‘Stop sabotaging sovereign countries’: Russia, China take pot shots at US over Democracy Summit

'Stop sabotaging sovereign countries': Russia, China take pot shots at US over Democracy Summit
'Stop sabotaging sovereign countries': Russia, China take pot shots at US over Democracy Summit

Africa-Press – South-Africa. With the US-led Democracy Summit under way, China did not miss an opportunity to trash talk its rival in Africa a little over a week after holding its own version of the summit.

Russia, too, had something to say about the US summit in which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was due to speak.

The Democracy Summit is simultaneously hosted by Zambia, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and the Republic of Korea in a largely virtual arrangement.

The choice of Zambia, a country that has had six presidents following the fall of founding president Kenneth Kaunda in 1991, could be a diplomatic statement from the US to China.

Zambia is at the centre of trade-in barbs between the US and China, particularly regarding the country’s debt crisis.

In January, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, on her African tour, reaffirmed America’s push for debt restructuring for Zambia but said the money owed to China was a barrier to development for all of Africa.

“US estimates of Chinese lending range from $350 billion to a trillion dollars. This type of opaque lending can leave countries with a legacy of debt, diverted resources, and environmental destruction,” Yellen said.

In a cheeky response to Yellen over Zambia’s debt restructuring, the Chinese Embassy in Zambia said the US should “cope with your own debt” and “stop sabotaging other sovereign countries’ active efforts to solve their debt issues”.

When China held its democracy summit, US-friendly countries, such as Zambia and Nigeria, had opposition activists and analysts critical of the incumbent governments in attendance.

It is the same with the US-led summit; countries like Zimbabwe with strained relations with the US are represented by opposition party leaders and the civic society.

The US said the summit was part of a combined effort to rescue democracy when numerous countries are sliding back to authoritarianism.

China on its part knows going against its ties with African countries, of which most have tangible trade and infrastructure benefits, is a big headache for the US.

China and Russia’s take

China and Russia view the US-led summit as a form of colonisation.

This kind of approach is because the two countries played a big part in the de-colonisation of Africa.

Russia said the summit was the US’ attempt to divide the world into two camps.

Russia Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said:

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, during her regular weekly press conference, said the US, through the summit and other engagements, was involving itself in matters of other nations.

“What our world needs today is not a ‘Summit for Democracy’ that hypes up confrontation, but a conference of solidarity that focuses on taking real actions to solve prominent global challenges.

“We advise the US to stop pointing fingers at other countries and stop interfering in their internal affairs in the name of promoting democracy,” Mao said.

The host

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema said his country had kept true to its promises made in December 2021 at the inaugural summit.

“Zambia made three commitments. Ensuring free media, protecting freedom of assembly and association, and improving the independence and transparency of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

“Today, the media operates free without the stranglehold of the government and sets its own agenda without interference,” he added.

Speaking at the summit’s opening ceremony, Hichilema said for democracy to thrive, there was a need for both strong leadership and strong institutions, and Zambia has shown that it was possible.

He added Zambia had had seven presidents and four different political parties in power and there had been no coup or violent takeover.

Hichilema said Covid-19 posed a great challenge to democracy.

His government came to power after elections held during that period.

It is the same in Malawi when Lazarus Chakwera came to power although there was a push from then-incumbent Peter Mutharika.

Civic society engagement

Speaking during a Twitter space hosted by Kenya’s Nation Media Group and Open Society Foundation Africa, a side event at the summit, numerous African think tank leaders and civic society activists argued Africa needed homegrown solutions for its politics.

Political analyst Kuda Bhejana said democracy was the best way of electing leaders and if it failed its opposite was tyranny.

He added democracy should be best utilised by choosing the right people to lead a country.

“So, we need that in our current situations, if you go to Kenya, Uganda, Malawi or Zimbabwe, you will notice that when our leaders are in parliament they are not deliberating economic issues, nothing to do with tax, unemployment issues. They are talking about other things, that is where we should use our democratic power,” Bhejana said.

Apollos Doreen from the African Union added democracy in Africa should go beyond being a political idea.

“Whatever happens at the polls affects what will happen in the next four to five years of a country’s direction.

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