Africa must have been waiting with bated breath for a loud protest on Africa Day from the African Union (AU) against a proposed United States law that reduces Africa to a mere toy in geopolitical conflicts.
Through the Bill dubbed Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, the US wishes to “hold to account African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding Russia’s malign influence and activities”
Although not yet passed into law its implications should scare anyone who calls Africa home and should jolt the AU into action to lobby against it. The US Senate put the Bill to a vote on April 17, with 415 in favour and nine against. This avalanche of favourable votes shows just how strong the sentiment against Africa is.
It came in the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February and the fact that more than half of African countries chose to be neutral on UN resolutions on Russia’s invasion. This, according to American thinking, showed that the US is losing its footing on the continent to Russia and another of its adversaries, China.
The law reads in part: The American congress should, “Regularly assess the scale and scope of the Russian Federation’s influence and activities in Africa that undermine United States objectives and interests, and determine how to address and counter such influence and activities effectively, including through appropriate United States foreign assistance programmes; and to hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding such malign influence and activities.”
The danger in the Bill is that it is up to the US congress to define what “malign influence and activities” means. It is clear that this is a kind of declaration of war on Africa hence the AU should have protested strongly. Africa has become the new Cold War chessboard on which the conflict between East and West is playing out and African countries are mere pawns on it.
Interestingly, calls by Africa for the reformation of the United Nations have been ignored particularly by the West. Africa, with 1,3 billion people, has called for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council in vain because, as far as Western powers are concerned, its voice is insignificant. President Joe Biden, in his recent visit to the East, said he would support Japan if it moved for a place on the Security Council. This ahead of Africa and even India with 1,4 billion people. It is interesting to note that, after treating Africa with such disdain, the US wants it to vote with them in the UN General Assembly!
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic the world saw how the Western world regards Africa. Vaccine nationalism came into the lexicon to define how the West manufactured vaccines in record time and hoarded them for their own people. To date only a minute fraction of Africans have had access to the life-saving vaccines though people in the West have had up to two booster jabs.
Zimbabwe has inked several business deals with Russia mainly in platinum mining in the Great Dyke. It is already suffering under the yoke of American sanctions imposed two decades ago. The deals with Russia will obviously be “deemed malign” and more misery will be piled on Zimbabweans.
Whatever happened to the Non-Aligned Movement which, with 120 member states, was second only to the UN itself in size? The purpose of the organisation was to help countries keep their “national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security in their struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression.” A stronger NAM is needed now more than ever.