Since the start of of the war in Ukraine, NATO and countries led by Washington have been pressuring African countries to condone sanctions on Russia, condemn the latter, and isolate Moscow from the rest of the world. In this context, Africa has become a battleground for influence between world powers, which has led to heightened tensions on the continent.
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, Senegal’s President Macky Sall asserted that Africa “does not want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War.
“I have come to say that Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history; that it does not want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War, but rather a pole of stability and opportunity open to all its partners, on a mutually beneficial basis,” Sall said.
“We call for a de-escalation and a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine as well as for a negotiated solution to avoid the catastrophic risk of a potentially global conflict,” he added.
Although Washington has been attempting to pressure African nations into picking sides since February, that sort of pressure dates back way before the recent war, to the 2014 coup in Ukraine which was directed by US-backed forces.
In 2020, African nations imported $12.6 billion worth of Russian goods, including a crucial 30% of its total grain imports, fertilizers, and petroleum products. Commodities, however, have increased in prices due to the war and sanctions, which have exacerbated global inflation.
Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed that a new draft bill that Washington is looking into implementing would punish the entire continent of Africa. Rather than the sanctions being targeted toward Russia’s activities in Ukraine, they’re directed toward Russia’s activities in Africa.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa, attempting to persuade Pretoria to ditch the neutral stance toward the conflict. However, Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, affirmed that “We should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine.”
Pandor proposed a diplomatic solution, that the United Nations should lead a diplomatic initiative between Russia and Ukraine to bring the conflict to a halt.
Major African countries like the Central African Republic and Mali have been growing frustrated with Western aid, and have been switching to Moscow instead. Western media has been acting aggressively, slamming African nations by accusing them of reeling in mercenaries and committing war crimes.
Sall told the UNGA that Africa is “a continent determined to work with all of its partners” to address its needs, which include access to the basic necessities of modern life, such as electricity, medical care, and running water.
The West lost Africa through ‘Cold War-esque’ policies, liberalism
The West lost Africa through “Cold War-esque” policies on the continent, through forcing the liberal civilizational standards, in addition to US policies that have used Africa as a “backyard” to counter Russian and Chinese presence with no consideration for the welfare and interest of the African peoples, according to a Foreign Policy article in May.
A Congress debate took place in April over a bill Washington would use to “counter the malign influence and activities” of Russia in Africa. The article draws on journalists’ conclusions that US foreign policy, to a large extent, is fueled by geopolitical concerns and rivalry in Africa, mainly against Russia and China. The prosperity of Africans, on the other hand, falls irrelevant. The bill is just one of many others, and it has sparked fears of an escalation of a “new Cold War” among African observers.
The bill requires the regular identification of African governments and officials “that have facilitated payments and other prohibited activities that benefit US-sanctioned individuals and entities tied to Russia.” This could have punishing implications, such as sanctions against African nations choosing to buy Russian energy.
Attempts at imposing liberal systems of governance, furthermore, have also failed the continent, according to Ghanaian historian Samuel Adu-Gyamfi. Liberalism entails liberal capitalism, which has sunken the continent into severe poverty and debt. In Adu-Gyamfi’s perception, the IMF and the World Bank have led to dire developmental setbacks in African countries. Many imported policies have hurt development, such as “lockdowns, travel bans and vaccine mandates—pushed on Africa by Western-dominated institutions,” as written in NewsAfrica.
France, however, has been facing the reckoning of its colonial legacy – in Mali, Algeria, and beyond. Recently, Mali has taken the decision to expel French military presence from its land, particularly after finding mass graves near a French military post. After nine years of French military presence in Mali, which made the country suffer in the name of “fighting terrorism,” Paris received major backlash in addition to frustration and accusations of drone attacks and the murder of civilians.
All in all, the African continent is fed up with the West’s projection of alliances and rivalry on them, taking the carrot and the stick foreign policy approach to sovereign decision-making. For decades, in Washington’s foreign policy toward Africa, as FP columnist Howard French wrote, “America’s concern with containing the spread of Chinese or Soviet influence overrode considerations of governance and democracy.”