It was November 16 when Kampala, the Ugandan capital, was terrorized by suicide bombers who killed at least 3 people and injured 30 more. The attack on civilians, claimed by the Allied Democratic Forces(ADF), was not the only one in the same time span, as on December 11, during the ADF’s fire exchange with joint Ugandan and Congolese military forces, 16 people were killed in eastern DR Congo. Compared to the so far inert state of the aforementioned Islamic extremist group, several questions arise regarding why is there a recent surge in their action and how is it connected to the energy transition, what is actually their supporting mechanism and how can external global powers gain from disruption in the region.
Who are the ADF?
The Allied Democratic Forces(ADF) is a Central African insurgent group, comprising Salafi-jihadist but also nationalist elements, which began to operate in DR Congo in 1995. Through support from the Sudanese military sector, the group managed to perform its first violent attacks, including bombings in 1996 and 1999 in Kampala. After the Congo wars(1996-2003) the group significantly reduced its activity, until 2019, where the ADF, through the Islamic State, claimed responsibility over an attack in DRC. This change of events led, eventually, to 2021, where the terrorist group seems to have engaged in fully-fledged war against the Ugandan and Congolese armies, seeing its action rise to its peak. It presents great interest, hence, to understand why a region that was already known for its natural resource wealth, such as gold and diamonds, is especially now seeing a spike in efforts to get destabilized.
Why is action taken now? How is energy connected to this?
DR Congo and the Great Lakes region have always been considered a blessed land. Rich in gold, copper, diamonds and uranium, there have always been serious grounds for global powers to exercise control over the region. This has led to several conflicts, including the world’s presumed bloodiest war after the World War II, the Congo War(1996-2003) . The post-war landscape included a relatively more stable situation, until the last couple of years. What is being the cause for destabilization and how is it connected to the energy transition?
Among the minerals that DR Congo has significant wealth is cobalt. The gray metal, typically found in copper deposits, had very little value so far. However, with the energy transition being accelerated and the electric cars becoming prevalent, the need for cobalt for their batteries’ manufacturing has seen a surge, which makes the region a strategic one for the global powers that want to assume control of the energy transition. In addition, projects for conventional energy resources are portraying a shift to the African continent as well, as Total is investing $5.1bln on oil projects in Uganda, as well as a total of $20bln on a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique converting the Central-East Africa region in the an energy hub of global interest. The latter has even greater interest considering the energy poverty of the region, but also the energy crisis regions such as Europe are facing.
Geopolitical Losers and Winners
Destabilization in the DR Congo could mean ceasing of the mining activities, which could have one major geopolitical loser: China. Entities of Beijing’s interest currently control 15 out of 17 copper mines(which contain cobalt as well) and in several of them investments are made to increase production, such as the $2.51bln plan of China Molybdenum Company(CMOC). Combined with the fact that attacks on the Great Lakes are being accompanied by kidnapping of Chinese citizens, it is in Beijing’s best interest that the rebel groups are dealt with.
A major geopolitical winner could be Russia. The Russian PMC Wagner group is already training and deploying soldiers in Central African Republic(CAR), while the Radio France International(RFI) had reported that there is already a military agreement between Kinshasha and Moscow that can be “activated” at any given point. In addition, the military needs of Uganda(and other regional players) in weaponry can be satisfied through the Russian military industry . A potential crisis therefore is an excellent policy window of opportunity for the Kremlin to control the supply chain in the energy transition era as well, but also the new oil & gas reserves that will be used by Europe.
The usual suspect at the other side of Moscow’s chessboard is Ankara and might prove to be a major stakeholder in this situation, as it has major interest in maintaining a key energy supplier status. Turkey has been pursuing deepening ties with Africa through projects, among which the military base in Somalia is prevalent. The outreach has gone up to Rwanda(indoor arena) , showing that President Erdogan is serious in becoming part of the Great Lakes game. Furthermore, President Erdogan has been a vocal supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past and has supported the ISIS, which has caused (and is still causing) destabilization in regions, so such destabilizing efforts in the Great Lakes might be Ankara’s “military way” in this Great Game.
How can this not end up in mayhem?
