26 September 2022
Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-large, Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum
As was announced several days ago, on 13th September, the second Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, with me having the privilege to be the Head of its Secretariat, was scheduled for the next summer of 2023. An Organizing Committee headed by Yuri Ushakov, aide of the President of the Russian Federation, was established to get ready therefor.
This summit is supposed to give a new impetus to the African-Russian political, trade and economic, investment, scientific and technical as well as humanitarian co-operation and thus, turn it even more integrated and comprehensive in nature.
Though a careful analysis of the information from other international actors within the framework of preparations for the Forum obliges us to state that there are forces in the world that stand against such a full-fledged and mutually beneficial cooperation of African States with Russia, and what is remarkable, those actors themselves are not Africans.
A statement of Josep Borrell, Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, that has been published on the EU website, as well as a number of his statements made during his recent travels to Mozambique, Kenya and Somali when he snatched an opportunity to accuse Russia of all the world troubles and called on the African partners to construct a closer cooperation with Europe have come into particular notice.
Mr. Borrell reduced his arguments to four postulates with each being worth of special mention.
The European diplomat claims that the Russian special military operation is an example of “the 19th century type of cruel imperialism that Africa suffered.” Now, says Josep Borrell, Europe, heaving dealt with its responsibility for what happened in Africa at that time, has a full moral right to fight against Russia hand-in-hand with the Africans that have been oppressed for decades, and build an “international rules-based order.”
What is more, as has always been the case with our Western opponents, they do not burden themselves with the explanation of the rules they have in mind while rapidly sliding over the UN Charter without clarifying in what way those rules differ from the universal norms of international law that have been regularly violated through the recent decades in Iraq, Libya or other regions and have not been zealously protected by them with regard to Syria and the Palestinians. It is obvious, however, that those rules are not the UN Charter if they are spoken of separately. A question arises, “Who has written those rules and for whom?” As far as they are not deciphered anywhere or presented as a sound document that would be signed by its authors and the States in agreement, then there is a steady perception that they are being made up by the Western countries to fit their own assigned tasks, and can be modified to their emerging convenience on any occasion.
The Western European agenda proposed along with the “rule-based world order” raises many questions. Together with declarative slogans about democracy and human rights, there are a gender “saga” with the rejection of the natural division of the sexes, which is ambiguously accepted in the world, a total digitalization without the necessary level of information security and more. We should also mention the universally imposed green agenda, which limits developing countries in their efforts to create a solid energy base for electrification and industrialization. For example, the European Parliament recently demanded that the construction of the East African oil pipeline be halted on the pretext of human rights violations and threats to the environment. It is indicative that the European Union, while calling on African states to reduce harmful gas emissions, is itself returning to “dirty energy” amid deepening energy shortages.
It is worth noting, any actor in international relations, which does not accept these attitudes, automatically falls into the category of “autocratic” and they try to isolate and weaken it as much as possible.
Today, using Russia as an example, we are witnessing how the West is trying to deprive sovereign states of their independence through the use of a system of collective punishment, violation of basic political and economic rights, and harsh illegitimate unilateral restrictions.
The blocking of the systems of mutual settlement and supply chains, the freezing of financial assets, the confiscation of state and private property, the deprivation of rights to free movement, education, employment on the basis of nationality and to the use of the native language, the “cancellation” of national culture abroad – these are the measures introduced against Russia to punish it for its independent political course and the defence of its borders and sovereignty against the claims of NATO. Africa must be well aware that today they treat Russia this way, and tomorrow this fate may befall any country that does not agree to accept Western conditions and standards in the economy, politics and even morality. Moreover, this punishment will be selective. For example, Ukraine has banned a number of political parties, virtually imposed a dictatorship, while being recognized by the West as a democratic state.
Unfortunately, this policy of double standards can today be applied to any country that does not fit into the Western value system. African nations have for decades experienced firsthand the consequences of illegal economic restrictions introduced for the purposes of political blackmail, in some cases – to achieve a change of political leadership. The West has consistently introduced sanctions against Burundi, the DRC, Zimbabwe, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, the CAR, Ethiopia, South Sudan. And this is just part of the list. The Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which provides for the collective punishment of Africans for any cooperation with us, raises eyebrows to say the least. Such restrictions of political and economic freedoms indicate unfair competition and brutal imposition of the Western agenda on other countries. Russia, called by Borrell “the stronghold of imperialism”, openly stands for the sovereign right of African nations to choose their own path of development, as well as political and economic partners depending on their own national interests.
Mr. Borrell’s second argument has to do with ensuring food security for Africa. During the last months, European politicians have been repeating the same words about impending global hunger in developing countries, invariably caused by Russia, while the EU is making efforts to ensure uninterrupted supplies of agricultural products to the continent. The diplomat argues that economic sanctions of the European Union do not prevent African countries from purchasing Russian agricultural products, paying for them, and transporting them.
