As the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on with countries pitching their tent with the Ukrainian people and others taking the side of Russia, African countries have been urged to wary of taking sides but rather pay attention to the section crisis in some parts of the continent amongst other social vices which could lead to the implosion of the continent.
According to an article written by Dr Olukayode Oyeleye, a consultant and policy analyst, and published on businessamlive.com, he said the events could have far reaching consequences for the African continent
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MANY EVENTS ARE UNFOLDING FAST. On the global stage, a number of such events are worrisome and are a cause for alarm. Even those considered as happening far away have proven their immediate and long term implications for specific countries and regions.
That is where Africa’s possible implosion seems to gain more traction. In the unfolding global realities, the status of African countries still remains rather backward and low.
While it is important for countries and continents to have strategic diplomatic partners and friends, African countries need to properly hedge their bets. The world is now characterised by chaos, conflicts and confusions, African countries need to get their diplomacy right. The implications are many, and include economic, social, political and security.
There could be a temptation to contemplate an early end to a unipolar world after about 30 years of the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Accordingly, some countries might devolve upwardly to the more advanced countries the things they could do all by themselves, or they may untenably support benefactor countries in the wrong fights.
But, in the East–West dichotomy that is still widely perceived as the difference between the two diametrically opposed hemispheres, Eastern and the Western worlds, any other country could be caught in a trap. And that is why African leaders need thorough introspection and need to choose their alliances right.
The Ukraine-Russia skirmishes that have boiled over in the past couple of days are already drawing praises and criticisms from various commentators depending on their geopolitical standpoints. Some classical political theories fail to apply this time based on many peculiarities such as time, technology or trade. Ideology is one of the considerations, aimed to promote governments of like minds.
There has been an aggressive push for an end to the unipolar world, which has been the norm since 1989 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, the East seems determined to set up another power centre between Russia and China. Poorer, less advanced and advanced countries will be forced to take sides, just as Brazil, Syria, China are taking sides with Russia on the invasion of Ukraine. The mistakes made here are many. An end to the unipolar world will only be feasible when the US considerably loses its near-hegemonic status in Europe or East Asia.
It will not be enough for China or Russia to be superior to the United States on paper. Geopolitical conditions on the ground will have to be upended, especially as previous balancing failures have actually helped in extending US hegemony.
Envisaging a quick return to balance-of-power politics, so as to limit the power of the dominant state and restore the system to its “normal” state of multipolarity still remains more of a tall dream. Today, many analysts believe that unipolarity is coming to an end —even if not immediately. The seeming crack in the US economic foundations or its war weariness could have been construed as a leeway for a return to balance-of-power politics.
Some may have thought China and Russia have emerged as two champions to offset the influence of the US and restore apprriate balance to the international system. But their balancing strategies have not shown signs of leading to multipolarity as they focus on regional “revisionism.”
Can we logically equate the bully tactics of China and Russia against their threatened neighbours to multipolarity when such acts of aggression have succeeded in strengthening the US-led alliance systems in East Asia and Europe so as to maintain the regional status quos?
Africa should, therefore, be wary of affinities and alliances based on multipolarity as those two countries at the forefront of such a paradigm shift may not represent the core values that the continent was already getting used to – such as freedom, liberty and fundamental human rights.
Many African states are currently at the brink of collapse, particularly as a result of bad leadership, poor governance, corruption, mismanagement of public resources, ethno-religious conflicts and armed struggles by some terrorist groups. Although it is a fact of history that many African countries’ leadership had been previously installed and sustained by the West, particularly the US. Their hypocritical claim to commitment to democratic ideals is also indisputable as they have connived at many infractions by some political leaders in the past.
But none of these is a good justification for replacing their roles with those untested in foreign policy and bellicose diplomacy.
Russia and China are out to preserve and promote one-party rule, dictatorship and socialism. With these comes the loss of individuals’ rights and freedom of self-expression and a replacement with propaganda, indoctrination and closed loop countries. Their socio-economic impacts could turn out to be pathetic as they will further strengthen the hands of many African despots and sit-tight leaders.
Vladimir Putin has been in power since 2000 and shows no sign of relinquishing power anytime soon. Nor is Xi Jinping ready to let go of power as he has manipulated his party caucus in November last year to break the pattern of staying in power for only two terms. Successfully scrapping presidential two-term limits fortifies expectations of his continued rule, effectively allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power for life. How well these can serve as role models for Africa’s development is yet to be understood.
It is obvious that many countries of Africa are embroiled in sectarian crises that have been protracted in many cases. Bad leadership is at the core of Africa’s development challenges. The self-perpetuation of political leaders in offices in many such countries has been associated with the intractable crises.
It has also tended to provide some ethnic groups, or religious groups undue advantages over others. The resentment caused by this forms parts of the sparks for unrests, wars and even genocides. Countries have been divided along sectarian lines.
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe left a legacy of economic doldrums behind after decades of totalitarian rule. Houphet Boigny bequeathed a protracted civil war on Ivory Coast upon his demise after four decades of rule. Muammar Gaddafi left a tattered Libya behind at the end of 42 year-rule, after his assassination. Paul Biya and Teodoro Mbasogo are still alive, but they seem to show no sign of leaving offices soon after decades of rule in their respective Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Leadership of many countries of Africa has been turned into heritable positions. Faure Gnassingbé took over office from his father, Eyadema of Togo, and remains in office till today. Laurent Kabila of DR Congo passed on the baton of leadership to his son Joseph who, only recently, relinquished the position by propping up another candidate, Félix Tshisekedi. Omar Bongo of Gabon was replaced by his son, Ali who currently rules the country. Upon the death of Idriss Deby Itno recently, his son Mahamat took over the reins of power in the Republic of Chad.
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has been in office for over 30 years and does not seem ready to step down anytime soon. The celebrated Paul Kagame of Rwanda has been in power for over 20 years and has vowed to stay on till 2034. The crisis that persists in Somalia began in 1991 after the despotic Siad Barre had to suddenly leave office, with a power vacuum that was filled with wrong personnel, leading the country into over 30 years of war, insecurity and anomie.
With the breakdown of institutions, law and order, growing insecurity, failed and self-serving leadership and lack of vision, Africa stands at the brink. The multipolar world seekers don’t seem to have what it takes to transform Africa. The continent does not need countries with questionable records of leadership to lead the way as big governments are coming: in Russia, Stalin is returning. In China, Mao is reincarnating.
Under the duo, democracy is threatened. A return to totalitarianism seems imminent under their influence. Can we visualise how good as examples Russia and China are for an Africa that beckons on the free world to come and invest? What about the debt diplomacy that has become the hallmark of Chinese economic diplomacy for Africa? How far will these take Africa and how will affected countries pay when the time comes? Will they help Africa to nurture democracy or will they help kill it?
It is important for Africa to have a clear direction in terms of political, social, economic and technological development. In doing so, countries to partner with should be discreetly identified and the terms of engagement carefully worked out.
Africa should no longer be at the behest of any external dictator. The physical endowments within the continent are capable of transforming the region into global economic powerhouse if well harnessed. These are the challenges before Africa now. It is time for a realisation of the powers in the hands of Africa and to wield such powers, not as inferior counterparts but on the same levels with other countries of the world.