Russia’s Growing Influence in Africa: A Wake-Up Call for the Continent
Africa is in intense heat to receive once again one of the countries with the largest economy and influence in the world, Russia. The difference that exists now is that it has not infiltrated Africa to influence its Socialist policies as it was in the early 60s and 70s, but to trade and increase the sphere of influence through the umbrella of Defense and Security.
In recent years, the security situation in the African continent, especially in the Sahel region and Central Africa, has continued to be unsatisfactory due to frequent attacks by terrorist groups, especially in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
These attacks led the people in these countries to demand their governments to increase their efforts to counter these groups, so the governments were forced to ask for help from various countries, especially France, which greatly influences these countries. France sent approximately 4,500 soldiers to protect peace in the “G5 Sahel” region through “Operation Barkhane“, which was also unsuccessful as terrorist groups continued to attack those countries.
The security situation worsened, and resistance started inside and outside the government on how the government deals with countering these groups, thus the situation led to the Overthrow of President Bah N’daw of Mali on 24 May 2021 by his army led by his Vice, Colonel Assimi Goita. The revolution spring spread in Burkina Faso too. The people put their trust in these new military governments in the fight against terrorism.
What Happened After the Military Governments took over?
Going back in 2018, a group of mercenary soldiers working in parallel with the Russian government of Wagner sent its troops to Central African Republic (CAR) with the aim of “protecting the leaders and the government” of President Faustin-Archange Touadera which was under threats of violence and revolution from the former president Francois Bozize’ militia. Wagner managed to carry out the tasks failed by the United Nations Mission in CAR(MINUSCA) along with the French army for more than 9 years.
In 2021, the Government of Mali under Colonel Assimi Goita invited military “trainers” from Russia whom the French government claimed were mercenary soldiers from the Wagner group. This action brought friction between these two countries to the extent that it led to the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country. In February 2022, the French government announced the withdrawal of its forces from Mali, and the people of Mali received the move with joy as they cheered while carrying the Russian flag. This was a sign of the reception of Russia as an alternative to France in the defense sector and the fight against terrorism. This wave arrived in Burkina Faso where its citizens received Russia the same as it was in Mali.
This tradition offended many Western countries to the extent that the United States announced that Burkina Faso would be removed as a beneficiary from the US-Africa Trade Pact (AGOA) citing a lack of progress towards protecting the rule of law and political pluralism.
Russia in Africa! What is the goal?
Focusing on the Defense and Security sector seems to be the card that will give Russia a veto to stay in Africa for a long time, given that conflicts in the African continent seem to be inevitable.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported that Chad, Sudan, and Libya have also been collaborating with Russia on security issues. Thus, Success in penetrating to be part of the decisions of these governments of the Sahel region creates a way to influence the entire region of West African countries that have also been affected by the lack of peace in the Sahel.
In Libya, the warlord, General Khalifa Haftar, has been a close ally of the Russian government as it provides him with experts, drones, and aircraft. This cooperation threats the USA and its NATO allies as Tripoli (Libya) lies 600 miles from the city of Rome-Italy, so if Russia holds Libya, it may inhibit NATO operations in Africa through the Libyan-Italian Corridor as Russia will be at its door too. Therefore, if Russia succeeds in Libya, it will give a veto vote on the discussion of the security of the European continent, especially the Western countries, an issue that seems to be the direction of the way to weaken NATO.
This infiltration of Russia in Africa is seen as another way to create, mold, and protect leaders who can protect and serve their interests, especially considering its ability to “secure” leaders as in the CAR. It should also be remembered that Russia was accused by the United States of participating and “putting” President Donald Trump in the oval office, If so, they managed to play the US Election system, what about these systems and elections in African countries?
In July 2023, African leaders will be gathered at St. Petersburg-Russia during the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum to discuss economic cooperation and humanitarian aid. This meeting is expected to add more areas of collaboration, fastening and widening the areas agreed upon in the first meeting of October 2019. This phase is expected to have a greater achievement from Russia’s perspective considering the success of the country in Africa in the defense, security, trade, and investment sectors achieved for more than 4 years.
Africa’s Perspective on Russia
As most African governments economic and social development are not among the areas they wish to serve rather than ensuring their survival in the presidency. Since Russia has already demonstrated that it can manage to ensure the realization of their need, it is clear that many leaders in Africa can be “customers of this service” provided by Russia.
It is worth noting that European countries and the United States entered Africa through the same routes as Russia, especially through elections or revolutions; protected those leaders by using security agencies, civil society organizations, development propaganda, weak opposition parties, the media, loans, and unworkable development plans.
What these global muscular economic nations are fighting for now, is not for the prosperity of Africa but the power of ownership of those nations in today’s world. Africa is used as a trump card. For them, Africa is just like dice in a game. So suffice it to say that Africa will continue to be played until it comes to its senses.