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Assessing Russia-African Relations, its Setbacks and the Existing Challenges

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Last November, an expert group headed by Sergei A. Karaganov, the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium, Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, presented its final 150 paged assessment policy report with some recommendations intended to improve and scale up the existing Russia’s influence in Africa. The report, put together by 25 academic researchers and experts, further indicated concrete pitfalls and setbacks in the policy implementation in Africa.

This latest policy report unreservedly criticized Russia’s policy towards Africa. It claimed that there have been inconsistencies in the policy implementation. It said that the policy strategy regarding Africa has to spell out and incorporate the development needs of African countries.

While the number of top-most and high-level meetings have increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda often remains intangible and negligibly small. There are little definitive results from such meetings, which were to demonstrate, a large extent, the “demand for Russia” by Africa and its leaders. In addition, disorganized Russian-African lobbying combined with lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking were listed among the main flaws of Russia’s current Africa policy.

“In many cases and situations, ideas and intentions are often passed for results, and unapproved projects are announced as going ahead. Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations. Worse is many projects announced at the top and high political levels have not been implemented,” according to the report presented in November.

Long before the historic Russia-Africa summit, at least during the past decade, several bilateral agreements between Russia and individual African countries were signed. Besides, memoranda of understanding, declaration of interests, pledges and promises dominated official speeches. On the other side, Russia is simply invisible in economic sectors in Africa, despite boasting of decades-old solid relations with the continent.

It has however attempting to transform the much boasted political relations into a more comprehensive and broad economic cooperation. Its economic footprints are not growing as expected. Interestingly, Russian authorities always acknowledge the enormous potentials and advantages Russia has, and at the same are puzzled by the comparatively high level of economic influence by other foreign players in Africa.

Russia has intensified efforts to strengthen political dialogue, including the exchange of visits at the top levels. Interaction between foreign ministries is expanding. During the year prior to the first Russia-African summit, 21 African foreign ministers visited Russia. According to the calculation with information made available officially at the website, Sergey Lavrov and his deputy Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, have held talks with nearly 100 African politicians including ministers, deputies between January and September 2019. Bogdanov interacted with all African ambassadors in the Russian Federation. Russian ambassadors and staff are also at their posts inside Africa.

Russians like historical references. As always expected, they have nostalgic interest towards Africa, relying on the traditions of friendship and cooperation established back to the days of the political liberation struggle for freedom and independence and eager to use that as unifying factor. Soviet Union, in many respects, supported most of the countries during the decolonization of Africa.

The question being asked three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union: What has noticeably changed between Russia and Africa? In answering this basic question, Lavrov acknowledged talking to students and staff at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO): “Africa is one of our priorities. Our political ties in particular are developing dynamically. But economic cooperation is not as far advanced as our political ties.”

According to Lavrov, the process of Russia returning to Africa is taking the form of intensifying political dialogue, which has always been at a strategic and friendly level, and now moving towards a vigorous economic cooperation. It is necessary to consolidate these trends and draw up plans for expanding consolidated partnerships with the African countries.

That however, just as the coronavirus pandemic subsided leading to the opening of air space and borders, a lined-up of African foreign ministers including Algeria, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Togo came, as always, for political consultations and dialogue.

The significance of diplomatic meetings and most possibly those to follow preceding the next Russia-Africa summit slated for 2022, Lavrov has always indicated in his introductory speeches –these visits are to review the status of the bilateral relations and prospects for their further development.

Russian and African experts have expressed their concern about official visits proliferating both ways, with little impact on the sustainable development currently needed by the majority of African countries. While some see official visits simply as diplomatic tourism, a number of the African leaders keep in mind how bilateral policies would help tackle key questions such as rising unemployment, healthcare problems, poor infrastructure and industrial development – how to turn Russia’s focus towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Russia has shown interests in niche sectors such as nuclear power development, launching African satellites, and energy and mining projects. It has been seeking to exploit conventional gas and oil fields in Africa; part of its long-term energy strategy is to use Russian companies to create new streams of energy supply.