This statement, according to Cartesian logic that had previously been the cornerstone of European worldview, does not reflect the reality. It is absolutely clear that, first, the food shortage began before the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and is not related to it, and, second, that it was caused by the West underestimating Russia’s role on the global commodity markets that resulted in the grave consequences the whole world has faced due to harsh restrictive measures introduced by the United States and the EU against our country. However, even after the so-called grain deal was reached, Europe has continued to maintain its own interpretation of the agreements on the export of food and fertilizers across the Black Sea humanitarian corridor. When we unblocked Black Sea ports for transporting Ukrainian wheat, almost all of the grain was sold primarily to rich European countries, and not those actually in need, as Western leaders said at the Food Security Summit in New York. As of September 20, according to the Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre, out of 178 vessels that have left Ukrainian ports, only 20 headed to Africa, while 87, that is half of all vessels, went to Europe. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin called it “another blatant deception of the international community, Africa’s partners, other countries in need of food”.
The West’s hypocrisy also includes denying to African partners its own sanctions imposed on Russian companies that supply food and fertilizers. Last week, at the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Vladimir Putin announced that he is ready to give 300 thousand tonnes of Russian fertilizers blocked by the EU to developing countries, particularly to Africa, free of charge. We asked the United Nations to persuade the European Commission to lift discriminatory limitations on the supplies of Russian fertilizers to developing countries, but there has been no apparent progress so far. The situation with Russian grain is similar: Europe maintains freight restrictions for its export. It seems like the West is playing a tricky game by deliberately creating a threat to food security in African countries, and blocking the movement of Russian products.
Josep Borrell’s third point is that the West is ensuring Africa’s security. In this respect, Europe’s main argument is its broad financial support of the African Union, regional forces, and African armies.
In the last 15 years, the security situation in the countries of the continent has indeed changed dramatically with the direct involvement of Western countries, but in the most tragic sense. They have initiated several full-scale military operations that have led to civilian casualties, social and economic degradation, a migration crisis, an increase in transnational and continental terrorism, illegal arms trafficking, and human trafficking in Libya, the CAR, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Sahel region. French military operations Serval and Barkhane in Mali, Sangaris in the CAR have proven to be absolutely ineffective. It feels like today, by directing billions of euros to military budgets of African countries, the West is trying to pay its way out of the consequences of the chaos it has caused. In the current political context, questions also arise as to the high concentration of EU security programmes in countries with vast reserves of energy resources and other minerals necessary for the operation of Europe’s critical infrastructure.
The statements made by Mr. Borrell about the small number of Russian peacekeepers in Africa and groundless allegations of destabilization in Mali and the Central African Republic with the involvement of Russian private military companies have little connection with the real situation.
First of all, I would recall that Russia is among the top ten major contributors to UN peacekeeping budgets, with 80 percent of the Russian contribution going to peacekeeping in Africa. Furthermore, our country provides extensive support to African military and police personnel offering them annual training at Russian educational institutions both in higher education programs and on advanced training courses.
As for the allegations about the presence of “Russian mercenaries” in African countries, I would recall that the global, and even the African market for relevant services has long been “tapped” by private Western companies. It is indicative that the European Union, for instance, which is so fiercely critical of Russia, is in no hurry to condemn the activities of the U.S. company Blackwater and its clones. Every state has the sovereign right to decide to whom and on what terms to request military assistance. More specifically, there are Russian instructors in the CAR at the request of the legally elected Central African authorities and in compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions regime. They are sent to this country, which is undergoing an unprecedented military and political crisis after the failed French Operation Sangaris, on an official mission to provide training and assistance to the National Army.
Finally, the fourth argument of the European politician is the EU’s commitment to the African Union principle of African Solutions to African Problems and the need to turn the page of the colonial past. Mr. Borrell argues that, unlike “repentant” European partners, today “others” are extracting African raw materials, controlling land and agriculture and placing African economies in financial dependence.
In reality, there is a new form of colonization of the non-West by the West. After decolonization, the developed countries spent years destroying the economic structures and economies of the young African states built with the participation of the Soviet Union. By the 1980s, most of them were partially or fully dependent on credits and loans from the Bretton Woods institutions. The collective West transformed African national social and economic models using a single “tracing paper”, devalued national currencies, reduced the participation of states in the economy, and destroyed the national industry of developing countries. The Lomé Conventions of the 1970s and 1990s – aren’t they the economic division of “colonial possessions” by former metropolises? The agreements aimed at preferential trade and economic cooperation have only increased foreign competition for African companies, while European agricultural, food, oil, mining, and transport and logistics companies have benefited the most. Has France, which denies its neocolonial course, given up its control over the monetary and financial systems of the CFA franc zone countries, returned its foreign exchange reserves to the treasuries of the “independent” African states? Isn’t the reform to replace the CFA franc with the new “eco” currency, which has never been implemented, a sham? The discussion about the creation of its own African currency has been going on for decades, but why are European partners not listening to their African friends, why is Mr. Borrell remaining silent about it?
One of the most famous African intellectuals of the twentieth century, pan-Africanist Frantz Fanon wrote in 1961: “That same Europe where they never stopped proclaiming that they were only anxious for the welfare of Man: today we know with what sufferings humanity has paid for every one of their triumphs of the mind”. Frantz Fanon wrote these words in the midst of the parade of African sovereignties, during the decolonization of Africa. More than half a century has passed since then, and we have returned to the postcolonial struggle, which today has taken on a global dimension, and in this confrontation, Russia sees itself on the same side as the African nations. We stand for the sovereignty and independent development of the African continent, which is one of the regional centres of power in the new world order and, like Russia, has its own political and economic agenda. Furthermore, Russia is ready to become a provider of African sovereignty, and the upcoming Russia-Africa summit will be convincing proof of this.