Russia (just like the West) is no true friend to Africa | Opinions

On July 24, Russia’s overseas minister Sergey Lavrov landed in Cairo, Egypt, at first of a five-day tour of Africa supposed to strengthen his nation’s ties with nations on the continent.

He started his four-nation expedition – overlaying Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo – by promptly reminding the world that the regime he represents merely can’t inform the reality.

There’s “a typical understanding of the causes of the grain disaster” he claimed at a press convention in Cairo, unashamedly attempting in charge Africa’s deepening meals disaster – indisputably triggered by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and its Black Sea fleet’s blockade of Ukrainian ports  – on “Western sanctions”.

And what he mentioned in Cairo was not even the primary – and by any measure the worst – lie he informed throughout his go to to Africa.

Simply earlier than departing for Cairo, Lavrov wrote an op-ed to be printed in newspapers in African international locations he was as a result of go to claiming Russia has “not stained itself with the bloody crimes of colonialism”. The op-ed blatantly rewriting Russia’s historical past was printed on July 22, simply two days after Lavrov’s personal announcement that Russia has expanded its goals in Ukraine past the japanese area of the Donbas and was now looking for to annex much more territory from the embattled nation.

In the identical article, he additionally claimed that Russia “doesn’t impose something on anybody or tells others methods to stay”, regardless of the Kremlin at present being engaged in a warfare of aggression which is, by its personal admission, aimed toward producing regime change in a sovereign state.

The overseas minister additional asserted within the op-ed that “the speculations of Western and Ukrainian propaganda that Russia allegedly ‘exports starvation’ are fully unfounded”. Satirically, only a few hours after newspapers containing the article hit newsstands throughout Africa, Russian cruise missiles focused the Ukrainian port of Odesa – a foremost gateway for grain exports that assist feed many countries internationally, together with these in Africa. So as to add insult to harm, the assault got here only a day after the signing of a brand new deal to open Black Sea ports.

All through his go to, not one of the African political leaders or civil servants he got here head to head with even tried to problem Lavrov’s lies. Sadly, Africa’s seemingly enthusiastic acceptance of Russia’s “different truths” throughout this go to was not in any manner stunning.

Disinformation and propaganda have lengthy been instruments expertly utilized by Moscow in its geo-economic battle towards the West. Certainly, alongside strategic investments, commerce incentives and profitable power offers, Russia’s capability to assemble narratives that paint the Kremlin (and particularly the present Putin authorities) because the defender of countries towards Western colonial ambitions and aggression gained it numerous allies and supporters internationally for a few years.

And lately, Africa grew to become one of many foremost targets of Russia’s post-Chilly Battle offensive on the reality. Between 2019 and 2022, for instance, Twitter and Fb eliminated Russian disinformation networks that focused Madagascar, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, Libya, South Africa, Nigeria, the Gambia and Zimbabwe.

And because the starting of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian efforts to realize favour in Africa by means of false narratives went on overdrive. In March, for instance, {a photograph} supposedly displaying a younger Putin coaching Mozambican freedom fighters in a Tanzanian army camp in 1973 conveniently emerged on African social media and generated undeserved reward and pleasure. The picture was additionally posted on Twitter by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son. After all, the photograph isn’t actually from the Nineteen Seventies, and the person presupposed to be Putin isn’t the Russian chief. Nonetheless, it has been efficiently used to justify African assist for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However why are Africans so prone to Russian propaganda?

In accordance with Dmitry Gorenburg, an affiliate on the Harvard College Davis Heart for Russian and Eurasian Research, Russia has established 10 foremost narratives that inform its strategic messaging world wide. And for a large number of historic and cultural causes these narratives appear to resonate particularly properly in Africa.

Amongst these, portraying Russia as “a bastion of conventional values”, in distinction to a “decadent” West, for instance, appeals to conservative and homophobic segments of African society that regard sexual liberties promoted and guarded by Western nations as “immoral”.

Russia’s frequent use of “whataboutism”, as defined by Gorenburg, to deflect consideration from its warfare crimes in Ukraine and past additionally play properly with audiences in Africa. It’s because an amazing variety of Africans maintain the West, and solely the West, answerable for the wars, conflicts and instability devastating the World South. Many Africans, for instance, view the US-led invasion of Iraq, which reminds them of comparable assaults by the West on their nations as against the law and welcome what they see as Russian efforts to forestall Western whitewashing and counter Western hypocrisy.

One other messaging instrument Russia makes use of in its warfare of narratives towards the West, particularly calling consideration to the US’s historical past of intervening within the home affairs of sovereign states, additionally resonates properly with Africans who’re nonetheless struggling the outcomes of Washington-instigated or supported coups throughout the continent, or mourning the US-assisted assassinations of their independence heroes, such because the DRC’s founding Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

And presenting Russia as a champion of “multipolarity” on this planet additionally sits properly with Africans who had suffered massively beneath US dominance and are eager for his or her nations to have their voices lastly heard within the worldwide enviornment.

All in all, there are lots of the reason why Africans cherish and assist narratives pushed by Russia that underline the West’s historic and present crimes, aggressions and missteps in direction of the remainder of the world.

Nonetheless, nothing can legitimise or justify Africa’s acceptance of Russia – a colonial belligerent in its personal proper that has inflicted and remains to be inflicting incalculable ache on nations inside its quick area and past – as an anti-colonial saviour. Past acknowledging their ethical duty to categorically stand towards Russia’s brutal and illegal assaults on Ukrainians, Syrians and lots of others, Africans additionally want to grasp how dangerous their uncritical acceptance of Russia as a benevolent power for good could possibly be for the continent.

As its confrontation with the West escalates, Russia is doubling down on its neo-colonial ambitions in Africa. Because it expands its financial and political affect over the continent, there’s little motive to anticipate it might behave in a different way right here than it does in its conventional zone of affect. Simply because it did in Ukraine, Georgia and lots of different nations in its periphery, it is not going to chorus from interfering within the home affairs of African nations to additional its pursuits. It’s already closely concerned in home politics in Sudan, CAR, DRC and Mali. Russian paramilitaries, significantly from the notorious Wagner Group, are combating in a number of African conflicts. Strengthening ties with Russia, at a time when it’s clearly in want of recent “pals” to use to feed its warfare effort, wouldn’t be excellent news for Africa.

All this, in fact, is to not say solely Russian propaganda poses a menace to Africa. Western propaganda and manipulation have been a serious supply of grievance for a lot of African nations since independence. And the West remains to be working arduous to unfold its false or incomplete narratives on the continent to additional its pursuits to the detriment of Africans – and the reality. For instance, the state-run Voice of America (VOA), supposedly overseen by the “impartial” United States Company for World Media, has lately been accused of blatant pro-government bias in its protection of Ethiopia’s civil warfare by its personal African journalists.

Africans have each motive and proper to be suspicious of the narratives pushed by the West. However this could not result in the uncritical acceptance of Russian narratives and whitewashing of the Kremlin’s many well-documented atrocities.

It’s time for Africa to study to not be manipulated by the West and Russia – for the good thing about Africans themselves, and all the opposite peoples of the world who’ve been affected by both the West or Russia’s neo-colonial ambitions.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

Leave a Reply