Russia-Africa Summit declaration is tantamount to an implicit African endorsement of Putin’s war

Russia-Africa Summit declaration is tantamount to an implicit African endorsement of Putin’s war
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra during the Second Summit Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St Petersburg, Russia, 28 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ALEXEY DANICHEV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL)

The joint Russia-Africa Summit declaration is littered with Kremlin talking points.

The 74-paragraph Declaration of the Second Russia-Africa Summit, held in St Petersburg last week, looks like it was almost entirely written by the Kremlin, with one or two paragraphs of African interest sprinkled on top.

It is tantamount to an implicit African endorsement of Russia’s justification for its war against Ukraine. Perhaps that is why only 17 African heads of state attended the summit. The others might have guessed what was coming. 

The declaration is full of statements implicitly harnessing Africa in support of Moscow’s posture in its war and against Western sanctions imposed on it for attacking its neighbour. Diatribes against “neo-colonialism”, “neo-Nazism”, “neo-fascism”, “Russophobia” and other familiar rhetorical Russian postures are littered throughout. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Russia-Africa summit will be largely a West-bashing exercise

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Ukraine, though implicitly present everywhere, is not explicitly mentioned once in the document of 4,000-plus words. Nor does it, therefore, offer any suggestions on how to end the war. 

Russia has been widely blamed for sharp increases in food prices and food insecurity because of its war on Ukraine, a major international grain supplier — including Moscow’s bombardment of granaries and its blockade of Ukraine’s seaports, which has prevented Kyiv from exporting grain.

Two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), which had lifted the Russian blockade in July 2022 to allow Ukraine to export grain.

At the St Petersburg summit itself, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the six other countries which are leading an African peace initiative to Russia and Ukraine explicitly urged Putin to reinstate the BSGI. He implicitly rejected their plea in a later private meeting, insisting that his previous conditions would have to be met before reinstating the deal.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Putin rejects Ramaphosa’s appeal to reinstate Black Sea Grain Initiative

But the joint declaration makes no mention of the Black Sea Grain Initiative or Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. Instead, it implicitly blames the food shortages and insecurity — which are being felt most acutely in Africa — entirely on Western sanctions, stating that Russia and Africa should, “strengthen cooperation in countering unlawful unilateral restrictive measures placing African countries at risk of food and energy shortages”.

A handout photo made available by Tass Host Photo Agency shows delegates during a meeting on the sidelines of the Second Summit Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St Petersburg, Russia, 28 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ARTEM GEODAKYAN / TASS HOST PHOTO AGENCY)

Moscow’s familiar narrative

The joint declaration heavily underscores Moscow’s familiar narrative that Russia supported Africa to liberate itself from Western colonialism, a narrative which is key to its outreach to the continent.

The declaration says Russia and Africa should cooperate in “completing the decolonisation process in Africa”, and should “work together to counter manifestations of neo-colonial policies that aim to undermine the sovereignty of States, deprive them of the freedom to make their own decisions, and plunder their natural resources”.

And the declaration adds that Russia and Africa should work together in “overcoming the consequences of colonialism, slavery, the slave trade, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade…”

The declaration does not mention that it was the Soviet Union and not Russia which supported Africa’s liberation struggle and that Ukraine was then part of the Soviet Union. 

And the declaration echoes one of Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine — that he was trying to counter the supposed “neo-Nazism” of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government. The declaration says Russia and Africa should step up efforts “to combat contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination … neo-Nazism and neo-fascism…”

Russia has been widely condemned for violating the United Nations Charter by its invasion of Ukraine. Ramaphosa repeated at the summit the call by the members of the African peace mission for the UN Charter to be respected.

Such calls generally refer to Article 2.4 of the Charter, which states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state….”

However, the joint declaration of the summit, while also urging respect for the UN Charter, underscores not only Article 2 but also Article 51, which enshrines “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…”

This suggests that the African nations participating in the Russia-Africa Summit have now implicitly endorsed Putin’s argument that Russia acted in self-defence in invading Ukraine because Ukraine had allegedly attacked pro-Russian parts of eastern Ukraine. Such attacks have not been verified. 

The declaration is most explicit in backing Russia’s narrative in its confrontation with the West over Ukraine when it states that Russia and Africa should: “Oppose the application of illegitimate unilateral restrictive measures, including secondary ones, as well as the practice of freezing sovereign foreign exchange reserves.”

