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Gains of China’s soft power in Africa over the West

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China portrays itself as a “Third World” country that pursues an “independent” foreign policy of peace. And by the Third World, it means that China is a developing country and not part of any power bloc such as that around the United States or the socialist bloc formerly associated with the Soviet Union. “Independence” here implies that China does not align itself with any other major power. The people of China assert that their country seeks peace so that it can concentrate on development. China also affirms that its decisions on foreign policy questions derive from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. The Chinese leadership originally counted these principles in 1954 when China, with a communist government, was trying to reach out to the non-communist countries of Asia.

Diplomatically, the Five Principles still serve a useful purpose for China to date. They offer an alternative to the American conception of a new kind of world order the one in which international regimes and institutions (often reflecting U.S. interests and values) limit the rights of sovereign states to develop and sell weapons of mass destruction, repress opposition and violate human rights, pursue mercantilist economic policies that interfere with free trade, and damage the environment. As opposed to the Western design, China’s alternative design for the world stresses the equal, uninfringeable sovereignty of all states whether large or small, Western and non-Western, rich and poor, democratic and authoritarian, each to run its own system as it sees fit, whether its methods suit Western standards or not. This is a system which the Chinese also refer to as “multipolarity.”

The Five Principles draw attention to and explains why the west should avoid imposing its values on weaker nations. Thus the core idea behind the Five Principles as interpreted by China today is sovereignty – which one state has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of another state. China places emphasis on explaining that it never seeks hegemony. In the 1960s hegemony was a code word for Soviet expansionism. Today, Chinese officials use the term to refer to what they see as a one-sided American effort to enforce America’s will on other countries in such matters as trade practices, weapons proliferation, and human rights. By saying it will not seek hegemony, China tells its smaller neighbors that China’s economic development and growing military might, will not turn the country into a regional bully. By doing so, China endeavors to win the trust and support of other countries against the hegemonic eminence of the West.

China takes a firm position that most disputes around the world should be solved by peaceful negotiations. At the United Nations, China often abstains or refrains from voting on resolutions that mandate sanctions or interventions to reverse invasions, end civil wars, or stop terrorism. As a permanent Security Council member, China’s negative vote would constitute a veto, angering countries who favor intervention. By not voting or casting an abstention, China has allowed several interventions to go ahead without reversing its commitment to non-intervention. Again, in doing so, China succeeds in retaining a good image over the west especially if it (the west) was in favor of such interventions.

Of course, these articulated ethical principles do not entail that Chinese foreign policy is not realistic or strategic. In most cases, the principles that are pronounced actually fit the needs of Chinese strategy. In places relatively far from China (such as the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America) a few simple principles actually reflect Chinese interests most of the time. To oppose great-power intervention and defend sovereignty and equality among states is not only high-minded but it also represents China’s national interest in regions where China cannot intervene itself.

Socio-economically, China gains some advantage over the west in terms of the provision of aid to the developing countries. Conditionality and selectivity have created a dilemma for the Western approach to aid that cannot be solved owing to the central nature of development and good governance. Chinese aid, however, does not face this dilemma, as China does not impose such conditions on aid donations. Instead, the Chinese approach involves infrastructure building together with Chinese finance, technology, engineers and workers. Although this approach may seem rather old-fashioned in Western eyes and though it may create less direct employment in the recipient countries, the indirect positive externalities associated with Chinese aid projects can have a huge impact on kick-starting and energizing local economies.  It is widely accepted that infrastructure plays a crucial role in economic development and lack of physical infrastructure has been allied to the main reasons leading to slow economic growth in much of Africa. It then implies that by minimizing transportation costs (roads) and transaction costs (communication networks) and enabling domestic and international trade (through increased specialization) – China’s major investments in infrastructure in Africa are helping to generate economic growth and thereby creating more indirect employment than is possible following the West’s approach. Some argue that the recent economic development in Africa is, at least in part, a result of its increased trade with and infrastructure building by China.

