AFRICA-RUSSIAN RELATIONS-THE NEED FOR REASESSMENT
By DR Albert Antwi Boasiako(Ghana),
Initiator, international forum on the status of refugees in the world
Africans are touched by the goodwill of many Russian citizens who welcomed us into this country. Members of its government, statesmen and political leaders of this great nation.welcomed us with wholehearted allegiance. In many cases Russians have been receptive at the bilateral level. Africa- Russia relations at the post -communist era differs from the relations during the era of communism. If before 1991 relations with some African countries were based on ideological factors today they are based on a different architecture of international relations. Before the break up of the Soviet Union trade relations with African countries did not engage the attention of the Russian government. Even many Russian government officials were still embedded in the traditional stereotypes and misconceptions about Africa, even today the same tendencies continue in some official circles. There are some policymakers in the Russian government who still opine that Africa is a continent characterized with diseases and ethnic conflicts and that trade relations with such a continent cannot be on the agenda of priority. Children in schools were made to nurse their own opinion about Africa. Children were given negative impressions about Africa.
Looking at the other side of the relation it could be seen that Russia portrayed an equitable relation of mutual understanding with African governments. Continuos inflow of Africa and other students from the developing countries and everything associated with it are further step forward in consolidating and developing Africa-Russia relations. This is based on the principles and norms which have been written down on our joint documents and, and which are fundamental to our bilateral cooperation and to our relations in the international arena. This has naturally attracted a lot of interest in the African continent. There is the need for a coincidence of our views concerning the meaning and goals of our bilateral relations. We must refrain from taking any action that might harm the other sides interest. The searchlight for mutual understanding should continue. This must be based on the strict observance of the principles of international relations. Bilateral relations between Africa countries should be preserved in accordance with the legitimate and specific interests of the two parties. Africa and Russia should expand their cooperation in trade, the economy, science and technology because it is equally in the interests of both states and is advantageous and useful to the two parties. In 1999 the Africa-Russian economic forum came out with a lot of initiatives. Infact it was a good beginning in Africa-Russian trade relations. The conference sowed the seed for future progress in this perspective. Alexander Avanessov, then Deputy on the UNDP/RBEC Regional Programme in Europe and the CIS said the UN would continue to encourage such initiatives. The Deputy Chairman of the Duma's committee in charge of Economic Policy who chaired the two-day conference admitted that it was about time Russia makes a direct contact with the African market. He said most of the juice they are buying from the market with European tags comes from Africa.Russia did not reject Africa while civil and religious inspired wars dominated some parts of the continent. Russia's peacekeeping efforts in Africa cannot be unfolded. Russia sent peacekeeping contingents to Sierra Leone. Russia played a pioneering role in resolving regional conflicts in Africa. Russia played its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in conflict resolution in the continent. What I can say is that Russia has not used its multifaceted potential for partnership with Africa. Africa has been dwarfed in Russian foreign policy. I have been told that the last Soviet President who visited black Africa is Leonard Breznev. It has become a problem for a Russia n President to land in the black continent. It looks like Russia will be belittled if the President should visit a place like Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Senegal etcetc. The question is had any world leader visited these countries? We don't know when Russia President will visit Africa but I am optimistic that very soon it will happen. In fact it is in the interest of Russia's President to visit Africa. We need to break that barrier; we need a relationship of mutual enrichment. This is not to say that Africa has not got her problems in building up this relation. Africans must be optimistic in their bilateral relations with Russia. We must also try to break from the old tradition of thinking that nothing can work out in Russia. Some Africans are lead to think that it is only possible with the west. African s must explore all the avenues for an active economic diplomacy in the Russian Federation and the CIS. Rome was not built in a day; there is the need for persistent efforts in this direction. Long live Africa Russia relations.