The situation that ADF brings up is quite new to the Great Lakes region, but there is precedent and there are lessons that can be learnt from elsewhere in Africa. West Africa, which also has huge renewable energy potential and is very relevant for the energy transition, has faced among the world’s worst consequences when it comes to terrorism and the ideation of the G5 Sahel has been an excellent idea in working towards combating the problem. Its execution, however, was rather poor, leaving a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to maintaining regional political stability. Reflecting on this, the Great Lakes region could show a unified response and the EU or NATO can work as a broker to make this happen. Showing a strong military response to non-state actors in the region can have a positive impact in combating terrorism even in the neighbourhood, such as in Mozambique(Cabo Delgado) or Somalia, bringing, eventually, stability in a region of utmost importance for the energy transition and all the future crises that loom in the corner.
Russia Renews its Support to Mark Africa Day
Russia has renewed its unique confidence that “it will be able to ensure the development and implementation of many useful and innovative projects and initiatives in various fields for the benefit of both countries and peoples, in the interests of strengthening security and stability in Africa and around the world.”
In a speech, on behalf of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, read by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on May 25 when the continent marks Africa Day, further noted the change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.
Putin, in addition, acknowledged that “African states have achieved a great deal together over the past two decades. They have developed mechanisms for a collective response to local conflicts and crises, and are consistently promoting regional integration processes in various formats. Africa enjoys growing prestige on the global stage and plays an increasingly important role in resolving important issues on the international agenda.”
Later talking about Russia-Africa relations, Lavrvo told the gathering that Russia would continue to provide comprehensive support and to expand mutually beneficial cooperation. Russian-African relations are traditionally friendly and are making good progress.
Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa.
Russia has played a leading role in decolonisation and in consolidating decolonisation processes, as well as drafting UN resolutions. Unfortunately, some of them have been sabotaged by former metropolises to this day. We stand in solidarity with your demands for the complete liberation of Africa from the last vestiges of colonial legacy.
This year marks 20 years since the Organisation of African Unity was transformed into the African Union. That change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.
“Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa. I’m referring to the all-out hybrid war against Russia declared by Washington and its European satellites in connection with the special military operation in Ukraine,” he added.
According to him, it is not so much about Ukraine, which is used as a bargaining chip in the global anti-Russian game. The main problem is that a small group of US-led Western countries keeps trying to impose the concept of a rules-based world order on the international community.
Lavrov suggested that Africa must not succumb to Washington’s discriminatory pressure. There are attempts to reverse history and subjugate the peoples of the continent again grossly violate the sovereignty and independence of the states of the region, and jeopardize the entire system of international relations, which is based on the principle of respect for the sovereign equality of states in the Unted Nations’ Charter.
He called on the African Union (AU) to persistently demand that the West lift illegal unilateral sanctions that undermine the transport and logistics infrastructure necessary for world trade, which creates risks for vulnerable segments of the population.
Russia and Africa will work together to maintain and expand mutually beneficial bilateral ties in the new conditions without external interference. It is important to facilitate the mutual access of Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets, to encourage their participation in large-scale infrastructure projects. All these tasks are at the center of attention in the preparations for the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.
Reports show that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has twisted the global economy and many African countries are among the most vulnerable in terms of ensuring food security. Some states of the continent are critically dependent on the import of agricultural products from Russia, therefore will make some deliveries, including food, fertilizers, energy carriers and other goods, of great importance for maintaining social stability and achieving the milestones stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goals approved by the United Nations.
South Africa on the right side of history or captured by Cold War allies?
Authors: Professor Gerrit Olivier and Michèle Olivier*
A seemingly non-negotiable principle of SA’s foreign policy, is to be on the side of autocrats and dictators and habitually anti-West, irrespective of the issues. Cosy relations with the likes of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam, Sudan‘s Omar al Bashir Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, characterised our foreign policy under all presidents since Nelson Mandela. With the present government being enamoured with a rabid war criminal like Vladimir Putin, we see a continuation of this policy.
Obsessed with a myopic partisan ideology and habitual hop-nobbing with dictators, of course, come at a high price, particularly degrading SA’S erstwhile high international prestige, role and status as well as stunting our all-important economic development. In short, this means that SA’s prevailing foreign policy is totally out of zinc with its intrinsic national interests.
According to ANC declarations, SA would ’stick to its principles‘ and not take sides in this war in spite of blatantly illegal and murderous Russian war crimes. Hence, it abstained from voting against Russia together with a motley minority of 34 other UN members in the 2 March General Assembly resolution (only 5 states voted against whilst 141 voted in favour).
