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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Africa is caught between a rock and a hard place

Africa has taken centre stage on the agendas of US and Russia, both competing for dominance.

Africa has embarked on Mission Impossible – or whatever you want to call the African leaders’ fraternising with Russia, while ditching the West in style.

The participation of a group of African leaders in the recent summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is neither new, nor surprising. But it is odd that they would brazenly defy the West.

The US would have liked them to stay as far as possible away from Russia, particularly after it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

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The African leaders’ attendance at the summit is a culmination of several actions and utterances, laced with anti-West rhetoric by the continent’s leaders. Whether they have chosen to go with Russia remains to be seen, but we know for a fact many attended a similar gathering organised by the United States.

The good thing about the new Cold War between the US and Russia is how both give Africa the respect it deserves as the two big powers try to win it over.

Both had been scarce in Africa since the fall of the Soviet Union in late 1991, perhaps with Russia dealing with its own crisis and consolidating itself as a separate entity and the US celebrating having won the Cold War and capitalism having defeated communism hands down.

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With Russia having reawakened and strengthening its militarily since then – and with Vladimir Putin at the helm in Moscow – it was able to challenge the US military dominance. It possessed the dreaded long-range nuclear missiles which it reserved for use in case of World War III. Russia has become a strong military force, having caught up with the US.

But is it not an economic force. That place is occupied by its closest ally, China, which is only a military menace to neighbours such as Taiwan, India, Japan, Philippines and South Korea.

According to American political scientist and geopolitics expert John Mearsheimer, these nations are so scared of China that they did not mind having the US sitting on their soil to scare China off. But all of a sudden, Africa has taken centre stage on the agendas of US and Russia, both competing for dominance.

While the US is openly displaying its intension to become an international hegemon, Russia had been quiet and is now subtly doing it to counter the US, whose military tentacles are spread almost worldwide.

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Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many African countries claimed to have been bullied by the United States into taking sides in the conflict, with South Africa being one of the vocal ones on the issue.

Pretoria has openly refused to take sides, citing its non-aligned stance, which it argued was contained in its 1955 Freedom Charter and demonstrated by its membership of the former Non-Aligned Movement.

Despite South Africa’s defiance, if sanctions were to be imposed by the US and the European Union – its third and second biggest trading partners after China at the top – Pretoria would feel the pinch. The West has more firms invested in South Africa than Russia and China.

Currently, Africa is caught between a rock and a hard place, hence some of its states sided with the US and fear being seen interacting with Russia. But the current trend is a move towards Russia, where individual African countries had been pronouncing their intention to shake off the colonial grip of the West.

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Russia is taking advantage of it all with its consistent anti-colonialism message, which tied up with its historic backing of liberation struggles on the continent.

But the race to join Brics by many African Middle East and South American countries could worsen the West’s position as Brics was established as a counter-weight against the Western economic domination.

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