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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Russia, Africa’s wolf in sheep clothing


By Celestine Mendy

In a split-second, Africa is once again the center of attention from all over the world. We know for a fact that this continent has always been of great interest to humanity throughout history. It is well documented that civilization started here, precisely in Egypt. I am not talking about the Egypt that the Arab, in his quest for power and influence, and perhaps his insatiable desire to spread religion conquered and occupied. Today, it is almost impossible to see any semblance of blackness among those who today call themselves Egyptians. When Mathematics, Science, Architecture, Astronomy, Medicine, Philosophy etc, was rare knowledge to the rest of the world, the Egyptians I am talking about were already thriving in these imperative human endeavors. I dare say, the Egyptians that the books of religion say once enslaved the Israelites. It was in this black land that people flew from around the world seeking knowledge. Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Plato, Hippocrates, had in one time, through forced humility sat before Egyptian priests seeking advanced insights into what is today accredited to them. In like manner that Saul of Tarsus sat before Gamaliel to learn the way of the Jews. 

Consequently, aside the fact that this continent harbours a colossal deposits of different kinds of natural resources, which has always been the reason for the unwelcomed thronging into its different lands by the person from the western hemisphere and or thereabout. There is more urgent scramble for acceptance, appeal, and reception of them who are found in the western, southern, northern, and probably the eastern parts of Europe. This quest spreads throughout the world to include those in the American continent as well as Asia. This drive sponsored by the incessant chase of power and influence in Alkabulan, which would ultimately culminate in the access to those natural resources deposited here in untold and unquantifiable amounts.

In their naked disguise, each one of them is showing friendly pretense toward different powers within the continent. There are those whose sole motive is to maintain their political influence and guard against the seizure of their economic interests in and within the continent. On the other hand, their counterparts are doing everything within their powers to forge new relationships so that they can have a share of the continental cake in the form of mineral deposits found under her belly. The latter, who could aptly be referred to as the new kid in the block are masking their true intent, shamelessly posing as friends and or partners of the vulnerable masses of the continent, who have been awaken to the continuous predation by the former. This approach seems to be welcomed by a majority of the many impoverished lot and thus, the gleeful flight to Moscow and Beijing. However, more often than not, the Moscow and Beijing group failed to recognize the pandering akin to Russia and China. The panderers as we have them in Russia and China serves to benefit not Africa and Africans but themselves.

Unfortunately, quite a good number of the Moscow and Beijing group have rallied arguments as to why they believe Russia and China mean well for the continent. They have argued, unbeknownst to them, that their new found allies have never colonized an African country. In fact, they went further to display their ignorance of the foregoing by making categorical statements such as “Russia fought and defended Africa during colonization.” A premise founded on sheer refusal to educate oneself, and therefore accrued to Russia the unmerited title of anti-colonist and or anti-imperialist. The past has recorded Russia to have tried through her many emissaries to colonize Ethiopia. In 1897, after they sat in Berlin between 1884 and 1885 and broke the placenta that held the African continent together by way of placing geographical boundaries among family members, and in the process severing the umbilical cord through which relations were maintained, the then Russian Emperor Nicholas II sent a “diplomatic mission” to Ethiopia headed by Lieutenant Grigorii Chertkov. This Lieutenant, like all other white-skinned human beings espoused their sense of superiority thus, “Remember, you are white, a man of the superior race.” A belief that has always impregnated the thoughts of every other civilization that has once sought a parcel of the land here; that they have the divine mandate to “civilize the heathen” of Africa. Russia had made several attempts to acquire its fair share of the plenteous resources nature bestows in this part of world. One such colonization missions was in March 1888 when a Russian warship, in it was Nikolai Ashinov, a man known to have had special appeal to imperial decision-makers, and to have brought Africa’s attention to Russian imperial officials, together with his many “companions landed off the coast of Tadjoura, located today within the borders of Djibouti.” Lieutenant AK Ivanovskii, a navy representative, negotiated a protectorate status with a local sultan while Ashinov’s task was to stay and lay foundation of a future settlement. Ashinov, upon his return to Russia, had swanked of having established the Russian colony of New Moscow. Soon afterwards, preparations begun in earnest for sending in settlers under the guise of a religious mission. Lamentably, before the settlers could take off, the government learned, to their utter dismay that the settlement did not exist. Nonetheless, in December the same year, a crowd gathered at the port of Odessa and bade farewell to more than 100 settlers including Ashinov. They arrived in the Gulf of Tadjoura in January 1889, and eventually settled in old Ottoman fort of Sagallo, hoisting the flag of the Russian Empire over it. As the excitement of finally realizing the dream of a New Moscow in the African continent, the settlers immediately took up farming as a means of survival. Regrettably for them, they never had the chance to reap the fruits of their labour. Differing to the assurance that a local chief had given to the Russian colonizers, the entire coast had already been under the French. The complete abandonment of Sagallo by the Russians was as a result of the shelling the French soldiers subjected them to. A good number of the settlers were killed while those alive were dropped off by the French and collected by the Russians at Port Said in Egypt.