In terms of a strategic outlook and action on economic engagement, it is seriously lagging behind. Russia has long ago cut the “red-ribbon” marking the completion of an infrastructure project in Africa. With regard to other economic areas, it may have to identify wide range of sectors as with members of the European Union, China, the United States, India, the Gulf States and others.

Nevertheless, within the framework of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) that promises creating a single borderless market, it offers opportunities for localization, production and marketing of consumables throughout Africa. This should perhaps, be the strongest dimension of Russia’s dealings in Africa.

Currently, Russian trade is heavily concentrated in North Africa, especially with Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Noticeably, in 2019 bilateral trade information from Russian Export Centre shows (trade statistics) that Russia’s relationship with North Africa is the most significant, US$17 billion of the aggregate total US$20 billion for the whole of Africa. President Vladimir Putin has asked that this trade figure be doubled, up to US$40 billion before the next summit planned for 2022.

In an interview with Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), he similarly noted that Africa is a busy geopolitical arena, with many players, both old and new, operating. Apart from EU countries, China and the US. There are players such as Iran, Turkey, Israel, the UAE, Japan and others. Russia has to compete against them, and distinctively remain focused its efforts. On the other side, Russia uses the rhetoric of anti-colonialism in its engagement with Africa, and that it is fighting neo-colonialism from the West, especially in relations with their former colonies. It sees France as a threat to its interests especially in Francophone West Africa, the Maghreb and the Sahel.

“I would largely agree that there is a divide between what has been pledged and promised at high-level meetings and summits, compared to what has actually materialized on the ground. There is more talk than action, and mere  intentions and ideas have been officially presented as initiatives already in progress. There needs to be a lot of tangible progress on the ground for the second summit to show impact. It will be interesting to see what has been concretely achieved in reports at the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for late 2022,” he distinctively argued.

Steven Gruzd also heads the Russia-Africa Research Programme initiated this year at SAIIA, South Africa’s premier research institute on international issues. It is an independent, non-government think tank, with a long and proud history of providing thought leadership in Africa.

In another discussion, George Nyongesa, a Senior Associate at the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi (Kenya) reminded that Africa is heading for its defining moments. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population especially its young people and thus the largest labor force will be in Africa.

Human capital is definitely an important feature of Africa’s global profile besides its natural resources. Thus, it is no wonder that global players like the United States, Europeans and Asians are competing for influence, simultaneously investing and focusing on the youth, on the African continent. The competition for the control of the continent by global players is a geopolitical reality and by nature multidimensional: economic, education and training, and social; and brings to memory the rivalry of the Cold War era when the United States often treated African states as pawns or prizes rather than partners, according to Nyongesa.

However, 21st century Africa is different in the sense that African leaders seem aware of their windfall potential in human capital and resources and are no longer interested in patrons or protector and this new attitude has opened wide a range of partners necessary for the achievement of security and prosperity they seek.

During the discussion, he simply underlined the fact that “the continent is enjoying enviable attention as key global players from the United States, Europe and Asia continue to outfox each other. This can be seen from the fact that US retreat from its fight against violent extremism in Africa, allows Russia to fill in security gaps; hence the growing Russian military influence on the continent. At the same time, the United States expansion of trade and business in the continent is proving a constructive counter Chinese ever-increasing economic influence.”

There are still some challenges and persistent problems with perceptions. With economic engagement, Russia often interprets the influence of foreign players as neo-colonizers. In order to make successful economic inroads into Africa, Russia is signing agreements exchanging military weapons for mining concessions. It finds it expedient to militarize and deal with its competitor, as exemplified in Central African Republic, Guinea and Mali and in the Sahel-5 region.

