Russia in Africa: Developing An Adequate Strategy (II)

Part I


The ethno-religious complexity of African countries also poses a certain problem in view of the inter-clan struggle and potential secessionist movements.

For example, in the Republic of Chad, the military is represented by a fairly small Zaghawa ethnic group. Former President Idriss Deby also belongs to the group. A religious factor is superimposed on the ethnic mosaic. If Christians live in the north of the country, then Muslims live in the south.

By the way, the representatives of the northern peoples (toubou) were the former presidents Goukouni Oueddei and Hissene Habre, who immediately carried out an ethnic skew in the political system of power after the departure of the southerner of Sara Ethnicity Francis Tombalbaye.

But after more than thirty years of rule by the southerner and the Muslim Deby, a specific form of elite has strengthened, which is actually challenged by representatives of the same clan. We know from history and even recent events in Saudi Arabia that this is quite possible. And if we take into account that about 200 ethnic groups and clans reside in this country, some of which are engaged in armed struggle with the government and each other, then it becomes clear how complex and confusing the system of power relations in African countries is.

Even Ethiopia, more or less understandable at first glance, formerly known as Abyssinia, is actually a complex federation, where, in addition to the Amharic and Tigray, there are peoples of the South and Southwest, semi-nomadic Muslims of the Afar people, as well as Harari, Gurage, Oromo, Argobba, Somalis (who are living in a significant territory which could potentially lead to separatist tendencies) and many others. By the way, if we talk about the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, five languages of local peoples are used there.

There are officially 64 ethnic groups in South Sudan, where the Dinka is the most numerous, followed by the Nuer.

If we look at North Africa, the ethnic composition there is also heterogeneous. In Libya, the roots of the 2011 conflict go back to religious and tribal traditions, since the Sufi Order of the Sanusiya ruled in Cyrenaica and King Idris the First, overthrown by Colonel Gaddafi in 1969, was the head of this particular order. Tripolitania was the stronghold of the tribal union from which Gaddafi himself emerged (the tribe of the same name, as well as Warfalla , Bani Walid, tarhunah and Zintan.) Although during the Arab Spring, some tribal representatives opposed the central government.

In general, the stratification of Sufi brotherhoods and tribal leaders should be taken into account throughout the North African region. The role of marabouts and sheriffs in politics often remains underestimated, although the example of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations (banned in Russia) shows that there are numerous and different directions in such currents of political Islam. Along with that, the factor of the Berber peoples ( Imazighen) is added. And, of course, historical protracted conflicts, such as the liberation movement of the Frente Polisario against Morocco and Mauritania. The Frente Polisario is a member of the Socialist International and is officially supported by a number of states with leftist ideologies from Vietnam to Venezuela.

And these are just a few superficial examples of the complex mosaic that we already have to work with. Therefore, in choosing whom to support in a given situation, you need to carefully consider all possible moves and have contacts with different forces in order to have the maximum completeness of information.

The factor of refugees and displaced persons has also played an important role in African countries for many decades. If we look at the latest trends, then earlier, after the Arab Spring and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Egypt and Tunisia faced refugees from Libya (the flow also went across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece), but now Libya itself is experiencing difficulties due to the abundance of refugees from Sudan. Ethiopia also hosts about a million refugees from South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. On the other hand, due to the civil war in Ethiopia itself, refugees are also rushing from there to neighboring countries, in particular, to Kenya. Sooner or later, the question of what Russia can offer to solve this problem will be raised.

Finally, there have traditionally been conflicts in Africa related to the so-called “resource curse” – when the West practiced a policy of neo-colonialism and, most often indirectly, tried to control deposits of strategic resources from oil and diamonds to gold and uranium.

But this situation is also changing. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently accused Apple of using minerals illegally mined in Congolese mines in the production of its products. In particular, we are talking about the rare earth element coltan, deposits of which are located in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.

Due to the control over its production in the region, the Second Congolese War broke out in 1998. The extraction and supply of uranium from Niger may also change in the sense of the ultimate beneficiary. If France has been receiving these raw materials so far, then with the process of de-westernization, its presence can be replaced by Russia, which is quite strong in nuclear energy. This can be done through comprehensive cooperation, including military assistance to Niger, which is already underway.

Transport routes, both within the continent and maritime communications, are another important area where Russia will either have to integrate into the current system, or take an active position and offer its own solutions, which could include expanding the North—South corridor and helping to create infrastructure for its joint operation.

In any case, the expansion of the Russian presence will also require a factor of hard power, that is, the military. The countries of the Sahel Alliance, CAR and Libya are already operating as strongholds, from where it will be possible to carefully scale and project military force to other countries as necessary and after careful study of the situation on the ground. At the same time, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa, as BRICS+ countries, are also important as centers and hubs through which the agenda of de-westernization and multipolarity should be extended to the region.

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