AFRICANS don’t want to be bullied anymore by any outside powers, no matter who they are or how powerful they may be, says Vernon Mwaanga.
Commenting on National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump Ambassador John Bolton’s statement outlining new US policy on Africa to counter Chinese and Russian influence on the continent, Mwaanga noted diminishing US interests in Africa.
He stated that it was clear the American government’s interest in Africa was on a declining trend.
“For example, when Trump addressed the UN General Assembly in September this year, not once did he mention Africa or its concerns – which has 54 member states in the United Nations General Assembly, representing the largest regional group. Bolton, a well-known conservative right wing member of the Trump administration, specifically mentioned possible curtailment of US funding to UN and African peacekeeping operations, which have been so vital to stabilising the African continent, after many years of turmoil, civil and internal strife,” Mwaanga, a former foreign affairs minister and ambassador to the United Nations, stated. “Peace keeping operations have had the effect of stabilising many African countries, building capacity amongst African peacekeepers, thereby reducing the need for peacekeepers from other continents of the world. During my second tenure of office as foreign minister during the [Frederick] Chiluba administration in 1991, I negotiated with the late Kofi Annan in 1992, who was then head of the UN department of peacekeeping, for Zambian soldiers to take part in UN peacekeeping operations, before he became Secretary General. At that time Zambian soldiers did not have any peacekeeping capacity or experience. After many years of capacity building in Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and DRC, they are now among the most sought after peacekeepers in the UN system, because of their competence, dedication and professionalism.”
Mwaanga stated that the new US Africa policy announced by Bolton would be counterproductive and would isolate Africa even further from the US and open up limitless opportunities for Russia and more particular for China, which already had a stronger foothold in Africa.
“Africans don’t want to be bullied anymore by any outside powers, no matter who they are or how powerful they may be. That era ended many years ago and they want a win-win relationship, based on mutual respect. We still have weak and fragile institutions of democratic governance in Africa and regrettably, we also still have armed conflicts going on in countries such DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and in a few others,” stated Mwaanga. “This new US policy, will further diminish US influence in Africa, coupled with some aid cuts the Trump administration has already made to some vital projects Africans consider important to their wellbeing. The Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation, Clinton Foundation and the Bush Foundation, who value Africa more will continue to be welcome to play a vital role in health and poverty alleviation programmes, as the US government becomes more inward looking in the overall context of putting ‘America First’.”
The BBC quoted Bolton saying China and Russia were using “opaque” and “corrupt” practices to expand their influence in Africa.
He said the two nations were “deliberately and aggressively” attempting to gain an economic advantage over the US on the continent.
Bolton said the Trump administration’s new strategy for Africa would focus on trade and countering terrorism.
He warned the US would no longer fund “unproductive” peacekeeping efforts.
“Under our new approach, every decision we make, every policy we pursue, and every dollar of aid we spend will further US priorities in the region,” Bolton said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
He accused China of using “bribes, opaque agreements and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands”.
He highlighted China’s influence in Djibouti, which he said was not only having a direct impact on the US’s military base there but could soon shift the balance of trading power in the region towards the east.
Russia, he said, was seeking to increase its influence in Africa by advancing “its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance”.
He said Russia was continuing to “sell arms and energy in exchange for votes in the United Nations” and extracting “natural resources from the region for its own benefit”.