Lipton Matthews, an American researcher and business analyst in recent discussions with this research writer about foreign players and the “scramble” for resources, he explained that the weak governance structures in Africa, the perception that China is colonizing Africa is a consequence of Africa’s history of defective governance. Though China through its infrastructural projects is presiding over the modernization of Africa, similar to what Europeans and Americans did in the developing world years ago.

On the other hand, he argued: “We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that colonialism is inherently exploitative. Most people would prefer sovereignty to colonial rule, but the truth is that colonial status does not impede economic growth and some colonies in Africa experienced faster growth during the colonial era. We should give greater priority to good governance than national sovereignty. It is better to be under the rule of benevolent colonizers than to be the subject of a dictator.”

In order to aid Africa, Russia should assist Africa in transitioning to a knowledge-based economy by promoting technology transfer agreements. Russians must also invest in more R&D collaborations with their African partners. This agreement will revolutionize Africa’s economy and a richer Africa is a positive for Russian investors. If Africa is properly managed, the continent should succeed with sustainable development and, to a considerable extent, attain an appreciable economic independence.

As far back in October 2018, before the start of the first Russia-SADC business forum, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, then Executive Secretary of SADC, explained an exclusive interview that Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries, which constitute the Southern African Development Community. 

On the other hand, for the past several years, it has not been that visible in the region as compared to China, India or Brazil. It is encouraging that, of late, Russia has positioned itself to be a major partner with Southern Africa and being part of the BRICS promotes engagement with the region. It has to move with concrete steps into such areas like agriculture, industrial production, high technology and transport.

In the interview, Stergomena shortlisted some of the southern Africa priorities that are also in line with SADC as indicated below:

  • Prospecting, mining, oil, construction and mining, purchasing gas, oil, uranium, and bauxite assets (Angola, Namibia and South Africa);
  • Construction of power facilities—hydroelectric power plants on the River Congo (Angola, Namibia and Zambia,) and nuclear power plants (South Africa);
  • Creating a floating nuclear power plant, and South African participation in the international project to build a nuclear enrichment centre in Russia;
  • Railway Construction (Angola);
  • Creation of Russian trade houses for the promotion and maintenance of Russian engineering products (South Africa).
  • Participation of Russian companies in the privatization of industrial assets, including those created with technical assistance from the former Soviet Union (Angola).

Stergomena further discussed questions relating to public diplomacy. Russia has all but overlooked or underestimated many aspects of it. These include cultural exchanges, scholarly visitors’ programmes, and of course, the use of media to cover and project issues on Africa from a Russian perspective.

These are instruments and aspects of public diplomacy, which would have the effect of reaching audiences on our continent and beyond and impacting positively on what Russia has to offer the world. In the same vein, this can be seen as a form of “soft power” as its aim is to appeal and attract partners rather than coerce them into a relationship of one form or the other, she in an emailed interview in October 2018.

There are the Intergovernmental Commissions on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Trade fixed with African countries. There is the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Trade, the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Trade. The Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African States established back in 2009.

According to historical documents, the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African States was created at the initiative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and Vnesheconombank with the support of the Federation Council and the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. It has the support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources, as well as the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted at the first Russia-Africa Summit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation established the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum also moved to create an Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS). Alexander Saltanov, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the Chairman of AECAS and feverishly stepping forward to advance significant issues of business cooperation between Russia and Africa.

The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has a useful structure, and its primary task is to find real opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and joint implementation of projects between Russian and African entrepreneurs. There are coordination, public and scientific councils operating under its roof. The Secretariat seems to coordinate and support some kind of public outreach initiatives from the civil society.

As most contemporary researchers do, they have offered additional strategic proposals and authorities have to bite on them to make the long-expected progress. It is a well-known and irreversible fact that Russia’s economic presence in Africa is significantly inferior in comparison to the top-ten key global players. It is time to overcome this yawning gap, use the existing structures to expeditiously operationalize the set goals and accelerate the economic return the continent.