It is further argued that the Chinese approach is capable of dealing with the hardcore circle of underdevelopment in Africa, which the West’s approach to aid is unable to address. Moreover, China’s approach is effective mainly due to its own comparative advantage in manufacturing and the compatibility of its resource donations (in particular, abundant labor) with African nations, which makes it impossible for the West to imitate. Africa was colonized and its markets were monopolized by the West, but now China has stepped in and competition for aid and investment in Africa is increasing. Donors are also competing with each other to provide aid to African countries, perhaps with the expectation that their aid will lead to increased trade and improved access to African markets especially in terms of natural resources. It may only be hoped, however, that by improving its efficiency and effectiveness, this increased competition in aid between China and the West will ultimately be for the benefit of Africa.

Socio-politically, the American political system does not seem to inspire as many people in Africa as it used to do. Africans have realized that Washington does not have much further to offer them in terms of socio-political capital, with very few socio-political lessons to emulate. According to Adams Bodom, Africans are unenthusiastic about talking against Washington because they are uncomfortable with their hard power, and live in fear of the deadly drones, and the callous imposition of sanctions through the United States Africa Command (Africom). On the other hand, he emphasized that China is having positive socio-political influences on Africa, African leaders, and ideologically literate Africans on the African streets. Many Africans now view the  Chinese way of handling their political economy as being far better than that of the American and western governments in general. China and other prudent Asian economies even bailed the world out of the banking disaster induced by some greedy western leaders and businessmen that caused untold hardships on Africans since 2008.

Socio-culturally, the United States soft power is waning in Africa whereas China’s soft power is increasing. Adams Bodom further purports that the use of English in Africa is barely anymore an example of American soft power as it used to be, but the increasing learning of Chinese is an instance of growing Chinese soft power. Young people in Africa seldom think well of America and Britain as a land of milk and honey when they open their mouths to speak English, but young people in Africa learning Chinese do think of China as a land of opportunity with which they hope to trade or engage in other ways after successfully learning the language at the fifty (50) or more Confucius Institutes springing up everywhere in Africa great symbols of Chinese soft power in Africa. Moreover, Asian soft power in the entertainment industry is rising faster in Africa than American in addition to the Chinese cultures and herbal medicines, particularly herbal tea in the middle-class African living room, which is fast becoming a popular Chinese cultural consumption item in Africa by the middle class.

In conclusion, the west used to have a strong soft power influence in Africa, but it is waning while China is beginning to register a rising soft power. As such, there are a number of aspects that the west can learn from the Chinese soft power strategies especially in areas of engagement and cooperation. There are also some characteristics of soft power from the west that has been underutilized in recent years. As such, it would be a great opportunity for the United States and others to engage China on areas of common interest, to strengthen African capacities to manage the intensifying competition that China and others bring to the continent, and to preemptively work to mitigate potential areas of disagreement. The United States can do more to engage in collaborative efforts with China to engage African governments, regional organizations, and civil society more systematically with the goal of mitigating potential tensions and conflicting interests. It is evident that both China and the United States have expressed willingness to engage in collaborative projects in Africa, but although there will almost certainly be long-term benefits to such collaboration, it will take a stronger upfront investment of political will and attention to launching these efforts. Health, agriculture, and peacekeeping capacity are areas of potential collaboration in Africa, and more global issues of climate change, food security, and clean and efficient energy use (areas that the Chinese leadership has emphasized in recent international forums) could be taken up in the African context. Likewise, in areas of tension and disagreement arms sales, transparency approaches to conflict resolution, environmental safeguards the United States should ensure systematic, senior-level engagement with Chinese and African leadership to find common ground and mitigate conflict.

David Ceasar Wani Suliman is a Doctoral Fellow (Ph.D.) in the school of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University China, Majoring in International Politics. He worked as a Research assistant at Jilin University China; He Achieved Master’s degree in International Relations from Jilin University China, and correspondingly graduated with honors from Cavendish University Uganda with bachelor degree in international relations and diplomatic studies.

