By Kester Kenn Klomegah
The Republic of Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab.
Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of the Republic of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections earlier next year.
The African Union “decides to suspend the Republic of Mali from participation in all activities of the African Union, its organs and institutions, until normal constitutional order has been restored in the country”, the organization Peace and Security Council said in a statement earlier and further called on the military to return to barracks. It underlined the negative impact on the democratic gains made thus far throughout Africa.
Besides the African Union and ECOWAS, the international community has shown deep concern. Since October, the United Nations together with some European Union members have been urging the military officials to fix the polls on February 27, 2022.
Quite recently, West African leaders meeting at a summit in Nigeria demanded the military abide by plans for February polls, threatening further sanctions if Bamako fails to commit to returning to democracy and constitutional rule.
“The heads of state… decided to keep the (deadline) of February 27, 2022, for elections in Mali,” President of the West African ECOWAS bloc Jean-Claude Brou reiterated in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, adding sanctions would be imposed in January if Mali did not move to stage polls.
Colonel Assimi Goita, the Head of Mali’s Transitional Government had, at first, promised to provide the regional bloc with an election timetable by the end of January 2022, but now offered multiple reasons to justify postponing the election, and said he would hold national consultations which he described as “indispensable” for peace and stability.
In a two-page letter to ECOWAS, Goita highlighted the need to “create the conditions for transparent and credible elections”, including stepped-up security operations, a new electoral law and the beginning of a series of national forums aimed at building a consensus for the return to civilian rule, without specifying concrete dates.
Several military leaders such as Defence Minister Sadio Camara and interim President Assimi Goita were trained by Russia. Despite various condemnations and calls for re-establishing a democratic government, undeterred Malians seem to enjoy all kinds of enormous support from Moscow.
While attending the conference at the United Nations, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that the Malian government was turning towards private Russian companies. “This is an activity which has been carried out on a legitimate basis,” he said during a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.
“We have nothing to do with that,” he added, saying the Malian government estimated that “its own capacities would be insufficient in the absence of external support” and initiated the discussions.
According to reports, Mali’s army-dominated government in Bamako is close to hiring 1,000 Wagner paramilitaries. France has warned Mali that hiring the fighters from the Russian private-security firm would isolate the country internationally.
Then during the joint media conference held with Mali’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, on November 11, Sergey Lavrov referred to the historical legacy, including the traditions of combating colonialism and overcoming colonial dependence and the subsequent recurrences of neo-colonialism in Africa. Regrettably, they have not yet become thing of the past.
“The fact that terrorist groups have been increasingly active, especially in the north of the country, does not offer a favourable environment for launching an election campaign. Mr Diop said the Malian government will determine the timeline for the election campaign before the end of the year,” Lavrov told the media conference.
“We do understand the need to reinforce Mali’s counter-terrorism potential. In this connection, the Russian state supplies the necessary equipment, weapons, and ammunition. We will do everything we can to prevent any threat to Mali’s statehood and territorial integrity,” he reassured his Malian counterpart.
Involvement of Russian ‘Mercenaries’
As for private military companies established by Russian nationals, Lavrov further explained: “We have nothing to do with this. If they sign agreements with the lawful governments of sovereign states, I don’t see anything negative in this.”
As for the nervous reaction of the French and some other Western representatives to Mali’s plans to work with a private military company from Russia (something the Prime Minister of Mali spoke openly about at the UN General Assembly session), this question is exclusively within the competence of the lawful Malian government.
Over the past few years, Russian authorities have in their speeches expressed anti-colonial sentiments and openly declared unflinching support for fighting against what they referred to as neocolonial tendencies in Africa. Russia is particularly against France in French-speaking African countries in West Africa including the entire Sahel and Central African Republic.
In an interview with Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), pointed out that Russia seeks to build on Soviet-era ties, and several African leaders of today studied in the USSR or in countries of the Soviet sphere of influence, and deploy the rhetoric of anti-colonialism in Africa.
