by Francesco Giappichini –
“In this international context of conflict, of divergent geopolitical interests, conflicting wills threaten to transform Africa into a geostrategic battlefield, thus recreating a new version of the Cold War. In this zero-sum game, where gains for others translate into losses for Africa, we must resist any form of exploitation of our member states”. These are the words that the president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, pronounced before the representatives of the member states, on the occasion of Africa Day. The celebrations were particularly solemn this year.
In fact, it was the 60th anniversary of the birth of the organisation, established on 25 May ’63: Africa Day pays homage to the day on which the Organization of African Unity – OAU, then the African Union – AU since ’02 was born. Well, in the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the president of the executive body invoked the neutrality of the Continent, in the face of a crescendo of political pressure. After all, after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow, Kiev and Western countries have increased their political and economic stranglehold on many African governments, to extend their influence there. It should therefore come as no surprise that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s recent African tour announced his government’s adoption of a “first African strategy”, and “a new era in African-Ukrainian relations”.
Let’s go in order, starting with the Russian initiatives. Moscow, aware that many African countries depend on the import of Russian and Ukrainian grain, and severely hit by the sanctions, has multiplied those initiatives, including military ones, aimed at undermining the influence of the former colonial powers, France first and foremost. An operation that can count on the relationships woven by the Soviets during the Cold War, and also on the will of so many African ruling class not to flatten on Western positions. A determination linked to the need to attract financial resources everywhere, even from autocracies; and yet that anti-French sentiment, with multiple causes, which is spreading in Francophone Africa cannot be overlooked.
This is demonstrated by Senegal’s abstention on the anti-Russian resolution of February ’23: the one with which the General Assembly asked for “the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces”. Without considering the countries where the Wagner militia is rooted, such as Mali, which went from abstention to voting against. Thus a mission of African leaders, those of South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Congo, Uganda and Egypt, will fly between June and July to Russia and Ukraine, to propose solutions to the conflict. After which, at the end of July, St. Petersburg will host a sort of second summit between Russia and Africa, after the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergej Lavrov, had visited various African countries earlier this year, including Mali, Eritrea and Sudan. Turning to the Ukrainian initiatives, we recall that even Minister Kuleba, who had already visited the Continent in October 1922, took part in the Africa Day celebrations in Addis Ababa. On the occasion, he invited African countries to renounce “neutrality” on the conflict, and announced both the opening of new embassies in Africa within the year and the “first Ukraine-Africa summit”. In addition to Ethiopia, the Ukrainian minister’s tour reached Rwanda, Morocco and Mozambique.