Catégories
Non classifié(e)

Africa as the theater of a new proximity war between Russia and the Western bloc? Part 2

Par Roger Motaze, Directeur Scientifique du LAB de The Okwelians

While the Cold War ended more than three decades ago, we are witnessing the resurgence of confrontation between East and West in a new theater, which is none other than Africa. At the expense of the people, it appears once again that geopolitical interests are taking precedence over the stability and development of Africa. We will illustrate our postulate in a series of various papers.

Mali and Niger II

On 18 August 2020, elements of the Malian armed forces unleashed a mutiny, which led to the fall of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The artisans of this coup were Colonels Malick Diaw and Sadio Camara, both trained at a military academy in Russia.[1]   They immediately set up the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) to ensure the transition at the head of the country. President Keita’s term of office, which began in 2013 after a coup d’état in 2012 ousted Amadou Toumani Touré, coincided with the establishment of a French mission in Mali following Operation Serval and then Barkhane on the territory. Can we see in this strange coincidence, a pass of arms? That would be very hasty. Nevertheless, it seems obvious that Russia’s involvement seems certain, and that its influence exacerbates the historical partner. In response to this coup, the leader of the Western bloc, the United States, directly cut all military ties with the junta. It would seem that the relationship has become rather unfriendly and tumultuous between the Malian people and the French army, the reasons? They are surely multiple and diverse, ranging from the colonial past to Barkhane inefficiency, as Mali is still a victim of terrorist attacks, and jihadist groups are still swarming in the north of the country. In November 2019, demonstrators in Bamako urged Moscow to repel Islamist attacks in Mali as it did in Syria. Even the Malian opposition, like Umar Mariko, praised Russian arms and technical support. During the demonstrations in Bamako following the coup, demonstrators were seen waving Russian banners and holding up posters praising Russia for its « comradeship » with Mali.[2]   

Beyond the security and political aspects, the economic side naturally takes precedence in all cooperation.  On this aspect, it is important to note that the Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom, which is in direct competition with its French counterpart Areva for contracts in the Sahel, could benefit from favorable relations with the new Malian political authorities.  Similarly, Nordgold, a gold company with investments in Guinea and Burkina Faso, could also expand its mining initiatives in Mali’s gold reserves.[3]   In January 2021, the CNSP is dissolved, leaving room for new elections to be held. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the next Malian authorities will continue to collaborate with Russia or return to the Western bloc, nothing is less certain. What is certain, however, is that the battle between the Russians and the French for control of influence in Mali is likely to continue.

Niger

In 2019, the Russian news agency « Sputnik » reported that Russia and Niger signed a contract for the delivery of 12 Mi-35 helicopters.[4]   This information coincided with the Russian will to impose itself on the African continent. This former French colony, member of the G5 Sahel and part of the most dangerous land axis in Africa, that is to say, the area of the three borders, which the country completes with Burkina Faso and Mali, is constantly victim of terrorist groups that criss-cross this sector.  Concluding a military contract with Russia is synonymous with disavowal of the former metropolis. This country, which broke relations with the USSR after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, has in fact always had a socialist influence, verifiable with the accession to power of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was brought to power when he headed the PNDS-Tarayya (the Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism,) which is part of the socialist international. Following a protocol signed in October 2016 in Niamey, Niger and Russia decided to strengthen their cooperation in several sectors, including energy, mining, infrastructure and security.[5]  This agreement puts the previous ones in difficulty when the exploitation of resources was essentially done by France.  Exports to France of uranium from the Arlit mines, located in northern Niger, have for a long time constituted a significant part of the country’s foreign income.[6]   

In addition, in January 2009, the government of President Mamadou Tandja of Niger and the president of Areva’s board of directors signed a strategic mining agreement granting the French nuclear group an operating permit for the Imouraren deposit, presented by Areva as the most important uranium mine in all of Africa and the second largest in the world.[7]    In 2019, the two countries, through their Ministers of Foreign Affairs, decided to extend cooperation in the political, commercial, economic and humanitarian spheres. This political cooperation has enabled Niger to gain immeasurable support from Russia in multilateral organizations, as well as for its election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in fiscal year 2020-20201.  This is to say that the battle continues to rage between the two blocs.

Work Cited

  1. “Was Russia behind the coup in Mali?”, DW,  June 26, 2020.
  2. « Areva, maître de la plus grande mine d’uranium d’Afrique »,Site du collectif « Areva ne fera pas la loi au Niger », September 1st, 2009.
  3. Ramani, Samuel. “Why Russia is a Geopolitical Winner in Mali’s Coup”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, September 16th, 2020.




[1] “Was Russia behind the coup in Mali?”, DW,  June 26, 2020.

[2] Samuel Ramani, “Why Russia is a Geopolitical Winner in Mali’s Coup”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, September 16th, 2020.

[3] Idem

[4] Idem

[5] « Areva, maître de la plus grande mine d’uranium d’Afrique »,Site du collectif « Areva ne fera pas la loi au Niger », September 1st, 2009.

[6] Idem

[7] Mona Saanouni, “Le Niger achète 12 hélicoptères de combat russes”, Anadolu Agency,| October 23rd, 2019.