He explained in his emailed discussion that Russia is fighting neo-colonialism from the West, especially in relations with the former colonies. It sees France as a threat to its interests especially in Francophone West Africa, the Maghreb and the Sahel. Russia has invested resources in developing French-language news media, and engages in anti-French media activity, including through social media.
In terms of political support like the UN Security Council, there is close interaction between Russia and the African States, but as recent research by SAIIA shows, not as much as assumed. (See this.) The relationship has to however deliver, and move from words to deeds, Gruzd, who also heads the Russia-Africa Research Programme initiated this year at SAIIA, South Africa’s premier research institute on international issues, concluding his discussion on Russia in Africa.
Joseph Siegle, Director of Research and Daniel Eizenga, Research Fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, co-authored an article headlined “Russia’s Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali” in which they highlighted Wagner’s potential entry into Mali, and it reminds how the group started operating in the Central African Republic. The researchers offer an insight into possible reasons why Malians will delay smooth return to constitutional government.
With coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita still at the helm, Mali has been especially ripe for the picking as part of Russia’s asymmetric influence campaign in Africa. Borrowing from its Syria playbook, Moscow has followed a pattern of parachuting to prop up politically isolated leaders facing crises in regionally pivotal countries, often with abundant natural resources. These leaders are then indebted to Russia who assume the role of regional powerbroker.
By accepting Wagner troops in Mali, Goita will therefore gain a foreign security force that will help him consolidate his hold on power and break the prospects of returning to democratic rule. Allowing Wagner into Mali would have profound long-term implications for Mali’s sovereignty, security, governance, and foreign policy with repercussions for the broader region.
The two researchers reminded the African Union and ECOWAS to invoke the African Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism, which went into effect in 1985, prohibiting states from allowing mercenaries into their territories. Declaring Wagner a mercenary force identifies them, appropriately, as an illegal entity, one that should be categorically prohibited from operating in Mali (and other parts of Africa).
Several reports have indicated that the Wagner operatives have dubious involvement in the Central African Republic (CAR), where some of the Russian military instructors backing the beleaguered government are believed to be mercenaries. They are also linked to war crimes in Libya’s civil war. Russia entered the fray in CAR in 2017 as part of efforts to expand its influence across the continent. It gave the African country weapons, ammunition and 175 military instructors, but reports indicated they are in thousands.
The U.S. State Department sanctioned Wagner Group, run by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, back in July 2020, as well as several front companies for the group’s operations in Sudan.
On December 13, the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group and several people allegedly associated with it, further accused of human rights violations, and in particular torture, extrajudicial executions and killings.
In a statement posted on its website, the Western nations warned that the deployment of Wagner mercenaries could “lead to an aggravation of the human rights situation in Mali [and] threaten the agreement for peace and reconciliation” in the conflict-torn country.
They also said they “deeply regret” the choice of the Malian authorities to use “already scarce public funds” to pay foreign mercenaries instead of supporting the country’s armed forces. The statement was jointly issued by Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The Wagner Group and Operation Barkhane
According to the local Russian media Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Wagner Group is facing sanctions for its work in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan, Mozambique and Ukraine.
The main architect of sanctions against Mali and the PMC Wagner is France. Both of its foreign and defence ministers have repeatedly criticized the possibility of deploying employees of the PMC Wagner to Mali, saying its activity was incompatible with France’s further military presence.
France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Currently, Russia sees both Chad and Mali as conduits to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation here if the Goita military junta does not finally drop close deals with Russia’s Wagner and further ignores moving towards democratic elections next February.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in the Republic of Mali.
This article was first and originally published by IDN-InDepthNews.
Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and the BRICS. As a versatile researcher, he believes that everyone deserves equal access to quality and trustworthy media reports. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media.
Algeria Joins Afreximbank as 52nd Member State
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced that Algeria has joined the bank as its 52nd Member State.
This is contained in a statement by the bank’s media contact, Mr Amadou Sall, in Abuja on Friday, July 1.
Afreximbank member states rose from 38 in 2015 to 51 in 2021 and with Algeria’s accession, the bank is only three states short of achieving full continental coverage.