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Mozambique Marks Five Years of Extreme Violence  in Cabo Delgado

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Mozambique marks five years since extreme violence erupted in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, forcing nearly 1 million people to flee during that time in October. Currently government officials, international organizations and experts said there have been “remarkable progress” as businesses have restarted and displaced people began returning to Cabo Delgado.

Extreme violence and displacement have had a devastating impact on the population. People have witnessed their loved ones being killed, beheaded, and raped, and their houses and other infrastructure burned to the ground. Men and boys have also been forcibly enrolled in armed groups. Livelihoods have been lost, and education stalled while access to necessities such as food and healthcare has been hampered. Many people have been re-traumatized after being forced to move multiple times to save their lives.

Despite the relative calm in Cabo Delgado. some analysts still believe that all is not over. Analyst João Feijó thinks that armed violence in Cabo Delgado will continue, and that the authorities must be prepared to face “a marathon”, instead of “a race” that is soon over. “I think this conflict will be a marathon – it will not be the 1,500 meters race we thought it would be,” he told Lusa regarding the five years of conflict. The insurgent groups “play with time” and are prepared “to spend 10 or 20 years” terrorizing the region, “living in the bush, looting and stealing”.

“We don’t have that time,” he says, alluding to the country’s desire to get oil majors back to exploit natural gas, the need to put an end to a very expensive military intervention and the soldiers’ desire to return home.

Feijó believes that the government has realized that it will have to live with some degree of violence, something that could turn into a “low-intensity conflict” and the government itself has admitted that the problem of instability will last for several years, and we have to live with it,” he adds.

What is not known is whether this will be enough to restart the gas projects. The researcher says that the answer can only come from TotalEnergies, the oil major that had to abandon the works near Palma after the March 2021 attack, and which says it is still waiting for improved security.

The first attack took place in Mocímboa da Praia on October 5, 2017, in what was classifies as the first phase of the conflict. A second phase followed, with great pressure from rebel forces, which grew, established bases, occupied territory and led to the suspension of Mozambique’s gas projects, the largest private investment in Africa.

The military offensive by the allied forces reconquered the areas around gas-relevant sites like Palma and Mocímboa da Praia. The remaining rebels returned to the bush and restarted occasional attacks against relatively remote communities, only now expanding their area of action to include southern districts of Cabo Delgado and in Nampula province.

Reports monitored from the U.S. Department of State, Deutsche Welle and Rádio Moçambique have shown that the United States would be assisting with a further donation of US$40 million (€38.2 million) to support the displaced and victims of natural disasters in northern Mozambique.

The financial grants were part of the “emergency response to the food needs of those displaced by war and terrorism, social protection, building resilience to climate change and nutritional support for children” and the priority was to prevent “people in a situation of food insecurity in Mozambique.

The U.S. Government’s lead development agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has officially renewed its partnership, and ready to implement foreign assistance funding of US$1.5 billion to promote a more peaceful, prosperous, and healthy Mozambique.

Late January, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and French TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné witnessed the signing and exchange of fresh additional agreements that permit prompt resumption of natural gas project in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique. It aims at contributing to the country’s sustainable development and give access to energy to as many people as possible.

TotalEnergies said in a media release that the collaboration agreement illustrates commitment to deploying its multi-energy strategy in southern African country. The natural gas project was suspended in March 2021 after an armed attack that left the province devastated, about 3,100 deaths and more than 817,000 residents displaced. 

In a media briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has called for an end to the violence and on the international community to provide sustainable support to reduce the suffering of the displaced population and local host communities in northern Mozambique.

Tragically, conflict has not subsided, and thousands of families are still being forced to leave their homes because of attacks by non-state armed groups. Five years on, the humanitarian situation across Cabo Delgado has continued to deteriorate and displacement figures have increased by 20 per cent to 946,508 in the first half of this year. The conflict has now spilled into the neighbouring province of Nampula, which witnessed four attacks by armed groups in September affecting at least 47,000 people and displacing 12,000.

