In Summary
  • Africa has maintained a cautious silence on the Crimean crisis
  • Response to Ukraine and Crimea points to a world hurtling down the road of national populism and global isolationism

The referendum in Crimea has touched off, perhaps, the most dangerous crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold War. And Africa is, understandably, fretting about the probability of a new Cold War.

In a subtle way, the complex crisis in Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula reveals the cascading security effects of the pervasive use of “social unrest” as an indirect means by world powers to engineer change in leadership and leverage their strategic interests in weaker states.

The dangerous effects of this power gambit were earlier witnessed in the disastrous “Arab Spring” in North Africa and the Middle East. Ukraine and Crimea are two other tragic cases of this strategy gone awry.

The crisis started in late 2013 as a classic proxy project pitting the West against Russia over Ukraine. It came to a head when the pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych, declined to sign a Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement which would have put the country on course for European integration.

Instead, Yanukovych accepted a bail-out of $15 billion (Sh1.3 trillion) and 30 per cent discount in gas prices offered by Russia, drawing Ukraine closer to the Russia-led Customs Union. But after months of West-backed social protests, Yanukovych lost power in what the Russia Federation decried as a “coup d’état”.

Russia moved to pre-empt the possibility of its fleet in the strategic Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea replaced by American-led NATO forces.

In a fast-moving series of events, Russia masterminded a referendum in which 95 per cent of a largely Russian population in Crimea and Sevastopol voted to become a part of the Russian Federation, and President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making the peninsula part of Russia. (READ: Putin recognises Crimea as independent state)

This has thrown the world into a crisis characterised by tit-for-tat sanctions amid continuing meltdown in Ukraine, and increasingly frosty relations between Washington and Brussels on the one hand and Moscow on the other. (READ: US expands sanctions in Ukraine row)

Pundits have ruled out a Cold War redux. But the Crimean conflict is a game-changer in the global order of things, with far-reaching implications for Africa. Analysts are focusing on the implications of the Crimean referendum to Africa’s ethnically divided states.

Richard Dowden, Director of British Royal African Society, warns the referendum in Crimea is a dangerous precedent and a bad model for Africa.

AN ASSERTIVE AFRICA

But this amounts to over-egging the pudding because, scanning the horizons, there are no signs that the Crimean referendum is having any severe domino effects on African geo-politics, or influencing break-up of states.

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