Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked on Tuesday that African nations will always remember the dark chapter of Western colonial oppression when European powers trafficked children from the continent, putting them on display in cages. He also claimed that these same countries are trying to push their former dominions into indentured servitude.
Speaking at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin said he was sure it would not be too difficult for Russia to restore close relations with Africa to the level of the Soviet era when Moscow provided the continent with ample economic aid.
The Russian leader argued that African countries remember Moscow’s help in the struggle for independence and that Moscow had never acted as a colonizer. “Our cooperation has always been based on either mutual grounds or the desire to help,” he said.
However, Putin noted that these countries remember not only Soviet aid but also Western ruthlessness. As late as 1957, “people from Africa were taken to Europe in cages… You can’t watch that without tears. Children sitting in cages, displayed for everyone to see,” Putin recalled. “No one in Africa will ever forget it.”
The Russian president said the West has not abandoned its subjugation attempts. “Even now, they are trying to boss around and pursue their generally neo-colonial policies,” Putin said, explaining that Western countries have imposed trillions of dollars worth of loans on the region.
The West has concocted a credit system with African countries which “by definition… does not allow them to pay back their loans. These are not credit relations; this is some kind of [punitive] indemnity,” he added. However, Russia adheres to a different approach, which gives it an advantage in fostering ties with its partners worldwide, Putin argued.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out that African countries are ready to talk with their Western counterparts. However, the latter should not expect spectacular results if they reduce dialogue to “patting on the back” while failing to address the continent’s “pressing needs.”
To foster closer ties with the region, Russia hosted a landmark Russia-Africa forum in St. Petersburg this summer that produced many bilateral agreements in various fields. Dozens of African delegations also attended it despite what Moscow described as “unprecedented pressure from the West” to skip the summit.