The organization has been continuously responding to the needs of displaced populations in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces with humanitarian assistance and protection support. We are providing shelter and household items, helping survivors of gender-based violence with legal, medical, and psycho-social support, and supporting displaced people to obtain legal documentation. UNHCR also supports people at higher risk, including children, people with disabilities, and older people.

The UNHCR is in favour of returns for displaced families when these are voluntary, safe, informed, dignified, and when the conditions are conducive, including once basic services are restored to ensure their sustainability.

The refugee organization considers security conditions to be too volatile in Cabo Delgado to facilitate or promote returns to the province. However, growing protection needs and limited services for those who have chosen to return home must still be urgently addressed by relevant stakeholders, including authorities and humanitarian actors.

It is working closely with the government and other partners to support and advocate for the inclusion of all displaced populations in national services. As of September 2022, the US$36.7 million needed for UNHCR to deliver life-saving protection services and assistance in Mozambique was only 60 per cent funded.

Cabo Delgado province, in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas, but has been terrorized since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the Islamic State extremist group. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 784,000 persons have been internally displaced by the conflict, which has killed about 4,000, according to the ACLED conflict registry project.

The Joint Forces of the Southern African Development Community are keeping peace in northern Mozambique. African leaders at their summit of the African Union held in Addis Ababa highly praised Mozambique’s approach to fighting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, involving troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community Military Mission (SAMIM). Mozambique, with an approximate population of 30 million, is one of the 16-member Southern African Development Community. 

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Torture is ‘widespread’ and likely underestimated in DR Congo

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School children in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, take part in a parade ceremony of the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organized by the UN Joint Human Rights Office. (file) MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh

Torture is “widespread” and underestimated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the abuse involves armed groups and State forces, UN investigators said on Wednesday.In findings issued in a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in DRC (UNJHRO) and the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), the authors indicated that 93 per cent of the 3,618 registered cases of “torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” affecting 4,946 victims had happened in areas experiencing conflict.

Of that total, covering the period between 1 April 2019 and 30 April 2022, there were 492 cases of sexual violence, affecting 761 victims.

Torture can never be justified, no matter the circumstances or the context. The DRC authorities must act with urgency and determination to put an end to this scourge,” said Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, in a statement.

Responsibility shared

Members of the DRC’s defence and security forces were responsible for 1,293 cases, according to the report, while 1,833 cases were attributed to armed groups. “In certain contexts, (they) subjected victims to torture in collusion with members of the security forces,” it said.

Victims suffered torture and ill-treatment either during detention or “while exercising their fundamental rights, such freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or during detention”, the report’s authors continued.

Highlighting the low number of complaints filed against perpetrators and the “widespread nature of torture” compared with the “magnitude of the violations”, the report explained that only two army officers, 12 national police officers and 75 members of armed groups were convicted of torture during the reporting period.

‘Hate speech’ surging

The development comes amid concerns that the DRC has been gripped by a ‘proliferation’ of hate speech, just 12 months ahead of presidential elections.

In a scheduled debate at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, also expressed deep concern about the alarming security situation in the east of the country, where two provinces have been placed under military rule since May 2021.

Withdrawing UN peacekeepers MONUSCO from the country “could have serious consequences on the human rights situation in the east of the country and the sub-region”, said Christian Jorge Salazar Volkmann, Director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at OHCHR.

Member States at the Geneva forum heard that although armed groups carried out most rights violations and abuses between 1 June 2021 and 31 May 2022, DRC security personnel were responsible for over four in 10 cases, out of an overall total of 6,782.

The military rule in Ituri and Nord Kivu provinces which came into effect on 6 May 2021 “do(es) not appear to have deterred armed groups from attacking civilians, particularly in internally displaced persons sites”, said Mr. Volkmann.

Some 2,413 people – 1,778 men, 471 women and 164 children – had been killed by armed groups in the first year of military rule in the two provinces, he said, compared to 1,581 people (1,076 men, 365 women and 140 children) during the previous 12-month period.