The minister of the department of international relations and development (DIRCO), Naledi Pandor, issued a statement demanding Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. This clearly upset the Marxist, anti-West faction in the ANC policy establishment who subsequently prevailed upon president Ramaphosa, to denounce the statement, no doubt to assuage Russian and local communist’s displeasure.
For many, both inside and outside the country, this was a controversial decision resulting in a rare local public debate about our wayward foreign policy. What emerged was a conflict of opinion between the ideologues and realists in the foreign policy establishment. A hopeful sign, but unfortunately of little consequence in our fossilised ANC foreign policy establishment.
All along, the ideologues accepted that being in cahoots with war criminal Russia was in SA’s best interests notwithstanding the normative constitutional dictates and founding moral principles concerning respect for human rights, sovereignty, democracy, and territorial integrity.
What followed was indeed a case study of expedient, if not downright ’Walter Mitty’ diplomacy. First, president Ramaphosa rushed to telephone Putin, obviously to bask the reflected glory and honour of speaking to the ‘great man’. Afterwards, he subserviently thanked ‘’his excellency president Vladimir Putin‘’ for taking his call. At the same time, our ’great negotiator’ refused official engagement with the local Ukrainian ambassador as well as with ambassadors of the European Union, our biggest trading partners.
In the latest General Assembly meeting on Ukraine, SA persisted with its pro-Russian pseudo-neutrality but got a humiliating bloody nose after presenting a draft resolution, excluding the country of all blame. No wonder as this resolution was strictly in line with Kremlin propaganda lies casting doubt as to where exactly SA’s UN diplomats got their instructions from.
Ramaphosa’s aim, it seems, is to push himself forward as facilitator in the conflict, recalling at length in parliament his past experiences a negotiator.
‘Illusions of grandeur’, it may be called, as SA ’s international status and role during about 3 decades of uninterrupted misrule has declined close to being almost insignificant. While most of the world reached out to end the horrible and unthinkable human and material misery inflicted upon Ukrainian people, he offered them naught for their comfort, except portending to be a great negotiator reporting for service.
Belatedly, after strong criticism he rejected war as an instrument of policy, and signalled his wish to also speak to Ukrainian pres Volodimyr Zelinskiy, impressed perhaps by the latter‘s sterling performances addressing the American senate and the British, Canadian, Israeli, Italian and Japanese parliaments and the German Bundestag. The pièce de résistance of his kindergarten diplomacy, was to blame NATO for being deaf to earlier warnings against eastward expansion, ignoring the Russian brutal invasions, of inter alia, Finland, Latvia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, in the previous century not realising that NATO membership was their safeguard against future Ukrainian-type of invasions. Theirs was a wise decision. Indeed, Mr President, ignorance is bliss….!
Of course, good relations with countries like Russia are important provided they are based on pragmatism and national interest rather than sentimental ideological predilections. However, the ANC still acts as being a captive of the Cold War and, as if it still owes permanent a feudal fealty to Russia at a time when Soviet Union is passe and with communism on the ash heap of history.
While the world must perforce deal with a totally different and dangerous Putinist Russia, the ANC obstinately refuse to accept that its subservient posture vis-a- vis that country is not in SA’s best interest. Lamentably, the global moral imperatives that saw them to power no longer guide its foreign policy. Like the apartheid regime, Putinist Russia today commits a crime against humanity in Ukraine with the support of the ANC government.
The war in Ukraine may yet lead to unthinkable consequences for the world at large. What happens there is really a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Putin does not want a democratic Ukraine at his doorstep exposing his bland authoritarianism and precipitating a ’colour revolution’. Given the solidarity in the democratic West and the sluggish performance of the Russian forces in Ukraine, he will probably end up losing. SA policy makers are demonstrably myopic not realising the consequences for being on the side of a war autocratic war criminal war criminal. Like apartheid SA it would probably end up as an isolated global pariah.
An independent SA foreign policy is called for rather than one subservient to the preferences and dictates of Moscow and Beijing. This is the best way in which SA can regain international respect. The way in which it has handled the Ukraine crisis once again laid bare its diplomatic deficiencies, particularly lack of clear headed leadership. This will not change unless foreign policy making is democratised and professionalised rather than being monopolised by a small clique of badly trained and inexperienced ideologues with the help of a few advocating stand-patters.
* Michèle Olivier is a consultant of international law
Reviewing Russia-Mali Strategic Partnership
After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.
The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis.
“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.
Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.
“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.
During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.
As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.
Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.
The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.
Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.
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