At SADC summit, leaders condemn planned US law to punish Africa over ties to Russia

Presidents Ramaphosa of SA and Hichilema of Zambia meeting in Namibia for SADC Troika Summit

Southern African leaders have adopted an African Union declaration condemning a proposed United States law that would punish African countries for maintaining political and economic ties to Russia.

At Tuesday’s extraordinary meeting of the SADC Troika in Windhoek, Namibia, leaders spoke out against the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in April last year. Under that law, the US would punish any African countries that it views as aiding Russia in its war with Ukraine.

SADC leaders said they would remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, and that all leaders would communicate their condemnation of the US bill, which is before the US senate.

“Summit adopted the draft African Union Declaration on the USA-proposed ‘Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act’ and urged member states to communicate SADC’s position, and reaffirmed the stance of non-alignment on conflicts outside the continent and the region at multilateral fora,” the leaders said.

Michael McCaul, a Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who co-sponsored the bipartisan bill last April, said the law would force African states to pick a side.

“We must make every state choose between doing business with the free world, or with the war criminal,” he said last year.

According to the proposed law, the US State Department will be required to “regularly assess the scale and scope of the Russian Federation’s influence and activities in Africa that undermine United States objectives and interests; such as mining and other forms of natural resource” operations.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Africa has become stage for the war for influence between Putin and his Western foes. Over recent months, Africa has hosted high-profile visits from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, as well as US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The SADC security organ summit was attended by the leaders of Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini and Lesotho as well as ministers from the DRC and Mozambique. Also on the agenda were the conflicts in Mozambique and the DRC, the killing of human rights activist Thulani Maseko in Eswatini, and political reforms in Lesotho under the new government.

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