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Iran, China and the Djibouti experience

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With the escalation of US sanctions against Iran after the withdrawal of Donald Trump from the nuclear deal between two countries and lower oil prices in world markets, Iran’s oil revenues, which is the main source of its income, have fallen sharply and has increased inflation and recession in the country. To deal with such problems; Iran is seeking new incomes to expand its cooperation with China and is currently seeking to finalize a 25-year trade cooperation agreement with China.

However, for China, this is an opportunity to consolidate its economic influence in Iran more than before, and more importantly, it may be able to overcome the new trinity of power, which includes India, the United States, and China.

China and India have long sought to expand their markets in Asia. China has already found a place in the markets and politics of the African continent.

China’s is drowning developing countries in debt and. It has had successful responses in countries such as Djibouti and Sri Lanka, and here is a brief look at China’s experience in Djibouti. Where China established its first foreign military base.

The Djibouti experience can give us a prospect of the Iran-China agreement. Djibouti is a small country with a population of nearly one million people located in an area called the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is close to the Middle East, located on energy transit routes and on the shores of the Bab al-Mandel Sea, all of which have made the country geopolitically attractive to the west and east.

On January 8, 1979, China and Djibouti signed an agreement. Since then, China has offered its aid projects to Djibouti in the form of building a stadium, a monument, housing projects, a foreign office building, and several other projects.

Cooperation between the two countries began in 1982, and by the end of 2002, 478 cooperation agreements had been signed. Chinese companies like “the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CSCEC)”, “the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation”, and some other Chinese companies have involved in the Djibouti projects.

In 1998, China and Djibouti signed a trade agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Djibouti. The deal increased trade between the two countries to $ 49.83 million in 2002, of which $ 49.81 million was China’s exports and 

$ 20,000 was Djibouti’s exports.

Two months after the opening of the port of Durala, China and Djibouti celebrated again for the completion of another building: China’s first military base outside the country, just a few kilometers from the port of Doraleh. Doraleh military facility built for the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) navy It is also reported that at least one of the port docks is used exclusively by the Chinese. PLAN is now able to overlook one of the world’s most important trade zones: the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb, where it is estimated that up to 20% of world trade passes from there.

According to the Africa Report, Djibouti’s spending on port and rail projects is estimated at $ 12 billion, while the country’s GDP in 2017 was only $ 1.85 billion. This variance prompted the IMF to warn about debt stability in the country.

In 2018, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh called the Djibouti International Free zone, a $ 3.5 billion Chinese-funded investment, the hope of thousands of job seekers.

“Yes, our debt to China is 71% of our GDP,” Djibouti Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Youssef said in a phone interview during a meeting in New York.”But we needed that infrastructure. It was natural that we increased our cooperation with China; Neither the United States nor Europe was ready to build the infrastructure we needed. We are looking for the progress of the country and the well-being of the people.”

In 2019, the ratio of the country’s total debt to its GDP exceeded 100%. A large portion of these debts was created by China to improve its ports and various investments. Djibouti’s debt to China exceeded what Djibouti could afford it.

Critics of Chinese debts claim that vulnerable and developing countries fall into China’s debt trap, emptying government coffers and creating a generation of taxpayers with giant bills, and In case of non-repayment of debts, Chinese banks will take ownership and control of their structures at strategic points.

Although African governments deny such an occurrence; This is what happened in Sri Lanka. In 2017, Sri Lanka gave the Chinese a large port after failing to pay its debt to them. The Sri Lankan government borrowed $ 1.5 billion from China to develop the port of Hambantota, which failed to repay, and to reduce its debt burden, provided it to China under a 99-year contract, and the company took over the port. CMport is; The same company that contracted to build the port of Doraleh!

Chinese merchants own a 23.5 percent share in a Djibouti holding company related to the Durala port terminal, including the Doraleh dry port and the Doraleh multi-purpose port, the latter of which was built with a $ 580 million loan from the Chinese company Eximbank.

