African nations must develop military to face Western interventions
A military studies expert says that African countries should remain aware of possible Western armed interventions as the continent moves to secure better ties with Eastern powers such as China and Russia.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the commencement of joint trilateral naval exercises with China and South Africa. The commencement was announced at a ceremony attended by high-ranking officials from all three countries at the South African port of Richards Bay where the drills will occur: with the Brazilian Navy included as an observer at the training.
The drills' launch coincided with South Africa's Armed Forces Day, and are scheduled to continue until February 27.
Ian Liebenger, Professor in Politics at the University of Namibia (UNAM) and former Director of the Centre for Military Studies (CEMIS), Faculty of Military Science at Stellenbosch University, considered that the naval exercises are vital to maintaining military readiness in Africa.
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"Geopolitics is undergoing tectonic changes with the balance of power moving from West to East, including Eurasia. Although the shift of power is relatively certain, it does mean [there is] insecurity and possible unpredictable challenges facing the African continent and more pertinently southern Africa," Liebenberg said in an interview with Sputnik.
Russia and China have been carrying out joint military exercises annually since 2012, while South Africa joined the drills for the first time in 2012.
Liebenberg further emphasized the need for African countries to remain aware of the possibility of foreign armed interventions in their states by powers that formerly colonized the continent.
"Some [problems] were created by Africans themselves, such as military coups or intrastate conflict, ie the Democratic Republic of the Congo," he said. "However, frequently foreign powers, mostly previous colonizers, intervened in African affairs – even to the extent of toppling African governments."
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Continent rife with history of French interventions
The military expert recalled France's history of interventions in the continent, pointing out that Paris created the coup against Burkina Faso's President Thomas Sankara back in 1987 when the African leader refused to adhere to the European country's terms.
Michael Bibi, Bishop of the Cameroonian diocese of Buea located in south-west Cameroon, told Sputnik earlier this month that France is using "a complicated network of financial economic policies and political control through the threat of regime change and their military presence to maintain the status quo."
Bibi stressed to the news agency that African countries must get rid of France's "iron grip".
Examples of African states that are rebelling against their former French colonizer are Mali and Burkina Faso, which saw the withdrawal of the French army off their soil in the recent months after breaking off former military treaties and ordering the foreign military to end its presence in the countries.
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On the note of foreign intervention, Liebenberg highlighted how Western countries and NATO exploited the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) UN resolution in Libya in 2011, which led to the destruction and destabilization of the North African country with no end to its schizm in the foreseable future.
"The consequences [of the intervention] were disastrous. Using the so-called Arab Spring as an excuse, the French, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America intervened with their military might," he noted, adding: "Obviously apart from ideological reasons, the West and the USA wanted to get hold of Libyan scarce resources - especially oil."
Direct military interventions are not the only threats facing Africa, Liebenberg stressed, saying that Western economic coercion against several African states to push them to vote against Moscow on the UN's resolution regarding Russia's military operation in Ukraine, or abstain.
US Bill enables Washington to sanction African nations
The professor also points out the Washington bill adopted in May 2022, which enables the US to sanction African nations for cooperation with Russian "malign" acitivities that "undermine the United States' objectives and interests".
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the bill during a meeting with US President Joe Biden last year and described it as a "misplaced type of legislation" which would harm and "marginalize" Africa.
"We should not be told by anyone whom we can associate with, and we should never be put in positions where we have to choose who our friends are," Ramaphosa said after the meeting then.
Earlier last June, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre warned that the US finds South Africa's military drills with Russia and China concerning.
David Feldmann, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in South Africa, later also joined his colleague in expressing concern regarding the naval exercises.
Liebenberg underlined the importance of blocs such as BRICS to breakaway countries from full dependence on the western financial system. (China, Russia, and South Africa are all members of BRICS, which also includes Brazil and India.)
The bloc is a "mutual investment in the future", he added.
Despite not being initially intended to be a military bloc, Liebenberg considers that BRICS countries may find interest in evolving it to cover such aspects to fend off western pressure and interventions.
"It is perhaps too early to speculate whether BRICS may evolve into a new pole of military power." he added. Noting, however, that "the relentless push by the USA, and pressuring its junior NATO partners ever since the late Nineties - and especially the USA's economic war since 2008 against China and Russia and its effects on Africa - could trigger other developments, for example in the military field."
It's noteworthy that the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said earlier in January that about 350 South African army personnel will participate in trilateral maritime drills with Russia and China off the coast of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal region in the Indian Ocean.
SANDF also stressed said the war games were meant to "strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia, and China."