Friday, December 09, 2022

America salutes Africa

The greeting was formal then. South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor elbowed his American colleague Antony Blinken in Pretoria on Monday. He probably kept his distance because of the corona, but certainly the picture at the start of the US chief diplomat’s visit to Africa was not entirely without symbolism, with relations with the continent even better. Which is because of Donald Trump, who was at the top of the war, not in Africa, but Ukraine, which made it clear that many African governments are not too eager to engage in a conflict with which they have little to do. Is. The result of which they feel only in the form of rising food and energy prices.

When the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the invasion in the spring, nearly half of the 54 African countries voted not in favor: Eritrea was against it, 17 countries did not participate, and eight countries did not participate at all. Didn’t come In Europe and the United States, people were shocked that even long-standing allies such as South Africa did not want to condemn the Russian attack, and no country has imposed sanctions anyway. South African Foreign Minister Pandor initially condemned the war, calling on Russia to “immediately withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine”, but then quickly returned to the line of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). , which ultimately says: Only dialogue can bring peace. We do not take sides.

Blinken’s visit would not change that – even though he shook hands with his colleague and told Pandor that there had been an open discussion with differences, but friendship between the countries was strengthened. The government of South Africa has traditionally felt close to Russia because the Soviet Union at the time supported the fight against apartheid – the fact that Ukraine also belonged to the USSR at the time is no longer taken so seriously. The war in Africa comes at a time when sympathy for Europe and America is waning and slogans from China and Russia are being welcomed by many. Chinese state newspaper Global Times Commented on Biden’s visit before it actually began: “Since the end of World War II, the United States has placed Africa at the bottom of its global strategy. Although American diplomacy is now placing more emphasis on Africa, But it is only trying to cover up bringing the Cold War back to Africa and ruining Africa’s growth prospects.”

Blinken attempted to counteract the growing sympathy for Russia and China. According to the BBC, he announced in a speech in Pretoria that the United States would launch a global aid program that would make a “decade-long investment in promoting more peaceful, more inclusive and more resilient societies” and would receive $200 million annually. He also went to the Ukraine war. America can support African countries that are affected by the consequences of the war. And he said Washington would decide neither Africa’s decisions nor anyone else’s.

Many of Lavrov’s interlocutors nodded anxiously

It is a similar folktale that the Russian foreign minister had already spread during his visit to Africa in late July. Sergei Lavrov said a few days ago that his country “has not tainted itself with the bloody crimes of colonialism” and “sincerely supported Africans in their struggle for liberation from colonial oppression.” If oil and wheat prices are now rising in many African countries, it is only the fault of the United States. Several of his interlocutors nodded anxiously, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a longtime close US ally.

A few days later he also received a highly-placed visit from Washington to the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who had flown in on a lucrative invasion into the Blinken-like continent. Museveni was not impressed: “We also appeal to the United States that if they really want to help Africa, they consider freeing us from sanctions in a war in which we are not involved.”

Blinken could face similar reservations in his other positions in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And try to win back the goodwill there too. With a new strategy for sub-Saharan Africa: less military, but more diplomacy and development aid. Washington watched with disillusionment how the fight against terror in the Sahel region depended primarily on military solutions – and how the population’s situation had deteriorated dramatically. Above all, they want to be heard, said top diplomats on the African tour. At the same time, however, the extent of the understanding became clear: UN Ambassador Thomas Greenfield threatened states that had the idea of ​​buying oil from Russia with consequences.

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