Overall, according to research by Ernst & Young, Chinese companies doubled their investment between 2014 and 2018, spending $ 72.2 billion.

According to Johns Hopkins analysis, African countries have borrowed about $ 130 billion from China since 2000, and the amount of loans has tripled since 2012.

Djibouti officials, however, have always indicated that they have a good ability to repay their loans and will maintain control over these ports.

The head of the Djibouti Ports Fund, Abu Bakr Omar Hadi, said the money came mainly from China, but that we had our assets.

Of course, Djibouti cannot be compared to Iran because Djibouti does not have the capabilities of Iran for monetization and even needs to import to supply its basic needs. While Iran has great potential in many fields like energy, agriculture, tourism, and the like, these days all of these capabilities are overshadowed by unprecedented political relations and unprecedented sanctions, and as Iran’s hostility to the West deepens, it’s become more possible for Iran to trapped in Eastern debt.

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Critical Views On Russia’s Policy Towards Africa Within Context Of New World Order

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In September WhatsApp conversation with Matthew Ehret, a Senior Fellow and International Relations Expert at the American University in Moscow, he offers an insight into some aspects of Russia-African relations within the context of the emerging new global order. 

In particular, Matthew gives in-depth views on Russia’s valuable contribution in a number of economic sectors including infrastructure development during the past few years in Africa, some suggestions for African leaders and further on the possible implications of Russia-China collaboration with Africa. Here are important excerpts of the wide-ranging interview:

What are the implications here and from historical perspectives that Russia is looking for its allies from Soviet-era in Africa…and “non-Western friends” for creating the new world order?

Russia is certainly working very hard to consolidate its alliances with many nations of the global south and former non-aligned network. This process is hinged on the Russia-China alliance best exemplified by the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union with the Belt and Road Initiative and the spirit of cooperation outlined in the the Feb. 4 Joint Statement for a New Era of Cooperation.

Of course this is more than simply gaining spheres of influence as many analysts try to interpret the process now underway, but has much more to do with a common vision for instituting a new system of cooperation, creative growth and long term thinking uniting diverse cultural and religious groups of the globe around a common destiny which is a completely different type of paradigm than the unipolar ideology of closed-system thinking dominant among the technocrats trying to manage the rules based international order.

Soviet Union, of course, enormously supported Africa’s liberation struggle and resultantly attained political independence in the 60s. What could be the best practical way for Russia to fight what it now referred to as “neocolonialism” in Africa?

Simply operating on a foundation of honest business is an obvious but important thing to do. The African people have known mostly abuse and dishonest neo-colonial policies under the helm of the World Bank and IMF since WW2, and so having Russia continue to provide investment and business deals tied to the construction of special economic zones that drive industrial growth, infrastructure and especially modern electricity access which Africa desperately needs are key in this process.

African countries currently need to transform the untapped resources, build basic infrastructure and get industrialized -these are necessary to become somehow economic independent. How do you evaluate Russia’s role in these economic areas, at least, during the past decade in Africa?

It has been improving steadily. Of course, Russia does not have the same level of national controls over their banking system as we see enjoyed by China whose trade with Africa has attained $200 billion in recent years while Russia’s trade with Africa is about $20 billion. But despite that, Russia has done well to not only provide trains in Egypt, and has made the emphasis on core hard infrastructure, energy, water systems, and interconnectivity a high priority in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit and the upcoming 2023 Summit.

Generally, how can we interpret African elite’s sentiments about Russia’s return to Africa? Do you think Russia is most often critical about United States and European Union’s hegemony in Africa?

I think the over arching feeling is one of trust and relief that Russia has returned with a spirit of cooperation. According to all the messaging from Lavrov who recently completed an important Africa tour late July, I can say that Russia is very critical of the USA and EU approach to hegemony in Africa. As Museveni and the South Africa Foreign Minister have recently emphasized, they are sick of being talked down to and threatened by western patronizing technocrats, whereas we see a sense of mutual respect among the discourse of Russian and Chinese players which is seen as a breath of fresh air. 

