Malawi Making New Friends As Mutharika Heads to Russia for Summit

20 October 2019

President Peter Mutharika believes Malawi should be expanding its diplomatic ties and warming up to new friends as he is expected to leave the country Monday for Russia to attend an economic cooperation meeting between Africa and Russia.

Minister of foreign affairs Francis Kasaila said President Mutharika will be among Heads of States from 35 African countries that are expected for the first Africa-Russia Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Wednesday and Thursday.

With the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to reassert his country's influence on the African continent and beyond.

For Putin, the summit is a chance to revive Soviet-era relationships and build new alliances, bolstering Moscow's global clout in the face of confrontation with the West.

"Russia has always been present in Africa, this is a very important continent," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the summit.

"Russia has things to offer in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation to African countries."

Though never a colonial power in Africa, Moscow was a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders.

Malawian Foreign Affairs Minister said the meeting sets the grounds for the bilateral cooperation between African countries and Russia and that it will create opportunities for Malawi to engage Russian investors.

One of the main criticisms of Russian influence is that it uses secret military units to prop up dictators and strongmen with little or no accountability for human rights. These units are often mercenaries linked to the Wagner Group, a paramilitary organization closely aligned with the Kremlin.

It is up to African states to exploit the increased economic competition that Russia's presence brings, while standing up for human rights and blocking potential abuses.

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