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Biden to meet South Africa leader amid differences on Russia

The White House announced on Thursday that President Joe Biden will meet with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa this month as the administration seeks to strengthen ties with African nations at a time when South Africa and many of its neighbors have declared their neutrality regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The announcement of the trip for September 16 follows U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to South Africa earlier this month, during which he said that the Biden administration views the 54 countries of Africa as “equal partners” in addressing global issues.

The administration, however, has expressed disappointment that South Africa and a large portion of the continent have chosen not to join the United States in denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In a UN vote to denounce Russia’s behavior, South Africa abstained, and Ramaphosa has refrained from criticizing Russia in favor of advocating for a negotiated settlement.

After speaking on the phone in April, Biden and Ramaphosa are anticipated to concentrate their discussions on trade and investment, infrastructure, energy and the environment, public health, and South Africa’s leadership position on the continent, according to authorities.

In a statement announcing the meeting this month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “The two Presidents will underscore the significance of our lasting cooperation, and discuss our work together to solve regional and global problems.”

In December, Biden also intends to hold a conference of American and African leaders.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor upheld South Africa’s neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict during the Blinken visit. Pandor said that the U.S. and other Western nations have prioritized the Ukraine crisis above other global challenges in a news conference held after the meeting.

She remarked, “What is happening to the people of Palestine should worry us just as much as what is happening to the people of Ukraine.”

For his part, Blinken emphasized that the shortages of food, cooking oil, and fertilizer caused by Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports had disproportionately affected Africans.

As allies, the United States is supporting African nations through this unique crisis, according to Blinken. “Neither the United States nor anybody else should impose their preferences on Africa. Only Africans has the authority to make these decisions.

The Soviet Union’s assistance to Ramaphosa’s African National Congress during the Cold War period in its campaign to remove apartheid, South Africa’s system of repression against the Black majority that ended in 1994, is primarily responsible for the country’s neutral stance today. One of the many African nations that would not take a side against Russia is considered as being led by South Africa.

The meeting with Biden will take place when it matters most for Ramaphosa, who is now under fire from both his own party and the opposition over allegations that $4 million was stolen from his cattle property.

Members of Parliament have questioned him this week about whether the foreign currency had been properly reported to South Africa’s financial authorities and why he delayed reporting the crime. Ramaphosa’s credibility as a leader dedicated to combating the pervasive corruption in his country has been harmed by the incident.

In his bid to be reelected as the head of his party at a conference in December, Ramaphosa will encounter fierce resistance. He won’t be allowed to run for president of South Africa again in 2024 if he loses the party leadership race.

Ramaphosa would welcome any declaration of economic help from the United States since South Africa has been in a recession since even before the COVID-19 epidemic and has a 34% unemployment rate.

Blinken lauded South Africa and Ramaphosa for establishing a multiracial democracy after years of white minority rule during his visit there last month. Additionally, he used the trip to officially introduce a new U.S. policy toward Sub-Saharan Africa.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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