While the west is obsessed with “appropriate green technologies” for Africa while chastizing the continent for its corruption problems (which is fairly hypocritical when one looks at the scope of corruption within the Wall Street- City of London domain), Russia supports all forms of energy development from coal, oil, natural gas and even nuclear which Africa so desperately needs to leapfrog into the 21st century.

Understandably, Russia’s policy has to stimulate or boost Africa’s economic aspirations especially among the youth and the middle class. What are views about this? And your objective evaluation of Russia’s public outreach diplomacy with Africa?

So far Russia has done well in stimulating their youth policy with expanded scholarships to African youth touching on agricultural science, engineering, medicine, IT, and other advanced sectors. Additionally the Special Economic Zones built up by Russia in Mozambique, Egypt have established opportunities for manufacturing and other technical training that has largely been prevented from growing under the IMF-World Bank model of conditionality laced loans driven primarily by the sole aim of resource extraction for western markets and overall control by a western elite. Russia has tended to follow China’s lead (and her own historic traditions of aiding African nations in their development aspirations) without pushing the sorts of regime change operations or debt slavery schemes which have been common practice by the west for too long.

Sochi summit has already provided the key to the questions you have, so far, discussed above. Can these, if strategically and consistently addressed, mark a definitive start of a new dawn in the Russia-African relations?

Most certainly.

Geopolitical confrontation, rivalry and competition in Africa. Do you think there is an emerging geopolitical rivalry, and confrontation against the United States and Europe (especially France) in Africa? What if, in an alliance, China and Russia team up together?

China and Russia have already teamed up together on nearly every aspect of geopolitical, scientific, cultural and geo-economic interest imaginable which has created a robust basis for the continued successful growth of the multipolar alliance centered as it is upon such organizations as the BRICS+, SCO, ASEAN and BRI/Polar Silk Road orientation. This is clear across Africa as well and to the degree that this alliance continues to stand strong, which I see no reason why it would not for the foreseeable future, then an important stabilizing force can not only empower African nations to resist the threats, intimidation and destabilizing influences of western unipolarists. 

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Sahel security crisis ‘poses a global threat’

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Refugee women prepare food in a displacement site in Ouallam, in the Tillaberi region of Niger. © UNOCHA/Michele Cattani

Rising insecurity, including the proliferation of terrorist and other non-State armed groups, coupled with political instability, is creating a crisis in the Sahel that poses a “global threat”, the UN chief warned Thursday’s high level meeting on the vast African region, which took place behind closed doors at UN Headquarters in New York.

“If nothing is done, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks issued by his Spokesperson’s Office.

“A coordinated international breakthrough is urgently needed. We must rethink our collective approach and show creativity, going beyond existing efforts.”

The insecurity is making a “catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse”, he said, leaving some beleaguered national governments, without any access to their own citizens.

‘Deadly grip’ tightening

Meanwhile, “non-State armed groups are tightening their deadly grip over the region and are even seeking to extend their presence into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.”

The indiscriminate use of violence by terrorist and other groups means that thousands of innocent civilians are left to suffer, while millions of others are forced from their homes, Mr. Guterres told the meeting of national leaders, during the High Level Week summit.

Women and children in particular are bearing the brunt of insecurity, violence and growing inequality”, he said, with human rights violations, sometimes committed by security forces mandated to protect civilians, “of great concern”.

Climate factor

And the crises are being compounded by climate change, said the UN chief, with soil erosion and the drying-up of water sources, “thereby contributing to acute food insecurity and exacerbating tensions between farmers and herders.”

“Against a global backdrop of turmoil on energy, food and financial markets, the region is threatened by a systemic debt crisis that is likely to have repercussions throughout the continent.”

