Earlier this month, I had asked what South African leaders were thinking when they decided to send weapons to Russia even when a pro-Russian superpower like China has clearly refused to send weapons or even violate the economic sanctions on Russia? That African braggadocio that would clearly not mind destroying their own country just to make a worthless political point, I guess. See how Mugabe and ZANU PF destroyed Zimbabwe just because Tony Blaire refused to fund the land reforms program. Even after being caught, African National Congress (ANC) apparatchiks have been making all the right political noises, boasting that they have the right to support whoever they want to support.
But beyond the braggadocio, the problems at home are now overwhelming the party. Crumbling infrastructure, chronic power cuts, world-record youth unemployment (at 32.7%, and 64.18% respectively), and a failing state.
Possibly to distract from these problems and capture global attention, the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa corralled six other African leaders to go with him on a so-called “historic” African peace mission to Russia and Ukraine, “the first time African leaders have embarked on a peace mission beyond Africa.” While the Russian and Ukrainian leaders received the African delegation and listened to their “10-point proposal,” the leaders almost immediately dismissed the proposals, except one. In fact, that may even be the real reason behind the entire trip. They want Putin to continue to allow Ukrainian grain exports through Russian controlled ports on the Black Sea to Africa.
The war has been particularly devastating to African countries who disproportionately depend on grain and fertilizer imports from Ukraine and Russia. The disruption in supply led to a spike in food prices in Africa. The African Development Bank, for instance, estimates that the conflict was directly responsible for “a shortage of about 30 million tonnes of grain on the continent.”
Putin had been threatening not to renew the deal that allowed the exports to continue. That would exacerbate the already dire situation on the continent, and it was important for African leaders, whose support Putin desperately needs and craves, to let him know the effects that decision would have on their countries.
So, while Putin immediately described other parts of the 10-point proposal as ‘misguided’, he cannot afford to wreck the economies of some of his allies by blocking grain exports to them. In that sense, we may as well rename the trip “grain diplomacy”. At least for the first time, Africans are fighting for their interest.
Paying Tunisia to stop Africans crossing to Europe and stabilizing a dictatorship
Many black Africans were shocked when, in February, Tunisian President Kais Saied tapped into the racist replacement conspiracy theory to scapegoat black Africans and turn Tunisians against them, over what he calls “a criminal enterprise hatched at the beginning of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia.” Mr Saied is no fool. He knew what he was doing. Like I explained earlier in the month, his only chance of consolidating his powers is slipping away as the economy remains stubbornly in recession and he needs to do something drastic to change the situation. By scapegoating black Africans, he does two things: buys himself some time by redirecting anger towards black African migrants; secondly, it was a subtle message to Europe to come to his aid or else…..
The EU got the message. Since 2015 when Europe decided to securitize immigration, it has embarked on a series of policies of externalization of borders, and offshoring of border control and asylum processing to supplement that of “fortress Europe”. An offshoot of these policies includes paying countries, genocidal Janjaweed militia (and the Rapid Support Forces), Islamist and suspected terrorist forces in Libya to physically prevent migrants from coming to Europe.
The EU, Spain, and the neo-Fascist Italian government took Saied’s threat seriously. As SBM intelligence reported earlier in the week, The EU has basically agreed to pay Tunisia about $1 billion (or more precisely $967) to keep policing its borders and prevent migrants from using Tunisia to cross to Europe. Of course, they used very careful and humanitarian language to describe the deal, such as “breaking the cynical business model of smugglers and traffickers…” the summary is simple: “We pay you to police our borders, simple!” This is a lifesaver for Saied who needs to put the economy in shape as soon as possible to be able to consolidate his powers and stabilise his regime. Sorry black Africans; Don’t take it personal.
Throwing black Africans into the sea
Talking about EU’s policies of externalisation of borders and offshoring of border control. In simple language, it doesn’t want migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers on its soil. So, it has resorted to paying countries bordering it to physically prevent those migrants from reaching Europe. In Africa, those countries would be Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Sudan. While Morocco and Tunisia have functional governments, Libya and Sudan do not. So, the EU just pays whoever has the capacity to stop migrants. In Sudan, it has found the RSF quite useful in that regard. In Libya, various militias compete for Europe’s money by running coastal guards (dedicated to patrolling the seas and capturing migrants at sea) and detention centres where black Africans are captured, imprisoned, raped, sold as slaves, or even killed and discarded as needed.
For those who succeed in evading capture and reaching Europe via seas, the Italian, Spanish and Greek governments now intentionally prevent them from getting on land or capture and return them to the sea from whence they came. Although all those countries vehemently deny the allegations, the New York Times last month published an expose that showed Greek authorities rounding up African migrants from the horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea) and dropping them “in a life raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea” to drift to wherever or die at sea.
This was caught on video and NYT’s team verified and corroborated the footage, tracing the migrants to a detention centre in Izmir in Turkey.