A new Bill passed by the US Congress to challenge Russian influence in Africa, targeting Vladimir Putin’s perceived African allies on the continent, may disrupt Russian investments in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe, alongside almost half of African countries at the UN, refused to condemn Russia’s Ukraine invasion, despite Western pressure. Now, through the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, the US will “hold to account African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding (Russia’s) malign influence and activities” in Africa.
Michael McCaul, the most senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who co-sponsored the bipartisan bill in April, is clear on what the law aims to do; African countries must pick a side.
“We must make every state choose between doing business with the free world, or with the war criminal,” he says.
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.
The US will also fund work to counter information coming from Russia, as well as checkmate Putin in terms of military installations in Africa.
“I would point out that over the years, many of us have brought a great deal of attention to China’s malign influence in Africa,” according to New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, who sits on the panel’s Africa subcommittee. “But there has not been the kind of attention brought to bear on what Russia is doing.”
The State Department has 90 days to develop a plan to counter Russia in Africa. The strategy would target Russia’s “disinformation” and mining investments, while “strengthening democratic institutions and anti-corruption initiatives”.
In March, Zimbabwe abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning Russia’s action in Ukraine, saying the resolution did not promote dialogue. In April, Zimbabwe voted against a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.
The new US law provides for the “identification of African governments and government officials, and other individuals and entities that have facilitated payments” to sanctioned Russian entities.
Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond company, is one of the companies recently sanctioned by the US. One of the few large foreign investors in Zimbabwe, Alrosa holds 35 prospecting special grants to prospect for diamonds and develop new mines.
Great Dyke Investments, which is currently developing what would be Zimbabwe’s biggest mine in Darwendale, is 47.8%-owned by Russia’s Vi Holdings.