Progressively, Russia’s determination in gaining a foothold in Ethiopia was never dampened by her colossal loss at Sagallo. Instead, this time round, they engineered a new strategy. Ethiopia known for her Orthodox faith, Russia attempted to leverage on their similarity in that front for possible economic and political gain. Nikolai Leontiev managed to access Emperor Menelik’s inner circle and established Russian diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. Leontiev capitalized on the eminent Italy’s colonial invasion of Ethiopia, and pledged to supply arms and ammunition in exchange for a colony for Russia on the caravan route from Harar to the Red Sea. Even though Ethiopia did not receive substantial military supply until the Battle of Adwa was over, Menelik appointed Leontiev governor of a newly annexed territory in Ethiopia’s south in 1897. Soon Leontiev took up the plan on how Russia could exploit this territory. He had planned to establish a Russian joint-stock company to extract resources and later ensure the territory becomes a Russian protectorate. However, he did not receive enough support from St Petersburg. In a few years, he had gained for himself enough wealth thanks to his merciless exploitation of the local people and their resources. He once told one of his Russian associates, “I will take all elephant tusks, I will exhaust my future slaves, and only then will I think about the history of Abyssinia.” In 1902, following a revolt from angry investors, leontiev once again appealed to the Russian emperor to take over the territory. It was during this time that the emperor and his ministers took Leontiev’s proposal seriously, but Menelik was handy to intervene and, expelled his former inner circle member. This dealt a huge blow to Russia’s ambitious pursuit of a colony in the continent.

Today, while the grand scheme of other western countries is public knowledge among most Africans, it is Russia’s nascent “diplomatic mission” here that seem to have eluded us. We are yet disillusioned by what appears to be a “God-sent” savior in the form of Putin and his cronies, the Wagner Group. The portrayal of a friend in Russia is the same masterplan that has being used throughout history to avert repulsion from Africans since the first exploiter dressed in borrowed cloths of an explorer set foot ashore Africa. Today, self-styled “revolutionists” exuding characteristics of Sankara and his contemporaries sees Russia to have offered them a new lease of life. I doubt if Sankara was alive he was going to put his eggs in the basket housed in Moscow or Beijing. The true intent of Russia about Africa stands questionable by every critical minded person. This is the case especially considering the activities of her mercenary group’s operations in parts of Africa. This group, in their predictable approach has used natural resources to strike consensus with leaders of those countries in return for protection from their “common enemy”, Western Europe and America. That which is glaringly obvious is Russia seeks to replace their European counterparts in exerting influence and feathering her nest of economic gain as the grand plan has always been the mineral deposits in various parts of the continent. The mantra in Moscow is “we must make up for the loss as a result of our failure to secure a colony in that continent.”

To that end, the boat headed to Moscow should care to evaluate if the waters are calm or not. From all indications, and not being oblivious of historical facts, it is concerning and greatly troubling if South Africa’s anti-apartheid, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu’s earnest desire conveyed through his chilling final words just before his sentencing to death by hanging by the then Apartheid South African government is to be realized in St. Petersburg. Solomon said, “All we want is freedom. Freedom for children to learn. Freedom for men to work, for mothers to love, for the nation to grow. That is all we want. For equality for everyone…..” And, it is true that even after 44 years since his execution, Africa is yet to see the light of the day. This continent is a pawn in the game of European and Americans struggle for control. The earlier every African ascends to the higher knowledge that we do not have friends or well-wishers in this geopolitical landscape then will we seek to free ourselves from the shackles of external influence. Then, will we begin to look within for solutions for internals problems. Until then, Africa may be a birth place for the third world war or better still, European and America tribal war. If such a war is to be fought, Africa cannot afford to host it as its aftermath is too dire and the damages thereof, would be irreparable.

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