(Washington Post): Both Russia and the West have been on the political offensive in Africa.
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News analysis. When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Cameroon this week, he accused the entire continent of being hypocritical.
Macron said that while Europe described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war, Africa was not clear.
– Macron said: I have seen a lot of hypocrisy, especially on the African continent.
He believed that diplomatic pressure could be a reason for silence.
The move came during a three-day trip to Africa. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had a very different message during his four-day trip to Africa this week. He praised Africa for its response to the war in Ukraine.
– We appreciate the well-thought-out attitude of Africa to the situation in and around Ukraine, wrote Lavrov in an article published in Egypt, Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia, the countries he visited.
– Lavrov wrote that our friends did not give in to pressure and joined the anti-Russian sanctions.
Not many wanted to choose a side
Simultaneous visits from the West and Russia illustrate the difficult reality of African countries. Not many wanted to choose a side in the war in Ukraine. Twenty-five out of 54 African countries did not want to say yes or no when the United Nations General Assembly voted in March to condemn Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country.
But whether they like it or not, Africa has been drawn into conflict. Many countries that previously suffered from the pandemic are now facing a food crisis.
African countries received a lot of grain from Ukraine. Now prices have risen dramatically because Russia has closed Ukraine’s ports.
High oil prices are also putting a strain on the finances of many families. Macron spoke about food prices in Cameroon. But he denied that he only visited the region because of the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s European sanctions affecting Africa aim to stop Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Macron said it was not intended to punish Africa. – France will help African countries to cope with the trauma that war brings. We will encourage local investment in agriculture so that food production will increase.
Lose hearts and minds
The United States said last week it would provide $1.3 billion in additional aid to the Horn of Africa. The background is drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. But current help from Europe may not be enough: an internal document from the EU delegation to the African Union states that “the conflict is causing the EU to lose the battle for Africa’s hearts and minds,” according to the Devex website.
African countries have been inundated with counterinformation backed by the Kremlin. The article written by Lavrov stated that the food crisis in Africa was partly due to Western sanctions against Russia. But he also blamed a global economic system that he claims supports the West at the expense of others.
– The propaganda of the West and Ukraine that Russia is “exporting hunger” is totally unfounded. In fact, this is another attempt to blame others, Lavrov wrote. He added that Russia would continue to “export foodstuffs, fertilizers, energy and other important commodities to Africa.”
It uses conspiracy theory
Russia tried to ally with Ethiopia – once a staunch ally of the West. Ethiopia’s relationship with the United States and Europe has been strained due to alleged human rights violations during the war in Tigray.
Russia refers to the plot of the “golden billion”, the elite in the West, to gain international favor. Lavrov addressed the African Union diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia on Wednesday. He offered them an anti-colonial interpretation of Moscow’s decision to invade Ukraine and the subsequent international protests.
– Lavrov said that I am sure that the vast majority of countries in the world do not want to live as if the colonial era has returned.
Cold War legacy?
Although Russia has no past as a colonial power in Africa, Moscow has a long-standing relationship with many countries. The reason is the Soviet Union’s support for countries during the Cold War.
Some of the countries that did not vote in the United Nations General Assembly did so because of anti-colonial movements that had close ties to the Soviet Union, according to an analysis.
Macron’s strongest argument against Russia may be his claim that the country is “one of the last empires with colonial power”.
The invasion of Ukraine is “a regional war, of the kind that we thought disappeared from European soil. It is a war from the beginning of the twentieth century to the nineteenth century,” the French president said in a speech in Benin on Wednesday.
Bring the soldiers home
France ends its operation to combat violent jihad in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. But Macron says they are nonetheless “deeply concerned” about security in Africa.
At the same time, Russian mercenaries, especially the Wagner Group, gained greater influence in West Africa. In 18 African countries you can now see the footprints of Russian mercenaries, According to CSIS Research Center. The mercenaries supported the coup plotters who seized power in Mali in 2020, while France withdraws from the country.
The majority has already voted against Russia
In fact, the majority of African countries condemned the Russian invasion during the vote in the United Nations General Assembly.
The three African representatives in the Security Council after the invasion voted that the war should end. Russia refused.
Kenya’s ambassador, Martin Kimani, compared Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine to the colonial era in Africa.
– This situation is like an echo of our history, Kimani said on February 22. Kenya and almost all other African nations were born when empires vanished.
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