Sadc protests new US law on Africa-Russia relations

President Samia Suluhu Hassan follows proceedings of the 42nd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) alongside other leaders in Kinshasa, DRC on August 17, 2022. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

What you need to know:

  • Bloc expresses its dissatisfaction with the continent being targeted for unilateral and punitive measures through the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” passed recently by the United States House of Representatives

Dar es Salaam. The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) is unhappy with the decision that the US government was taking against Africa in its [the US’] effort to isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

In a communiqué, adopted during the 42nd Ordinary Sadc Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), leaders of the 16-member southern African bloc castigated a recent US law against Russia in Africa, saying the continent was being unfairly targeted.

“Summit expressed its dissatisfaction against the continent being targeted for unilateral and punitive measures through the ‘Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act’ that was recently adopted by the United States House of Representatives…,” the communiqué reads in part.

It states that Sadc leaders reaffirmed its principled position of non-alignment to any conflicts outside the continent and directed that the matter be included in the agenda of the African Union.

Under the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, the US Secretary of State, using “detailed intelligence,” is directed to identify in Africa “local actors complicit in Russian activities.”

In turn, the US may seek to punish those actors in a manner that it deems fit, including through sanctions and in any other way as decided by the US.

Though the so-called “local actors complicit in Russian activities” may only be in line with the US’ definition, what is vivid is the fact that Russia is one of the largest suppliers of arms to Africa, with some estimates saying that the country provides almost half of the continent’s military hardware. The US law comes at a time when most of Africa has largely chosen to remain neutral in its approach to the Ukraine war.

For instance, in April when the UN General Assembly voted to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council over the war in Ukraine, it was only 10 out of 54 African states that voted in favour of the resolution, whereas nine were opposed, and 35 abstained or were absent.

But during her recent tour of Africa, the US Permanent representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield cautioned African countries to stop engaging with sanctioned countries like Russia.

“But I would caution that countries should not engage with countries that have been sanctioned by the United States,” she said in her media engagement during the recent visit.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield’s trip came shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had completed his tour of four African countries - Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and the Congo Republic, where he met leaders and rallied the continent to become Moscow allies.

During Mr Lavrov’s visit to Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni extolled Russian-African friendship and the key role that the world’s largest country [Russia] played as a partner in the struggle against colonialism in Africa.

“Whenever issues come up and some people want us to take positions against Russia, we say ‘but you people, these people have been with us for the last 100 years, how can we be automatically against them?’” Museveni said in July.

“We have even forgiven our former enemies, the colonialists, the ones who have colonised us, the ones who had actually taken slaves from here and who did bad things. We have forgiven them and we are working them,” he said.

“I am pro-myself. And I deal with other people according to how they relate with my own interest,” he said.

But according to Ms Thomas-Greenfield, it was not the US’ duty to make choices for African countries in whatever manner they choose.

“We’re not asking Africans to make any choices between the United States and Russia – for me, that choice would be simple – to look at the long, abiding relationship that we’ve had with the continent, the US investments on the continent of Africa, and for African countries not to buy into Russia’s disinformation and misinformation campaign to indicate that somehow this is a war between the United States and Russia,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield on August 2 ahead of her trip.

Meanwhile, issues pertaining to peace and security took a centre stage during the 42nd Ordinary Sadc Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kinshasa whereby leaders received updates on the security situation in Cabo Delgado Province, in the northern part of the Republic of Mozambique.

According to the communiqué, the summit approved the extension of the Sadc Mission in Mozambique (Samim) and its related processes.

“The summit commended Samim Personnel Contributing Countries (PCCs) for their solidarity and sacrifice in supporting the mission, and expressed condolences to the governments and families of the nine deceased Samim personnel who died in the theatre of operations,” reads the document in part.

Furthermore, the communiqué says the summit welcomed the establishment of the Sadc Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre (Sadc-RCTC) in the United Republic of Tanzania (URT), as an institution for the coordination of counter terrorism activities in the region.

The summit urged member states to strengthen cooperation and information sharing on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism, the document said.

“The summit approved the appointment of H.E Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania and H.E. Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory, former Vice President of the Republic of Mauritius as the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Panel of Elders (POE), respectively,” reads the communiqué in part.

“This is a Sadc structure with the mandate to facilitate the prevention, management and resolution of significant inter and intra-state conflicts, and is supported by the Mediation Reference Group (MRG),” adds the document.

Also, the summit endorsed a theme of the 42nd Sadc Summit of Heads of State and Government, titled: “Promoting industrialization through, agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth’’.

According to him, the theme takes into account the current operating environment in the region and the urgent need to enhance the roll out of Sadc industrialization and market integration programmes as contained in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030. Furthermore, the communiqué says the summit received a progress report on the implementation of the mechanism in the honour of Sadc founders, and in recognition of their legacy and contribution to Sadc, it handed over medals to the family representatives of the nine (9) respective founders of Sadc.

“It mandated the chairperson of the organ to coordinate the process leading up to the unveiling of the Statue in memory of the late President Julius Kambarage Nyerere at the African Union (AU) headquarters,” reads the document.