As the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalates, it seems to be opening a new chapter of Cold War between the United States-led West and Russia which will also impart on Africa.
A bill that would oblige Washington to punish African governments that abet Russian “malign activities” on the continent is now sailing through Congress.
According to Daily Maverick, a South Africa-based medium, the countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act passed the House of Representatives on April 27, by a huge, bipartisan 419-9 majority and is now sure to be passed by the Senate and become law soon.
It would direct the US Secretary of State “to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining United States efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa.”
The bill broadly defines such malign activities as those that “undermine United States objectives and interests.”
The Secretary of State would have to monitor the actions of Russia’s government and its ‘proxies’ – including private military companies (clearly Wagner is in the sights) and oligarchs.
The bill if passed would empower government to counter such activities effectively, including through US foreign aid programmes. It would need to “hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding such malign influence and activities.”
The bill which was introduced to Congress on March 31 and was clearly a response to Russia’s February 24 ‘military operation’ in Ukraine, had several other punitive laws aimed at Russia – including one directing the administration to gather evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine – were introduced at about the same time.
With the new cultural imperialism now in offing, the US is going to dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the African states that constitute the hegemonic sphere of influence, either by an internal, sponsored government or by an external, installed government.
New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee was quoted to have said that the bill was designed to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to ‘pilfer, manipulate and exploit resources in parts of Africa to evade sanctions and undermine U.S. interests,’ and to finance his war in Ukraine.
Meeks also presented the bill as supportive of Africa, intended to protect “all innocent people who have been victimised by Putin’s mercenaries and agents credibly accused of gross violations of human rights in Africa, including in the Central African Republic and Mali.”
It is specifically in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali that Wagner has been accused of committing human rights violations to prop up dubious governments and thwart Western interests.
It is true that proportional to other regions, more African states did not support the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution of March 3, condemning Russia’s ‘aggression’ against Ukraine. Twenty-seven African governments voted for the resolution. Just one – Eritrea – voted against, while 17 abstained and the rest were absent.
Western intelligence agencies and others believe both Wagner and AFRIC are proxy operations for Putin’s government, with a mission to frustrate Western activities in Africa and elsewhere. These agencies contend that AFRIC’s actual function is to counter election monitoring by Western and local monitors, thereby giving credence to the likes of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. AFRIC did indeed deliver a positive judgement of the last elections in Zimbabwe.
On the flip side of this injunction, the bill urges the U.S. government to strengthen democratic institutions, improve government transparency and accountability, improve standards related to human rights, labour, anti-corruption initiatives, fiscal transparency, monitoring natural resources and extractive industries, and “other tenets of good governance.”