Catégories
Non classifié(e)

Africa as the theater of a new proximity war between Russia and the Western bloc? Part 1

Par Roger Motaze, Directeur Scientifique du LAB de The Okwelians

While the Cold War ended more than three decades ago, we are witnessing the resurgence of confrontation between East and West in a new theater, which is none other than Africa. At the expense of the people, it appears once again that geopolitical interests are taking precedence over the stability and development of Africa. We will start by illustrating our postulate from two countries.

Libya 

Since the fall of Guide Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been plagued by insecurity.  Behind the bitter struggle for control of the country that pits the Government of National Unity (GNA) of Fayez Al-Sarraj against the National Liberation Army (NLA) of Marshal Haftar, there is a genuine opposition and diverse involvement, the United States and Russia. Although recognized and supported by the United Nations, the NLA controls only Tripoli and its environs. How then can we explain the inaction of the UN body in the face of this conflict that has been going on for more than seven (07) years? The answer lies in the reciprocal neutralization of the members of the Security Council, essentially the Russians and the Americans. It is important to understand that the control of Marshal Haftal is established over a large eastern zone of the country, where the country’s oil deposits are located. Vladimir Putin’s country has undertaken to conclude oil and construction agreements in Libya, which has the largest oil reserves and the fifth largest reserves of natural gas on the African continent.[1]   On the military level, Russian cargo planes have regularly made military expeditions to the ANL forces, carrying military ammunition and soldiers of the pro-Russian Syrian regime.[2]   Beyond that, the country of Vladimir Putin is suspected of having deployed nearly two thousand (2000) mercenaries to fight with the ANL, and nearly a dozen fighter planes to support private military contractors.  On the political level, Russia has systematically opposed the sanctions issued against the ANL by the United Nations Security Council and has allowed the printing of a rival Libyan currency in Russia.[3]


As far as the United States is concerned, the commitment is certainly less direct, but it is just as sustained. Contrary to Russia, which acts in the open, the North American country uses the United Nations but especially Turkey and the anti-Islamic coalition as its horse of three, or pretext.

Since 2011, they (the USA) have officially conducted air strikes and sporadic raids in the country against Islamist groups.  In 2014, U.S. commandos seized an oil tanker bound for anti-government militias and returned it to the Libyan National Government.[4]   While the aegis of the anti-EI coalition may justify U.S. neutrality, support for Fayez is certain. Although Turkey also pursues its own interests in this conflict, it turns out that the old adage of the enemy of my enemy’s enemy is my friend (especially under the circumstances) applies here on several levels. Turkey has periodically transported arms, ammunition and aid to the Fayez government.[5]   Officially in July 2019, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, threatened to declare war on Khalifa Haftar after receiving news of six Turkish citizens arrested by Haftar’s forces. The Turkish parliament voted on January 2, 2020, the agreement to send troops, and armament to help the internationally recognized government of Libya. As for the United Nations, Uncle Sam’s country has multiplied plans to sanction Haftar, but has also worked for talks to be held so that the Marshal could lay down his arms. Although the American interest is not as important as that of the Russians, it is the latter’s involvement that preserves American activism.  While Russia is trying to position itself, the United States will not allow a rise in Russian influence in Libya to flourish.

Central African Republic

It would be a truism to say that this country has been since its independence a preserve of the West, especially of France. This paradigm has changed for almost three years now, because of the military agreements with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Russia has become an important cooperator, thus challenging the French persuasion. This French preponderance was visible when the violence of 2013 between the Séléka and the Anti-Balak were at their height. The UN deployed the MISCA (International Mission in Support of the Central African Republic under African leadership), which was replaced by MINUSCA (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic). In support of MISCA, France launched Operation Sangaris, composed of nearly 1,200 military personnel. Nearly 08 years later, the security situation in the Central African Republic is perilous, but in the place of French troops at the side of MINUSCA, there is Russia and nearly 300 military instructors.  The National Security Advisor to the Central African President, Valery Zakharov, is a former Russian spy.  To this should be added the private Russian company Wagner which, as in Libya, is seeking financial contracts in a country with diverse natural resources ranging from gold and uranium to hydrocarbons and rare wood species. With regard to its main strategic resource, diamonds, the country is ranked in the top ten most endowed in the world. It could be that Moscow is using the Central African Republic as a back door to larger and more resource-rich economies nearby, including Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville, two other former French prefectures.

Work Cited

  1. Ghanmi Lamine, “Libya’s Islamic militants brag about receiving new Turkish weapons,” The Arab Weekly, May 26th, 2019.
  2. Kanzanci Handan, “New arms shipments come for Haftar forces: Libyan army”, Anadolu Agency, February 8th, 2020.
  3. Londono Ernesto, Hauslohner Abigail, “U.S. Navy SEALs take over oil tanker for return to Libya”, The Washington Post, March 17th, 2014.
  4. Robinson Kali, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”? Council on Foreign Relations, June 18th, 2020.

[1] Kali Robinson, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”? Council on Foreign Relations, June 18th, 2020.

[2] Handan Kanzanci, “New arms shipments come for Haftar forces: Libyan army”, Anadolu Agency, February 8th, 2020.

[3] Robinson, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”?

[4]  Ernesto Londono Ernesto, Abigail Hauslohner, “U.S. Navy SEALs take over oil tanker for return to Libya”, The Washington Post, March 17th, 2014.

[5] Lamine Ghami, “Libya’s Islamic militants brag about receiving new Turkish weapons,” The Arab Weekly, May 26th, 2019.