Nearly 5.5 million people had been forced from their homes by the violence, amid a resurgence of the M23 armed group in Nord Kivu’s Rutshuru province, which has attacked DRC “defence and security forces, civilians and (UN peacekeeping Mission) MONUSCO”, the OHCHR official added.

Militia rule

Other attacks by militias the ADF and CODECO against civilians and humanitarians “may constitute serious crimes under international law”, Mr. Volkmann said, in an appeal for an end to the violence and a nationally-led demobilization and reintegration plan. 

While welcoming the life sentence handed down to Mihonya Chance Kolokolo, leader of militia group Raïa Mutomboki, for crimes against humanity and war crimes including the recruitment and use of children, rape, murder and the violation of natural reserves in South Kivu, the UN human rights official highlighted the “slow pace” of justice for “almost all” priority cases committed by Kamuina Nsapu armed group between 2016 and 2018 in the Kasai region.

To tackle hate speech, OHCHR has recommended practical measures to the authorities in the DRC.

These include implementing a proposed law on racism, tribalism and xenophobia which is under discussion in Parliament.

“One year before the next presidential elections, it is important that the alleged perpetrators of these messages be brought to justice and held accountable, and to prevent the security situation from further deterioration,” said Mr. Volkmann.

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Five years of violence in northern Mozambique has forced nearly a million to flee

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Nearly one million people have fled extreme violence perpetrated by non-State armed groups in northern Mozambique over the past five years, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday. As the conflict in Cabo Delgado province has not subsided, UNHCR is appealing for both an end to the bloodshed and greater international support for the displaced and local communities hosting them. 

The situation has had a devastating impact on the population, Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh told journalists in Geneva. 

Beheadings, rapes and burnings 

“People have witnessed their loved ones being killed, beheaded, and raped, and their houses and other infrastructure burned to the ground,” he said

“Men and boys have also been forcibly enrolled in armed groups. Livelihoods have been lost, and education stalled while access to necessities such as food and healthcare has been hampered. Many people have been re-traumatized after being forced to move multiple times to save their lives.” 

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate, with displacement figures increasing by 20 per cent, to over 946,000 in the first half of this year. 

Neighbouring province affected 

The violence has now spilled into the neighbouring province of Nampula, where four attacks were reported in September affecting at least 47,000 people and displacing 12,000. 

“People displaced during those latest attacks told UNHCR that they are scared and hungry. They lack medicine and are living in crowded conditions – with four to five families sharing one house,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

“Some sleep under open skies. Lack of privacy and exposure to cold at night and the elements during the day, create additional safety and health concerns, particularly for women and children.” 

Meeting the needs

UNHCR has been responding to the needs of displaced populations in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces, through humanitarian assistance and protection support. 

Staff are providing shelter and household items, helping survivors of gender-based violence with legal, medical, and psycho-social support, and supporting displaced people to obtain legal documentation. UNHCR also supports those at higher risk, including children, people with disabilities, and older persons. 

The agency requires $36.7 million to deliver life-saving protection services and assistance in Mozambique but has so far received around 60 per cent of the funding. 

Promoting safe returns

Despite ongoing displacement in Cabo Delgado, some people have returned to their homes in areas they perceive as safe, said Mr. Saltmarsh.

Last month, UNHCR and partners conducted the first protection assessment mission to Palma, a town in the far north-east which saw deadly attacks in March 2021. Most of the 70,000 residents were displaced and the majority have returned in recent weeks.

“People who have lost everything are returning to areas where services and humanitarian assistance are largely unavailable. UNHCR is concerned about the risks people face should they continue to return to their areas of origin before conditions are stabilized,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

Danger remains 

While UNHCR is in favour of returns when they are voluntary, safe, informed and dignified, current security conditions in Cabo Delgado are too volatile for people to go back to the province. 

“However, growing protection needs and limited services for those who have chosen to return home must still be urgently addressed by relevant stakeholders, including authorities and humanitarian actors,” he said. 

In the interim, UNHCR is working closely with the Mozambican government and other partners to support and advocate for the inclusion of all displaced populations in national services.  

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