At the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019, Vladimir Putin hosted 43 African leaders — more than the number attending similar summits in the UK or France. Even back then, at the Sochi summit, the Russian president criticized the West for imposing “political or other conditions” on African states in order to break them away from Russia.
Today, this pressure is even greater as the West does its best to force countries in Africa to abandon economic and other cooperation with Russia. This notion was stated by Oleg Ozerov, head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, at a round table in the Federation Council on “Inter-regional cooperation of constituent entities of the Russian Federation with African countries” on May 23. “We see tremendous pressure being exerted on our African partners, including South Africa, which results in their hesitation and inconsistency, and all of this is to break them away from Russia, to close any possibility of developing economic relations with us,” he said. Ozerov further remarked: “US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already toured seven African countries, now German Chancellor Olaf Scholz <…> is going to both South Africa and Senegal <…> to try and push African countries to refuse to cooperate with Russia.”
As reported in the African media, this pressure from the West is not only directed at the political and economic sphere, but also at Africa’s religious relations with Russia. For example, several clerics who defected to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) from the Alexandria Patriarchate are now in prison, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, announced at a press conference on May 23 following his first overseas visit to Uganda. Specifically, he noted: “In Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, criminal cases have been filed against our clerics. And only because they stand up for the canonical rules and laws of Ecumenical Orthodoxy.” The African Exarch added that many African clerics who have defected to the ROC have been denied temples in which they could hold services.
Despite such demonstrative pressure from the West on various fronts, half of the African states shy away from condemning Russia over the situation around Ukraine and refuse to join the anti-Russian sanctions. The March 2 vote at the UN General Assembly on a resolution condemning Russia’s launching of a special operation to denazify Ukraine showed that out of 54 African countries, only closely aligned countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, Rwanda, Djibouti, Somalia and the Congo supported the “collective West.” 17 African states abstained and eight did not turn up. One country, Eritrea, even voted openly against. To the West’s particular displeasure, even South Africa, billed as a “showcase of true values,” not only failed to criticize Russia, but introduced an alternative “Western” resolution on the situation in Ukraine at the UN.
By demanding that African countries condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the West has resorted to threats and blackmail, Russian Ambassador to Angola Vladimir Tararov told RIA Novosti. “Take note of the fact that when voting for the anti-Russian resolution at the UN General Assembly, almost all African countries voted neutrally, i.e. abstained. This means that they did not support the resolution but did not dare to vote against it because the pressure was extraordinary,” Tararov said. He called such behavior by Western states immoral.
The Bangkok Post also highlighted in early April that 16 African countries refused to vote or voted against UN condemnation of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine. Moreover, African countries such as Mali, Uganda and Eritrea have endorsed the special operation in Ukraine, while the CAR, Benin and South Africa have openly expressed support for the Kremlin’s actions. Among the reasons for this situation, the publication recalled that Russia had been actively providing military and economic aid to a number of African countries in recent years. In addition, many states have strong ties with Russia as a successor to the USSR, which actively helped African countries to fight the imperialism of European states. The liberation parties that still rule Angola, Mozambique (whose flag, incidentally, bears a Kalashnikov assault rifle), Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe saw in Moscow an ally in their struggle to end Western rule. None of the African countries perceive Russia as an enemy, a former colonizer or a potential hegemon, and therefore have not imposed sanctions on Russia. The positions of Russia and most African countries are conceptually similar on many issues.
Western pressure on African countries has limited the number of avenues that Moscow at its disposal to engage with partners and states there that are directly dependent on Russian supplies of food and services. In fact, the manipulation of the collective West has provoked famine in many parts of the world, including Africa. This was the opinion of the independent UN expert, Alioune Tine, president and founder of the Senegalese center Africajom. “We call for the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions, which are having an utterly disastrous effect on the countries of Africa. I ask Europeans to show some common sense and stop imposing restrictive measures on Moscow, as this leads to hunger, energy problems, fuel shortages. We are already starting to face all these restrictions, so we need to stop what Europe and the US have done,” Alioune Tine concluded.
Foreign Policy also writes about the active desire of the US and the European Union to isolate Moscow and to attract as many states as possible to their coalition, stressing that in Africa such a policy faces a wall of incomprehension. Such Western actions, the publication admits, have already revived discussions in African political circles on the need to bring back the Non-Aligned Movement that existed during the Cold War. This would avoid dragging the two camps into a confrontation.
In their anti-Russian pressure on African countries, the US and its Western allies make no secret of their concern about Russia’s efforts to play a prominent role in Africa, something Moscow has already achieved in the Middle East. There, Russia has already succeeded in building a balanced partnership with all the regional centers of power and has earned the right to take decisions on major regional issues. Such activity by Russia, its successes in Syria, the qualitative strengthening of its partnership with Egypt and its intensified involvement in Libya have opened the door to Africa. The Dark Continent saw Moscow as a player who would not abandon allies and friends, who could help to strengthen sovereignty, diversify foreign policy, avoid becoming dependent on other external players or weakening it, and who did not seek to establish its own hegemony in the Middle East and Africa.
In his Russophobic rhetoric, the President of the European Commission claims that Russia is allegedly a “direct threat to world order.” This is the most serious accusation against Moscow in a very long period and a very dangerous one, demonstrating racial animosity and an affinity with neo-fascism. The same West did not consider the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, or the unceremonious US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the organization of color revolutions around the world to be a “threat to world order.” Nor did it consider as such the killing of Gaddafi and the destruction of Libya.
In its history, Russia has shown that it is capable not only of defending itself and its people, but also of fighting for others, including colonized and plundered peoples. It saved the world from Nazism, paying the terrible price of 25 million men, women and children. However, today, as the efforts of the US and its allies are reviving Nazism in Ukraine, the “collective West” is trying its best to prevent Russia from winning a new victory over the neo-fascist ideology of the Kiev rulers. And in this opposition to Moscow, Washington is trying to involve the African continent by spreading fake information about Russia’s policies and actions, limiting Russia’s political, economic, cultural and religious ties with Africa.
Today, however, the world has changed profoundly and no longer allows a handful of West dealmakers to take back control of the world and the minds of people of the Earth. Therefore, such attempts by the West and its anti-Russian phobias, including on the African continent, are doomed to fail. This is evident in the reaction of the African states, which in this confrontation are siding more and more strongly with Moscow.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.