By Isaac Mwanza
“Africa Is not for Sale. Africa is open for business not for sale or looting. We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours,” ~ Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera
It was a bright summer Tuesday in the Khomas Highland plateau, Windhoek. As the cool breeze from the rising water levels in the Orange River swept across a city with extraordinarily rich fauna, leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) organ on peace and security gathered on 31 January, 2023 to deliberate the political and security situation in the region. While at it, they reiterate the earlier SADC position against the coercive behaviour of the United States of America to use its aid power to hold them at ransom over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
REACTION TO U.S. LAW ON AFRICA
On 27 April, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” which, once passed by the Senate, would effectively punish African governments and nationals who work with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
The law specifically targets Africa in what the U.S. claims to be a law to counter “malign Russian influence and activities” and states its objectives as including “holding African governments and their officials accountable for aiding Russia’s malign influence and activities in Africa.”
The bigger question is why has America decided to enact a law targeting trade relations between Africa and Russia and not make the same law on trade relations between China and Russia? Is it because our African leaders are pawns in this game?
It can be inferred from the decision to enact this law that the Joe Biden administration intends to use its mighty power to force African nations to choose between the USA and the Russian Federation.
That is a glaring expression of the worst form of colonial and imperial arrogance as well as jurisdictional overreach by the leader of the Western alliance.
The law has been opposed by Africa’s regional bodies such as SADC as it seeks to unduly influence foreign policies and trade relations by African countries who either support or refuse to denounce Russia in its conflict with Ukraine.
The African Union is taking a firm and conscientious position of non-alignment to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
For close to a century now, African countries who had been freed from the bondage of European colonialism enjoy strong ties with both mega powers, namely, the USA and the Soviet Union which, after the monumental changes of 1989, reverted to its former status as the Russian Federation.
But America is now attempting to dictate to the developing world, Africa in particular and to the rest of the world at large, that this must change.
Having failed to persuade the world of its noble intentions, the Biden administration is now resorting to economic and military coercion in an attempt to bring about the global political realignment that the U.S. seeks, and which it hopes, will allow it to remain the dominant economic power that it has been since the end of World War II and the resulting economic order.
The Biden administration has placed its hands on foreign aid and sanctions as weapons which they will use, together with its NATO allies, to beat Africa into submission and to crush Africa’s collective sovereign will.
But this pattern by America’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – is becoming predictable.
In an address to a joint session of Congress on 20 September, 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr., superciliously declared, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
President Bush went on to brand the three countries opposed to U.S. foreign policy — North Korea, Iran and Iraq — as rogue states, “the axis of evil” whom he alleged, had harboured, financed and aided terrorists even though no citizen of these States had ever attacked the U.S.
None of these countries were involved in terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September 2001.
President Bush could be forgiven because Republicans are quite well known for bullying other nations and for war mongering.
But the U.S. Democratic Party has always been seen as being more friendly towards Africa especially during the term of its previous Democratic President, Barack Obama.
It is therefore a very surprising development, that the Democratic administration of President Biden, would single out Africa, which also shares longstanding ties to Russia, for punishment under this rather ridiculous law which ostensibly seeks to counter Russian malign influence in Africa.
The decision to enact the law on Africa is ridiculous as it defeats the very idea of national sovereignty which President Biden purports to be defending on behalf of Ukraine.
It can be inferred that this U.S. law on Africa will require African States to surrender their sovereignty in defending the sovereignty of Ukraine. Does Joe Biden and his colleagues in Congress think that African leaders and we in Africa’s sovereign States are subject to America’s will?
Unfortunately for President Biden, Africa and its people may not share the goals which his administration, its NATO and western allies may have set for Ukraine.
Africa is aware that Russia has genuine security concerns about the adversarial NATO alliance establishing itself on Russia’s south-western border, just as Africa was concerned when the former Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, attempted to establish military bases on the America’s south-eastern coast on the island of Cuba in the 1962 Cuba missile crisis.
Going by previous history of similar military adventurism, Africa has its own misgivings about the U.S. hegemony, as shown in previous articles, which showed that America had been on a similar path in Cuba, Grenada and more recently in Venezuela.
In the Middle East, the U.S. threatens and erodes the sovereignty of the Arab nations by providing billions of dollars in military and other aid to Israel which then acts as enforcer of U.S. hegemonic policies, suppressing Arab states while ensuring that the Palestinian people do not and cannot achieve the sovereign status of a nation.
The U.S. has subtly blocked every attempt by the Palestinians to achieve sovereign nationhood and has used Israel to keep the Palestinian people under bondage while making a big show of its desire for all people to fully enjoy their human rights, self-determination and sovereign status.
The U.S. and EU’s coercive, patronizing and bullying behaviours regarding Africa’s position toward the war in Ukraine, shows utter disrespect of our African countries as sovereign nations who have the capacity to make sovereign decisions.
It goes without saying, that sovereign nations get to decide who they are going to associate with or not; that is an issue of international law, state policies and principles. America is wrong to use its domestic law as if somehow, the U.S. has universal legal jurisdiction.
It is also unacceptable that the U.S. should use its aid which, ostensibly, is intended to assist recipient poor countries in their development as a weapon of foreign policy, preying on the dependence our African leaders have on such aid in achieving their national development goals.
It is morally wrong for the U.S. to subvert African nations’ home-grown solutions by forcing them to take a position with the U.S. and its NATO allies, over Russia or gagging trade relations between sovereign States.
If the U.S. and its NATO allies were genuine about allowing sovereign nations to decide for themselves who to associate with, they should have applauded our position of non-alignment than coercing African countries by threatening them, using a new law, with punishments for trading with Russia.
It is therefore noble that we must commend their Excellencies, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Namibian President, Dr. Hage Geingob, leaders of Eswatini and Lesotho as well as ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique for being loud and clear in endorsing the AU position of non-alignment in conflicts outside the continent and against the U.S. law on Africa.
But it is now important for President Hichilema and other individual African leaders to personally come out and defend their position on this questionable U.S. law than hide behind collective decisions made in boardrooms.
The U.S. is known for promoting people’s self-government, free-will and choices. It is a leader in that area. Many of us are attracted to United States of America because of its founding ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness it has espoused over two centuries.
It is therefore not in the best interest of America to dictate on how Africa must make its decisions. Africa must trade with anyone it desires, including the U.S., Russia and China – all of them having been Africa’s all-weather friends.
The coercive and bullying behaviour to stop Africa and its people from deciding on their own, whether to trade or even side with Russia, is an infringement on the sovereignty of individual States and a subversion of the collective will of the African peoples.
It is even more disturbing that U.S. House of Representatives would go so far as to threaten punishment for disobeying America’s foreign policy dictates. Probably, this is being done upon realisation by the West that African leaders cannot do without foreign aid, and they value aid as a panacea to their prolonged stay in power and developing Africa.
[Published by the Zambia Daily Nation, 2023]