Indeed, judging from the above discussions about the changing geopolitical relations, there are well-functioning structures and mechanisms to reap the benefits of a fully-fledged economic partnership and to achieve a more practical and comprehensive results expected from the new multifaceted relations between Russia and Africa.

By all purposes, the relationship requires a new approach, broad levels of interaction including the civil society to forge a new positive image and change public perceptions, and work consistently with the private sector for diversified corporate partnerships. Strategically speaking, Russia needs to adopt an agenda – rather than running on ad hoc basis – and it further needs an effective Action Plan, both the agenda and plan have to conform to African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Development Goals 2030.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.

According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.

It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.

This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.

The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.

Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.

An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.

In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.

All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.

The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.

Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.

The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.

Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.

Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.

It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.

The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.

That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.

Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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SADC extends its joint military mission in Mozambique

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has collectively decided to extend its force mission mandate in Mozambique for three months to provide military support in fighting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, the northern seaside provincial district that suffered frequent militant attacks displacing thousands out of their homes.

The South African Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), according to the final communiqué released after the leaders of the southern African countries gathered to review significant issues, among them the operations of the joint military force dispatched last year as attacks reached its greater heights to Mozambique.

Chairperson of the SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defense and Security and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa told the gathering in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, where the regional bloc held its extraordinary summit and reviewed progress in Mozambique, described SAMIM as highly successful in defeating the militant groups particularly in Cabo Delgado.

“I would like to express my appreciation and commend SAMIM for its work on the ground, as well as recognize the member states that have supported this work financially and in the deployment of military personnel and equipment,” the final report quoted Ramaphosa.

SADC cannot allow terrorism to spread to other provinces in Mozambique and to the region, and it is imperative to promote a spirit of unity among member countries as terrorism and violent extremism threaten the stability and development that the region has achieved over the past four decades, says the report.

The communiqué also approved the framework for support to Mozambique in addressing terrorism outlines, among others, comprehensive strategic actions for consolidating peace, security, and the socio-economic recovery of Cabo Delgado.

The Maputo daily Noticias wrote after the SADC summit that a budgetary allocation of US$29.5 million has been set aside for the three-month extension, after several years of high-level consultations and this would mean until at least mid-April. The SAMIM extension set from mid-January.

Addressing the opening session of the summit, the current SADC Chairperson, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, urged regional bloc member states to stick together and ensure that SAMIM remains multidimensional and comprehensive. He entreated SADC member countries not to relent, regress or even retreat on their commitments.

“What remains now is for us to stay the course and stick together. We cannot relent. We cannot regress. We cannot retreat. Our approach to this mission must continue to be multidimensional and comprehensive. It must not only focus on neutralizing the threat, but also have post-conflict plans to rebuild,” said Chakwera, added that the collective mission is paramount and the stakes for all the Member States are high because what they are fighting for is regional stability, and the sustainability of the quest for the bloc’s integration and socio-economic development.

Chakwera welcomed the comprehensive Cabo Delgado Reconstruction Plan launched by his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, and his government, which, among other issues, seeks to provide humanitarian support to the affected population, including internally displaced persons, and uplift their living standards.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi however expressed high optimism about the current military situation in Cabo Delgado. He said that all the bases from which the terrorists used to plan their actions are now in the hands of the Mozambican forces, and 2022 would be a decisive year to support the regional standby force in the final fight against terrorism in Mozambique.

For the Mozambican President Nyusi the extension of the SAMIM mission demonstrates the spirit of unity and solidarity that the Southern African Development Community members have readily and warmheartedly shown with the people of Mozambique.

Mozambique has grappled with an insurgency in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, but currently fast improving after the deployment of joint military force with the primary responsibility of ensuring peace and stability, and for restoring normalcy in Mozambique.

Mozambique has consistently maintained that all problems especially relating to conflicts and crises should be resolved largely based on the approaches of Africans, and of course with moral, political and material support from regional blocs such as SADC and the continental organization – African Union, and the involvement of United Nations with its UN Security Council.

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. Mozambique is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

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