SADC leaders slam US law seeking to punish African countries trading with Russia
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) says the United States' plan to implement measures to punish African countries that trade with Russia was in bad taste.
The US House of Representatives passed the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act on 27 April by a huge, bipartisan 419-9 majority. The act is awaiting the approval of the Senate, after which US President Joe Biden will sign it into law.
The law seeks to sanction African countries that trade with Russia amid the war in Ukraine. One major highlight is that African countries should not buy oil from Russia, because, according to the US, money generated from oil exports funds the war.
But because Russia is a global superpower in food security, African countries are allowed to buy grain from it as long as it's not stolen from Ukraine. For a law that seemed urgent, it has been somewhat delayed.
SADC leaders deliberated on the issue at the recent 42nd summit of SADC heads of state and government in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
A communiqué issued after the summit stated that the leaders expressed "dissatisfaction [about] the continent being targeted for unilateral and punitive measures through the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act".
According to News24, Africa has historical ties with Russia dating back to the decolonization of the continent.
This period stretched through the Cold War years as capitalism and communism competed to become the dominant global ideology.
The war in Ukraine is the latest indicator of whose side Africa is on. African leaders have chosen to take a middle-of-the-road approach in their United Nations General Assembly votes.
Numerous analysts viewed this as silent support for Russia, in addition to African leaders being welcoming to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and distant towards President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US representative at the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and US Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power visited several African countries.
Their mission was to promote the revamped US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. During their visit to South Africa, Blinken was told by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor that the US was not a neutral actor in Africa and that it also had its own interests and damage attributed to it.
At the summit in the DRC, Southern African leaders also reiterated that they shouldn't be forced to take sides in international conflicts where they were spectators.
They agreed to take their position to the African Union to reaffirm their principle of "non-alignment to any conflicts outside the continent".
Upon his return home from the summit, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe told journalists Africans should not be bullied.
"What is happening in Europe should not divide us. We should not be superintended by foreign powers," he said.