The conventional international finance remedies are not helping, the UN chief said bluntly, with more and more countries forced to channel precious reserves into servicing debt payments, leaving them unable to pursue an inclusive recovery, or boost resilience.

“It is absolutely necessary to change the rules of the game of the financial reports of the world. These rules of the game are today completely against the interests of developing countries, and in particular the interests of African countries”, said Mr. Guterres, “with debt problems, with liquidity problems, with inflation problems, with instability, necessarily posed by this profound injustice in international financial and economic relations.”

Democracy, constitutional order

The UN chief called for a “renewal of our collective efforts to promote democratic governance and restore constitutional order” across the whole Sahel, which stretches from Senegal in the west to northern Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, a belt beneath the Sahara of up to 1,000 kilometres.

The rule of law and full respect for human rights are indispensable for ensuring security and sustainable development, Mr. Guterres said.

Addressing national leaders and senior politicians from the region, he said the UN “stands ready to work alongside you, with urgency and solidarity, for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sahel.”

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South Sudan: Extended roadmap for lasting peace deal, a ‘way point, not an end point’

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Since 2018, the Revitalized Agreement between the key players in South Sudan’s long-running civil war has provided a framework for peace, the Head of the UN mission there, UNMISS, told the Security Council on Friday – “despite continued outbreaks of intercommunal violence”. 

UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom said that although key provisions of the Agreement are set to end by February, the parties agreed in August on a Roadmap that extends the current transitional period by 24 months. 

While a welcome development, he reminded that “there is no alternative to the implementation of the peace agreement”. 

“Let me underscore that the roadmap is a way point, not an end point”, he said. 

Inclusive political process 

The UNMISS chief flagged the importance of an inclusive political process and the opening of civic spaces as “essential conditions” for a robust and competitive electoral process. 

He then outlined some steps underway – from President Salva Kiir and first Vice-President Riek Machar’s agreement to resolve the parliamentary impasse, to the graduation of the first class of joint armed forces recruits – for which budgetary resources, integration and deployment, are vital to allow a broader security sector transformation. 

“Failure to address these critical issues…have the potential to reverse the gains made,” Mr. Haysom warned. 

Violence continues 

He went on to describe violence on the regional level, marked by cycles of cattle raiding, abduction, and revenge killings along with fighting in Upper Nile state that has displaced thousands of people. 

The Special Representative reported that while conflict-related violence is also increasing, UNMISS continues to support prevention through policy frameworks and other areas. 

“The Mission is strengthening its support to the justice chain in each state…to address crimes that risk destabilizing the peace, including those involving gender-based violence,” he told the ambassadors. 

‘Double pivot’ 

Mr. Haysom said that UNMISS has managed to accomplish a “double pivot” in its focus and operations, by channeling resources towards the political process; proactive deployment to violent hotspots; and expanding its protection presence for civilians. 

He assured that South Sudan’s natural resources have “tremendous potential” for either conflict, or cooperation.  

“It is always political that can make the difference”. 

Turning to the humanitarian situation, he acknowledged that food security continues to deteriorate, leaving some 8.3 million people in need and outstripping available funding. 

Noting that the Humanitarian Response Plan is only 44.6 per cent funded, he urged donors to fulfil their pledges. 

‘Litmus test’ 

He asserted that the next few months would be “a litmus test” for the parties to demonstrate their commitment to the Roadmap, warning against “delays and setbacks”. 

In closing, the Special Representative reaffirmed the importance of the international community’s support. 

“Our collective task now is to support the parties in fulfilling their obligations to the people of South Sudan as per the timing of the Roadmap,” he concluded. 

Indispensable timelines 

Meanwhile, Lilian Riziq, President, South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network discussed a broad-based and inclusive process for all key participants, underscoring the need for a new transitional governance process.  

She underscored that election timelines are indispensable, noting that four years on, levels of revitalized agreement implementation have not brought security or ended humanitarian misery. 

She also highlighted ways that precious oil revenues in South Sudan, have been heavily misused. 

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