The Cairo-based bank disclosed in the statement today that Algeria’s inclusion in the agreement establishing Afreximbank was formalised on June 8, by Presidential Decree No. 22-212.
“The subscription of the country to the shares of Afreximbank as part of its membership in the institution was also authorised by Presidential Decree No. 22-222 on June 14, 2022.
“Algeria becomes a Class A shareholder in the bank and will be represented by the Algerian Ministry of Finance,” the lender said.
Algeria has the ninth-largest population and the fourth-largest economy in Africa.
It is also a member of the African Union (AU), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Greater Arab Trade Area.
According to Mr Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, “Algeria’s membership of Afreximbank is momentous.”
“It brings Africa’s 4th largest economy within the Afreximbank family.
“It creates a platform for Afreximbank’s AfCFTA intervention to be more impactful and paves the way for deeper cooperation between the bank, the Algerian Government, the Algerian Central Bank and Algerian importers and exporters.”
Mr Oramah said the bank looked forward to a successful partnership that would enable Algeria to firmly establish itself as a strong participant in intra-African trade and investments.
Afreximbank is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution mandated to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade.
Afreximbank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialisation and intra-regional trade, thereby, boosting economic expansion in Africa.
BRICS PLUS verses G-8 in New Global Configuration
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The United States has outstretched its political and economic interests around the world. China has strategically extended its tentacles across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, conquered Africa, and intensified commercial operations in the Central Asia regions including the former Soviet republics – the backyard of the Russian Federation.
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China’s domestic economic reforms and collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries have made it attain superpower status over the United States. China is strengthening its trade, investment and economic muscles.
Russia has been teaming up with China and India and a few other external countries to establish a new global economic system. Its aim is to break the unipolar system that successive White House administrations have maintained. Due to socialist economic planning and their advancement of the notions of international cooperation and peace even among states with varying social systems, there has been tremendous progress in the areas of international solidarity.
The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping is a manifestation of the role of Beijing, Moscow and Pretoria along with the other states to craft another order. These new alliances are perceived as a threat to the role of the United States, Britain and the European Union since they are not participant members and cannot directly impact the agendas and goals established by the BRICS.
Russia has some limitations. Its external economic footprint is comparatively weak. Its external policies hardly promote its economic models. The geopolitical reordering of the world cannot simply be achieved through war or challenging the West’s political influence in its various global domains. The economic component is possibly the most significant.
As Dr Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle wrote recently “the Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is vital for the current global economic order and is equally critical for any future reshaping of that order. If Moscow is to succeed in redefining the role of Arab economies vis-à-vis the global economy, it would most likely succeed in ensuring that a multipolar economic world takes form. Russia is clearly invested in a new global economic system, but without isolating itself in the process.”
Russia has exited many international organizations, instead of sustaining its membership and using these platforms to propagate its global mission. It has gone into self-isolation, with many heavy-handed criticisms against the United States and Europe.
Russia is currently pushing an initiative for multipolarity. In June 2022, Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram that the United States and its allies are destroying economic ties by their sanctions policy, but at the same time creating new points of growth in other countries.
“The move by Washington and its allies to cut the existing economic ties has created new points of growth in the world,” he pointed out. According to the parliament speaker, Western sanctions are leading to the establishment of another group of eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – that is 24.4% ahead of the old group of developed countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and purchasing power parity.
“The United States, with its own hands, has created conditions for countries willing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations to actually establish a new G-8 group with Russia,” Volodin noted.
Understandably, there is a Group of Seven (G-7), an inter-governmental political forum, that includes highly developed countries. These are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, the European Union is a non-enumerated member. Its members are the world’s largest IMF advanced economies and the wealthiest liberal democracies. The group is organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government. As of 2020, the collective group accounted for over 50 per cent of global net wealth. Its members are great powers in global affairs and maintain mutually close political, economic, social, legal, environmental, military, religious, cultural, and diplomatic relations.
Russia has dismembered itself from the group and remained critical about it arguing that the G-7 has no relevance to exist since its members also meet at the Group of Twenty (G-20). Based on that argument, if the establishment of another new Group of Eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – is formed, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, it follows, will have to be absorbed by the new Group of Eight organization, and thus pushing out South Africa.
