stephen Khan is our global executive editor, Alice Mason runs our social media and Soraya Nandy does our transcripts.

You can find us on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or contact the podcast team directly via email. You can also subscribe to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

Listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed or find out how else to listen here.

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Here what happened to NFTs – Techpoint Africa

Before Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) came along, it was uncommon to see a picture publicly available on the Internet worth more than a house or a sports car. But this was exactly what happened when NFTs took the Internet by storm in 2021.

From crypto events to news headlines, NFTs were the most talked about crypto innovation in 2021.

Stories about The Merge, an NFT collection, which sold for $91.8m had the world talking about NFTs.

Another artwork called Everydays: the First 5000 Days by Michael Winkelmann, was sold as an NFT for $61 million.


Nigeria’s Anthony Azekwo also got his big break as an artist when he decided to sell his digital art as NFTs.

The NFT trend continued into 2022 with a viral coffin dance meme featuring Ghanaian pallbearers selling for $1 million,.

These stories fuelled people’s  interest in NFTs and it seemed the trend wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but discussions about NFTs died down before the end of 2022.

Dune Analytics revealed in September 2022 that NFTs had lost 97% of their trading volume, going from $17 billion in January 2022 to $470 million by September 2022.

NFTs went from the most talked about innovation to having nothing said about them. One can’t but wonder what happened to NFTs; are they dead? In this article, we’ll look at what happened to the NFT trend, and what the future promises for digital art.

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What happened to NFTs?

Michael Ugwu, CEO of FreeMe Digital and an early investor in NFTs, believes NFTs are dead, but there’s a context to the death.

He explains that the relationship between crypto and NFTs is the reason it seems NFTs are dead.

“NFTs are literally just following the crypto, the wider cycle.” 

This means that the performance of NFTs is dependent on the situation with the crypto market.

In 2021 when NFTs were the talk of the town, bitcoin was at an all-time high (ATH) of $69,000. A bitcoin ATH, in most cases, automatically means that the crypto market is in a bull run.

And 2021 was a bull run, the market cap for the entire crypto industry was at its highest of $2.9 trillion before the FTX crash of 2022 decimated the market.

NFTs were also in a bull run. Ugwu spent about $10,000 on NFT collections such as the CryptoPunks — which now have a starting price of $153,000 — and Bored Ape Yacht Club with a current $42,000 starting price.

But unlike crypto, NFTs are illiquid assets. This means that NFT trading could be very difficult in a bear crypto market.

Explaining, Ugwu says cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and USDT can always be sold even in a bear run, but selling NFTs becomes more difficult.

“For bitcoin and ethereum, you can keep selling because there’s always a willing buyer, but with NFTs, it is like trying to sell a car.”

The global economy and art speculators

While NFTs follow the same trajectory as crypto, their survival also depends on the state of the global economy. Crypto enthusiast and writer Patrick McGimpsey believes the state of the global economy towards the close of 2022 played a role in NFTs’ decline.

In his article for Forbes, Patrick McGimpsey says, “the NFT boom coincided with economic uncertainty, with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in higher inflation, interest rates and tighter monetary policy,”

But beyond the crypto and economic downturn, the NFT market also got saturated with people who wanted to make quick money; it went from appreciation of art to speculation.

The saturation of the market with subpar NFT projects could have caused the decline of NFTs.  

But for Ugwu, NFTs go beyond making a quick buck. He is perhaps the largest collector of Nigerian NFT artworks such as that of Azekwoh and Prince Jacon Osinachi.

On the Techpoint Africa Podcast, he discusses how transformational NFTs were for these artists.

NFTs made it possible for local artists to get international recognition and appreciation for their work, something that is very difficult to achieve.

In his view, NFTs broke the physical boundaries that limit the work of local artists almost the same way streaming platforms did for African music.

“It is hard to find an international buyer in the traditional art market. And then if you do, how do you arrange payment?”

NFTs simplify the whole process from the discovery of the artwork to payment with the help of the blockchain. Artists can list their work on NFT platforms and interested buyers pay for them with cryptocurrencies, which are not bound by geography.

This is why Osinachi became “probably the first black artist to actually have an auction with Christie’s, a very famous auction house in the UK,” Uguwu says.

Just like this article explains, what people pay for is not just digital art, but proof of ownership of the piece which is secured on the blockchain.

 Are NFTs coming back?

“NFTs do well when people get crypto rich.”

This is Ugwu’s way of saying NFTs will come back when the crypto market bounces back.

Many crypto enthusiasts and traders believe the market is in a bull run especially as bitcoin reached a new ATH of $72,000 in March 2024.  

Although there isn’t much NFT action yet, Statista predicts that the market could be valued as high as $2.3 billion this year, and even grow at a rate of 10% every year to reach $3.38 billion by 2024.

McGimpsey corroborates these predictions with a look at the current state of the market. According to him some of the biggest NFT projects that pioneered the sale of digital artwork still retain most of their value.

But the true value of NFTs goes beyond digital art. They have the potential to create use cases in the real world such as the sale of real estate and a way to prove ownership.

And for artists who think they have missed the NFT train, the trend could come again, so get your digital canvas and paintbrush ready.

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