By José Francisco Lumango for the Saker Blog
The answer may not be simple. But the memory of European colonisation in Africa, and its harmful effects, are still visible despite the independence of its states, may be a reasonable way of understanding it. An African adage teaches that “One should never forget the lessons learned in times of pain”, which seems to be the source of inspiration for the African cosmos – the set of entities that formally and materially hold the power relations in Africa – not to forget the tragic consequences of European colonisation, to protect their independence and not repeat the errors of the past. Without being simplistic or too complex, the answer to the question in question may have several reasons:
1. Historical memory of colonisation and the struggle for national liberation: Russia, heir to the Former USSR, supported ideologically, politically, economically, and militarily the national liberation struggles of several African countries, which after the achievement of independence, followed the communist model as the basis of their political, social and economic construction. Even though they later adopted Western capitalism, the mentality of the African cosmos is still of Soviet influence, because it was there that most of them did their military and political training and received economic support to finance the liberation wars to put an end to Western colonisation, with direct and indirect help from Cuba as an intermediary in some cases. The cold war between the USA and NATO against the USSR led to civil wars in African countries to conquer the spaces of influence. After the fall of the Berlin wall and the resurgence of Russia, Westerners looked at the situation as an absolute victory. Despite this, the African cosmos has not forgotten colonisation, the interference of Western countries in their internal affairs, and the rigged processes of massive indebtedness of their economies as a way of controlling their strategic natural resources.
2. Recent memory of wars at the beginning of the 21st century: Beyond colonial issues, the African cosmos has been following since 2001 the behaviour of the West (US, NATO, and EU) in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, sweetened by the Arab Springs, attempted coups in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Egypt, etc., without forgetting the massacre in Rwanda and the war in Somalia and Yemen. These wars and coups have destroyed thousands of human lives, social infrastructure, jobs, etc. It was a catastrophe for the entire continent and nearby territories like South East Asia. The existing wars in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Mozambique, DRC, Ethiopia, etc, allow the African cosmos, even those with strong ties to the West like Morocco, for example, not to act frontally against Russia, a fact verified in the recent votes of the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council which suspended it. The expulsion of French forces by the military junta in Mali and their replacement by the Russians through the Wagner group, like the construction of a port for the Russian Nave Arms on the Sudanese Red Sea coast, could be a revealing symptom.
3. The damaging memory of Western unipolarity and the chance for a global multipolar alternative power: For Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, the Ukrainian war is a civil war within Slavic civilisation, through several wars within it: economic-financial, propaganda-media, cultural, biological, radiological, and military war. It is a hybrid war that has ended with globalisation, as confirmed by Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock. For Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, it is not a question of total deglobalisation, but of economic-financial, cybernetic-digital, energy, and commercial deglobalisation. The West was no longer interested in economic-financial globalisation because they lost the battle against China, and cybernetic-digital globalisation (software, etc.) was won by the Indians. This bipolarity also involves the division of the UN Security Council into two blocs: the first composed of the US, UK, France (G7/NATO), and the second of Russia and China (Shanghai Group and BRICS). This situation led to an operational dysfunction of the WTO and led to the resignation of its previous Director General, Roberto Azevedo. In this sense, Jalife-Rahme quotes Philipe Stephens’ article “The world is marching back from globalisation”, where he states that “The US does not see a vital national interest in maintaining an order that transfers power to rivals”. Thus, according to Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, “Everything that is not globalised becomes balkanised”. Thus, the end of globalisation, especially the economic-financial one, as dictated by Larry Fink, will inevitably entail its balkanisation, through two regional blocs, i.e. de-globalisation and bipolar trans-meta-regionalisation, on one side the G7/NATO and EU, and on the other side the BRICS/Shanghai Group and Eurasian Union.
The de-globalisation said by Larry Fink is “neoliberal de-globalisation”, which occurs through the gradual paralysis of global supply chains, which are founded on the reduction of operating costs through outsourcing (relocation of companies) and downsizing (lowering labour costs to increase shareholder profits and value companies in capital markets), according to Alfredo Jalife-Rahme. The African cosmos believes that if Russia, even with nuclear weapons, a continental country with Eurasian tradition, which supplies almost 40% of energy resources and other strategic raw materials to the West, is treated this way, what will become of African countries, which are visibly weaker in military terms? The destruction of Libya for trying to sell oil in Euro and rejecting the USD may be indisputable proof.
The meddling of the West in Africa, beyond colonisation, needs no introduction. The wars and coups d’état in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the civil war in Angola and other conflicts are facts that remain in the collective memory of the African cosmos. If the colonial memory was tragic, the expressive and aggressive interference of the West in the African cosmos is breaking any remaining trust, for historical reasons (over 400 years of colonisation), by unfair competition in the exploitation of natural resources, the massive interference in internal affairs by the IMF in the financing of road and housing infrastructures, etc., and the attempt to incorporate western values aggressively through sanctions and blackmail, even if these values do not correspond to the African historical-epistemic and gnosiological cosmogony.