It says they should, “Reaffirm the unacceptability of using political blackmail to bring leaders of third countries to implement such measures or influence the political and economic policies of States.”

And the declaration says Russia and Africa should oppose efforts to  introduce “political or economic restrictive measures under the pretext of human rights advocacy, oppose attempts by certain States to use unfounded accusations of human rights violations as an excuse for interfering in internal affairs…”

The two sides also agree to: “Jointly oppose the politicization of sports within international organizations and advocate a guaranteed free access for athletes and sports organizations to international sports activities.”

Paragraph 57 of the declaration emphasises the importance of enhancing energy security, including by “ensuring the protection of critical energy infrastructure and condemning terrorist attacks against any critical infrastructure, including energy infrastructure”.

This seems, to say the least, ironic, given that Russia consistently bombed Ukraine’s power stations and electrical infrastructure throughout the past winter in an apparent attempt to freeze the country into submission. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    Thanks Peter for your study and analysis of the declaration.
    ‘The Devil’s in the detail’ is literally true in all this – and Ramaphosa and the other 16 all smillingly shook his hand and promised both friendship and fealty.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Not a word about the stunning atrocity of kidnapping hundreds of thousands of children and putting them through a reeducation process by placing them with russian families. The horror these children must be enduring is unthinkable but our president Ramaphosa is happy to shake that vile hand and look the other way. He brings great shame to all South Africans.

    • Henry Coppens says:

      It says they should, “Reaffirm the unacceptability of using political blackmail to bring leaders of third countries to implement such measures or influence the political and economic policies of States.

      Funny, the ANC were quite happy for this practice to be used to end the evils of apartheid.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    none of this will end well!

  • Alan Watkins says:

    Excellent analysis Peter except for one thing. You assume that the African nations signed the declaration after reading and understanding it, supplied some wording of their own, and even jointly agreed with Russia on the wording of the final product. Because that is how these things are usually done. I suspect these palookas were simply there for the holiday and the vodka.

  • Donald bemax says:

    Completely expected frankly. How ironic that these African despots who have done nothing other than oppress their people whilst blaming their current predicament on the West,are happy to yoke their people to the Russians.. no doubt part of the new ” scramble for africa” is an attempt to beat China to the finish line. The next step for these depots is to set up the free grain supplies via Government controlled depots and sell the grain to the poor impoverished people!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Peter, I enjoy your writing and analysis, but I think you’ve gone on a bit of a petulant strop on this one: fewer than one-third of Africa’s presidents attended the summit, with almost as many countries sending ministers or other officials as presidents: do you not think that this says more about what ‘Africa’s’ view on Russia is, than the 17 who did attend? Of those 17, you’ve got seven or eight that are in hoc to Wagner or other Russian interests, and a few more staring down the barrel (sorry) of domestic or regional conflict. For my money, the fact that so many sitting presidents didn’t attend (remember in 2019, 43 attended – so less than half that number this time around), is far more telling than a Russian declaration foisted on the desperate or depraved who did attend.

  • Eddie Maulson says:

    “overcoming the consequences of colonialism, slavery, the slave trade, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade…” What a crock! If you think that the colonialism, slavery and the slave trade imposed on this country in the past was a bad experience then carrying on with this dalliance with the Bear will bring with it a very rude awakening not too far down the line!

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Ramaphosa once again sinking the ship “South Africa”. One does not know if it plain stupidity, or is there some hidden agenda we do not know about

    • Hulme Scholes says:

      It’s both, rank stupidity and simultaneously, expedient greed and self interest – I’m sure there’s an ANC / Russia power supply agreement being cut somewhere

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    “Overcoming the consequences of colonialism, slavery, the slave trade, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade…”
    The slavery was abolished in 1865…….
    All the political prisoners in working camps in Siberia aren’t they a kind of slaves?

  • Spienaar591 says:

    Absolutely spot on Peter! And needless to say, you could write this without setting foot in Russia or being at the fatuous summit. In fact you predicted it and were banned in consequence. It’s hard to understand why any serious African institution could take this predictable fiasco seriously and propose to analyse its outcomes. But they are; and some of them not so far from the centre of Johannesburg too.

  • bushtrack says:

    The glaring contrast between Ramaphosa`s condemnation of the Niger coup and his neutral stance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Unprovoked war is fine but citizens ousting a non-performing leadership in government is not acceptable??

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