(Special thanks to Halodoc for information used in this piece)
In 2018, the African island nation of Madagascar held its presidential election with a staggering 36 candidates. Although rich with resources, it ranks 161st of 189 countries on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, with half of the nation’s children living in poverty. Access to food, water, and education were some of the biggest concerns of the voting public. Combine that with no laws regulating election spending, and no rules against foreign donations, the election was ripe for foreign exploitation.
BBC recently did an investigative piece where they found massive involvement by Russian political and business agents.
Their investigation found a confirmed six (but likely more) candidates had been courted by Russian agents and given large sums of money. In addition to funding the candidates, they also paid people to march outside the French embassy in anti-colonial protests.
Many of the Russian “tourists” and “election observers” have ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin of “Internet Research Agency” and US election meddling fame.
The ultimate winner, Andry Rajoelina, has not been shown to have accepted Russian money. However, as it looked like he was to be the forerunner, the many former Russian candidates were told to back out of the race and throw their support behind him.
So why does Russia care about Madagascar? The quick answer is the resources. Russia already owns a 70% share in the state-owned chromium mining firm, Kraoma. Madagascar is also home to some of the world’s purest sapphires (which explains why Russian diamond trader Vladimir Boyaishchev, was present for this).
The long-term goal, though, was described in the video by BBC’s Russian correspondent, Andrei Soshnikov, where he talks about building a new Soviet Union and making Russia a superpower again. Russia already has strong military or financial ties in 25 African nations. While building up their presence in the continent, they are also stoking anti-Western sentiment, as seen in the encouraging of anti-colonialist protests. I’m not sure if they’re looking to annex these nations into a Russian supernation, or simply gain allies.
While we’re so busy being a divided nation, Russia is busy strengthening it own.
THIS IS AN OPEN THREAD.