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‘A New Message’: Russia’s Vladimir Putin Says Another Truth About Africa

Jose Matemulane said he left his native Mozambique nearly two decades ago, spent years studying in St. Petersburg and saw the Russian soul. Now he’s in the vanguard of Russia’s new foray onto his home continent, where he is spreading the word that working with Moscow to reduce the influence of Americans and other Westerners is in Africa’s best interests.

“The Russians have their own way of thinking different from the Western patterns,” Mr. Matemulane said. “I used to tell people: Russians are nothing else than white Africans, white blacks.”

Russia has been playing for power in Africa in recent years by sending arms, offering mercenaries, and cinching mining deals. More quietly, it has started to set up a low-profile infrastructure of political influence that bears echoes of the Kremlin’s strategy in Europe and the United States. And it is already identifying African politicians and activists who will carry its message.

Deploying its international propaganda arms, the television channel RT and the Sputnik news agency, the Kremlin is honing this message: While Western Europe and the United States are continuing a centuries-old tradition of exploiting Africa, Moscow is ready to engage with Africa on mutually beneficial terms.

Russia is also benefiting from a desire by African countries to lessen their reliance on China, even as Moscow acknowledges that it cannot come close to matching Beijing’s financial firepower.

The Russia Today studios in London.
Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Matemulane runs a think tank called Afric, which describes itself on its website as “funded by donors with a common passion to foster Africa’s development,” without mentioning Russia. In an interview, though, Mr. Matemulane said the group was launched last year with support from a St. Petersburg businessman he declined to name.

Afric received prominent billing at a summit for dozens of African leaders hosted by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week, and announced it would partner with a Russian propaganda specialist who had previously focused on the United States.

It also drew the notice of Mamadou Koulibaly, a candidate for president of Ivory Coast in elections next year.

Africa will never be independent, Africans believe in Europeans, Americans and Chinese more than themselves. They do not trust each other, African engineers / technocrats do not have the platform to practice what they have studied. They hire Chinese people to build roads for themselves. A white man will commit a crime in Africa but no action will be taken because the African authorities consider us whites as half gods, which is far from the truth. A black man can be kidnapped in Europe, harassed and even killed, but no African authority can even challenge him.

Africans present themselves as weak, hopeless people, especially when dealing with Europeans and Americans. They are their own enemies. They hate each other, allowing their colonial masters to continue to explore their resources. As far as I know, Africa is the chosen continent, chosen by God, it is a blessed continent and it is time for Africans to realize that they are in a place where Americans, Europeans and Chinese people are jealous and would like to be.

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Do not compare the African weather with any other weather … African soil can feed all Europe, America and Asia, but their problem is one, “THEIR LEADERS”. As far as I’m concerned, their best president has always been Gaddafi.

“I will ask them if they can introduce me to people with money who will help me,” Mr. Koulibaly said of Afric. “This is important. A campaign needs money.”

Moscow has already injected itself into the geopolitics of Libya and the Central African Republic. Now it is looking for inroads in public opinion and the political elite across the continent.

Earlier this year, for example, Russia’s ambassador to Ghana met with Albert Kofi Owusu, the head of Ghana’s main news agency, and discussed a proposal: Might Mr. Owusu distribute stories from Tass, a Russian state-controlled news service, to newspapers, websites and television stations in the West African country?

Mr. Owusu said the proposal made sense, especially since his agency was already sharing Chinese state media reports. In October, Mr. Owusu was here on Russia’s glittering Black Sea coast, shaking hands with Mr. Putin.

“Very simple man, cool,” is how Mr. Owusu described Mr. Putin, who held a brief meeting at the conference with the heads of 11 African news agencies.

Russian officials at the conference said that the Kremlin’s RT and Sputnik would be glad to host African journalists in Moscow for training courses on topics such as social media.

Mr. Putin posed for a photo with the heads of African news agencies on the sideline of the summit.
Credit…Pool photo by Mikhail Metzel

“We understand that getting to Moscow costs quite a bit of money, and this may well be too expensive for African newsrooms,” Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy minister for communications and mass media, added after making the pitch. “We are ready to consider possibilities for RT and Sputnik specialists to organize courses on the ground in this or that African country.”

Credit: nytimes

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