The Battle for Africa Continues

Marcus Noland (PIIE)



Over the last couple of months, we have kept an eye on the ongoing diplomatic competition between North and South Korea being played out in Africa. The North seems to have retained some of its historic ideological allies such as Zimbabwe and Namibia, where a piece by John Grober at NKNews alleges that contrary to earlier reports, the Namibian security apparatus continues to cooperate with North Korean entities in violation of UN Security Council sanctions. But apart from such places where the historical ties run long and deep, it appears that South Korean diplomacy has had some success in playing to its economic strengths as well as UNSC legitimacy.

Some recent news stories suggest that the North won’t go down without a fight. North Korea had previously praised financial repression in Tanzania, and the country had made unwelcome appearances in the UN Sanctions Expert Panels report. Now it is reported that the country, which maintains among the worst shipping standards in the world, has expanded its flagging of North Korean vessels since the latest round of UNSC sanctions, including one on UNSC and US Treasury blacklists. This puts the African country in violation of Resolution 2270. It ought to be pretty easy to lean on them on this one.

The North has also been trying to solidify relations with DR Congo. Unlike Zimbabwe or Namibia where the ties are long standing, the relationship with the Kabila regime appears to be more one of convenience: during the Congolese civil war, North Korea allegedly provided mercenaries in return for control of a uranium mine. More recently the country had been tagged in the Experts Panel report for allegedly purchasing North Korean small arms and hiring North Korean special forces and praetorian guard trainers, a claim the Congolese labeled an “outright lie.” In August, a delegation visited Kinshasa, before heading on to Angola, but South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, who has been logging serious frequent flyer miles, checked the move, meeting bilaterally with his Congolese counterpart, and urging the Congolese to fall into line behind UNSCR 2270.

A new, strengthened, resolution coming out of the Security Council in response to the fifth nuclear test, ought to provide South Korea, the US, and others, grounds to revisit sanctions violations in these African capitals and other locales in the coming months.

Most of this competition has been playing out in southern, central and eastern Africa, not West Africa. But hey any excuse is a good excuse for posting a video by my man Gyedu-Blay Ambolley…

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