Posted: 18.04.2024 10:42:00

Field of battle and co-operation

The interests of many countries clash in the Global South

With the onset of a new cold war, which has already surpassed the era of 1945-1991 in terms of tension and sharp rhetoric, the Dark Continent is once again emerging as the arena of confrontation between world powers and struggle for the independence of African countries

                                The President of Belarus, 
                             Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“The world is changing. It will be different. There will never be a return to what was before. The peoples of the world are aware of this. For the most part, they have realised that the future belongs to Africa. The time of Africa has come.”

During the official reception in honour
of the President 
of Belarus on behalf
of the President of Equatorial Guinea, 
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 
on December 9th, 2023

Blood and sand

There are a lot of hotbeds of tension in Africa today. Perhaps the Sahel, a natural area separating the Sahara Desert in North Africa and the fertile savannahs of equatorial regions, remains to be the most troubled region. The Sahel is home to a number of states that were colonies of France until the middle of the last century. After liberation from the colonial yoke, the administrators appointed by Paris were quickly replaced by cunning businessmen from French companies. As a result, the resources of countries such as the Central African Republic, Niger, and Mali remained in the hands of Europeans. However, the region has seen a number of changes of power in recent years. Pro-French regimes have been overthrown. Niger, which occupied a leading position in uranium supplies to the Fifth Republic, became a particularly sensitive loss for France.
In this regard, Macron’s current activity in creating a coalition of countries ready to send their armies to Ukraine is nothing else than an attempt by the owner of the Elysee Palace to somehow restore his shaken image after Paris’ failed policies in Africa.  
As predicted by experts, shortly after the ECOWAS intervention in Niger did not succeed and the West realised that the Alliance of Sahel States consisting of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger could not be taken using brute force, the level of terrorist danger in the region increased significantly. This is especially true of the problematic area where the borders of the three countries converge. Islamist gangs have been keeping the local population in fear for years there. Even though they are divided and at war with each other, they still manage to cause considerable damage. It was to combat the growing threat that the alliance countries agreed to create joint forces in early March to fight terrorists.  
The leaders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso face a difficult task. They will have to demonstrate cohesion and high efficiency, since the gangs have support base in the region among the poorest segments of the population and have the opportunity to move from country to country avoiding persecution by the authorities. In addition, military force alone will not be enough to succeed in this confrontation.  
What is needed is economic transformations and the early implementation of measures to achieve financial sovereignty by abandoning the use of the colonial currency linked to the euro — the African franc, which enables Paris to maintain the remnants of control over the situation in West Africa and the Sahel.

The American trace

The actual collapse of the Françafrique is beneficial not only to the local leaders and progressive players like Belarus, Russia and China, but also to the United States. In conditions of strategic uncertainty, Washington is trying to fish in troubled waters. The story of the Senegalese protests and how the United States had a hand in extinguishing the unrest is indicative in this case. Let us remind that  the crisis in yet another former French colony broke out due to the postponement of the presidential election from February to December, which resulted in violent protests across the country. Pressure from the West, and above all the United States, played an important role in President Macky Sall’s decision to make concessions to the protesters. As if on cue, the American media began to release materials with crying headlines about a ‘possible coup’, while US officials urged Senegal’s government to move forward and hold its presidential election as soon as possible. 
Americans also actively poke their noses into the relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. In mid-February, the United States condemned the actions of the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels operating in the Congolese province of North Kivu. After that, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Félix Tshisekedi accused Rwandans of plundering and trading his country’s mineral wealth, in particular coltan. 
All this happened against the background of protests by Congolese, who accused the United States of supporting Rwanda and the M23 gangs. Thanks to Washington’s patronage, Kigali has no particular restrictions on coltan export, although this mineral is significantly less explored in the territory of Rwanda than in Congo, while Kinshasa constantly faces obstacles to the trade of this valuable mineral. Therefore, the ostentatious outrage over the M23 activities on the part of the US looks more like a way to cover up the dark enrichment schemes of American companies — by the way, one of the two largest coltan processing plants is located in the USA — than a real manifestation of concern for the distressed residents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States does not buy coltan directly from Kinshasa, because it does not want the natural resource-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo to strengthen its economy and become a regional leader. 
Exercise Justified Accord 2024 kicked off on the other side of the continent in early March with the involvement of military personnel from some African countries, as well as from the United Kingdom and the United States. Shortly before the manoeuvres, Americans reported that they had invited 20 countries, yet many powers of the Dark Continent limited themselves to sending observers. It can be assumed that the United States is trying to put together a new controlled alliance here. It is unlikely to be effective, though. 
The authors of Foreign Affairs magazine have suggested that the United States is trying to implement a containment strategy in Africa proposed by George Kennan in his famous ‘Long Telegram’ back in 1946, and is preparing the ground for a ‘colour revenge’.  
The struggle for the influence in Africa will continue to grow. The countries of the continent have enormous potential for development which is artificially restrained by the West. The displacement of the old colonial powers and supranational corporations from the African continent meets the interests of Africa as well as the countries opposing the West. In fact, only when African countries gain economic independence will they be able to fully use their natural resources and human potential for their own benefit. 
Belarus plays an important role in this epoch-making process. Our country has approached Africa not as a new colonialist but as a sovereign country ready for mutually beneficial co-operation. During Aleksandr Lukashenko’s visits to the African continent, stable ties were established, in particular, with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea in the fields of agriculture, industry, medicine, education, and tourism. The bilateral agreements have already yielded fruits — last year, for the first time in its history, Zimbabwe was able not only to ensure food security but also to export grain thanks to the supply of Belarusian agricultural machinery.
Positive prospects are also emerging in collaboration with such a rapidly developing country as Kenya, which the President of Belarus also visited in December. African states can also be considered as a gateway to the relevant region — thus, deals were signed with Equatorial Guinea on launching the first phase of a regional hub to promote Belarusian products to the markets of Central and West African countries.

By Anton Popov