Indonesia which will host the G-20 summit in Bali this November is doing its best to insulate the meeting from politics. Whether Indonesia will arbitrate between angry clashing superpowers is simply unpredictable. The chances of a sudden rapprochement between the United States and China – let alone between the US and Russia – are exceedingly low.
Russia and China’s strategic alliance is strengthening and China has resisted so many attempts for excluding Russia from international organizations. Both are staunch members of BRICS.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha, Professor at O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, observes that China and India border conflict will continue influencing BRICS. However, India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that the dominance of the West could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture, he said and added, “the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella.”
Questions about the future of BRICS remain especially when new world order is being discussed. Drawing inspiration from Quad plus, BRICS countries are also discussing BRICS plus format. The formation of the new grouping G-8 is primarily a fusion of BRICS and VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina). The formation is primarily to connect BRICS to middle-income and middle-power countries, according to his explanation.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha concluded his argument: “This geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis of Russia-China but the inclusion of Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. How much successful this grouping would be is still a matter of conjecture. From a geopolitical point of view, much would depend on how sanctions on Russia and the post-coronavirus recovery of China shape up.”
Professor Aslan Abashidze, Head of the Department of International Law of the Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs observes that in general, international associations emerge on the basis of prerequisites that may be of a different nature: political, defensive, cultural, et cetera. The emergence of such “para-organizations” as the Group of Seven (G-7), Group of Eight (G-8), and Group of Twenty (G-20) is associated with the inability of international institutions at the global level to meet the increased needs of modern development in the face of growing challenges in the form of pandemics, financial crisis et cetera.
The process of searching for new models by the states dissatisfied with the United States policy has started, which means the end of the dominance of the United States in all spheres of international relations. At some point, the West, headed by the United States, will have to negotiate new models of international economic and other relations, based on new international treaties that ensure equality of all states.
According to Professor Abashidze, “Russia, China and India will establish trade relations on national currencies and therefore it will be attractive and beneficial to other states, not only from the Asia-Pacific region but also from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”
The emerging new coalition group is coming up at a crucial time when over the last two decades, the United States, Britain, the European Union (EU) countries and their allies globally, have been embroiled in numerous imperialist interventions resulting in destabilization, military interventions, proxy wars and the expansion of western imperialism throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Nigeria to Benefit from AfDB $2m Electricity Research Fund
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria is set to benefit from a technical assistance grant of $2 million to fund research that will contribute to electricity reforms in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The grant from the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), will go to the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. The fund was signed by the board of the financial institution on Friday, June 24.
The ultimate objective is to stimulate cross-border electricity trade and improve energy access in the 15 countries covering about 6.1 million km² in the region – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The electricity research fund has five components. The first involves selecting electricity regulatory principles and key performance indicators from the bank’s flagship Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa report, to be adopted by the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority.
As part of this component, the project will build capacity in Nigeria and other member countries for collecting and reporting on these indicators on a common platform.
The second component will involve conducting a study in order to update a comparative analysis of electricity tariffs and their underlying drivers across the electricity value chain of ECOWAS.
The third involves developing a centralized database management system that will provide a platform for digitally collecting relevant energy information from member countries, storing it, and disseminating them on a common digital platform.
The fourth component will assess and identify project bottlenecks and risks in ECOWAS member countries and recommend a coherent approach to progressively address ground-level barriers to investment in the power sector in pre- and post-establishment phases of the regional electricity market.
The final component focuses on programme management and capacity building, which will be co-financed with the Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. All components of the project will include gender-disaggregated data.
Speaking on the plan, Mr Solomon Sarpong, project team leader at the AfDB, said the project will help boost electricity supply and make it a viable investment sector to serve a population of about 360 million in the bloc.
“Ultimately, this project will facilitate regional electricity trade and help improve access to electricity.
“It will address major causes of fragility, such as infrastructure bottlenecks, youth unemployment, environmental challenges, gender inequalities, and regional development imbalances,” he said.
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