4. China and Russia as a financial and military alternative for the existential survival of African countries in a multipolar world in the medium and long term: The African cosmos observes with concern and caution everything that Western leaders do against Russia as a result of the technical-military operation in Ukraine, regardless of the causes, which by common sense is perceived since 2014. The reason for this concern lies in the fact that whenever the West finds itself in crisis or politically, geostrategically, and economically cornered, it uses internal or external wars as a way out, a can be seen in the Roman wars, the colonisation of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Napoleonic wars, the First and Second World Wars. Faced with the circumstances, the African cosmos shows resistance towards sanctions against Russia, abstaining from votes at the UN, in official pronouncements, that is, maintaining certain strategic neutrality, despite the gigantic Western pressure, forcing them to choose a side as if they were still vassals or colonised. It is not that the African cosmos agrees in its entirety with Russia’s technical-military operation in Ukraine, insofar as, there is a history of invasions in Africa carried out by Westerners, Arabs, Persians, and Ottomans. The main concern is the need for an economic-financial and military alternative to the West for its own existential survival, and to protect itself from possible aggressive interference in the long term, when strategic reserves of Western raw materials reach their limit. The way the West behaved during the Covid19 Pandemic in the context of vaccine distribution policies, by buying in advance almost 80% of all vaccines in production in the world, leaving poor countries without vaccines even to buy for a certain period, and changing their position only when they realised that, the non-global distribution of the vaccines prolonged the pandemic, led to the creation of the COVAX system by the WHO, after harsh criticism from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, stating that, “The growing gap between the number of vaccines offered in rich countries and those administered through COVAX is becoming “more grotesque by the day”. And how could it be otherwise, the gesture of Russia and China in the swift distribution of vaccines and protective medical supplies was taken into account by the African cosmos at the time of decision making. As is well known, China’s economic and Russia’s military presence in Africa is seen as an alternative guarantee to what the West is offering. Since 2002, while the West was distracted with its eternal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Arab Spring, Syria, Libya, etc., China entered Africa in silence, massively funding road infrastructure projects etc., without interference in internal affairs, through the adoption of the “Win-Win” strategy.
Russia, on the other hand, has become the main military alternative, accounting for 49% of total arms exports to Africa by 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) database, to avoid internal conflicts and protect itself from external interference. Paul Stronski confirms that “The rulers of many African countries look to Moscow from Soviet-era links, and Moscow takes advantage of this and manages to maintain its influence. In the case of Algeria [and Angola], this is done by writing off old debts. Sometimes Russia also makes generous promises, assuring that it will build workshops or facilities for manufacturing or maintenance.
The African cosmos serenely realises that a defeat of Russia in Ukraine will lead the world to a more aggressive, self-centred and militarised Western unipolarisation and the weaker countries will have no alternative for survival and existential resistance. The fear of perishing and becoming a colonial space again seems to be more important to the strategists of the African cosmos than Western values about democracy, neoliberalism, capitalism, etc. For the African cosmos, its course and future depend on the economic-financial cover of China and the military cover of Russia, so that there is a certain balance in its relations with the West.
And it considers the situation of Russia and Ukraine as an internal issue between brothers of the same homeland linked historically, culturally, linguistically, and religiously. But it does not mean that it wants a radical change in its strategic relations with the West. It is only a preventive measure of existential survival.
The way the West treats Ukrainian refugees compared to what has been done with African refugees arriving via the Mediterranean and from the Canary Islands via the Atlantic has not been forgotten, as have the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage and the destruction of Libya. These historical events may justify the fear of the African cosmos in resisting in the face of Western pressure to give up its strategic relations with Russia and China.
This neutrality and strategic ambiguity serve to prevent a geostrategic and existential risk for sovereign and independent countries in the medium and long term. And, according to an African adage “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. Thus, the African cosmos realises that it is grass in this war of titans, and Ukraine only as a geostrategic, geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geofinancial singularity of the hegemonic power struggle between Eurasia and the West. So that may have been the reason they refrained from the sanctions war against Russia, for the lessons learned from their tragic experiences, old and recent, of their relations with the West.
The African cosmos does everything it can to avoid being the grass in the conflict at hand, promoted by the West since 2014, through the coup d’état against Viktor Yanukovich, and the failure to implement the Minsk I and II agreements. Soon, it seems that the African cosmos uses the proverbial philosophy of its ancestors to avoid entering into another’s war, even though it is already feeling the side effects of the increase in the prices of wheat, fertilizers, oil, gas, etc., and the risk of probable retaliations, for disobedience of political guidelines, by the West.
The claim by Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chairperson-in-Office of the African Union on his recent visit to Russia, in demanding the West remove sanctions affecting Africa’s food security is, without doubt, a clear and unequivocal demonstration of this position. ”