The alliances formed during the Cold War are hard. Under pressure of the sanctions of the UN and US threats, many African countries have distanced themselves from North Korea, but not to permanently turn your back.
For those who have already surveyed the capitals, the imprint of the Pyongyang regime on the continent is hard to ignore.
The statues or Stalinist palaces designed by the North Korean architects crush the horizon in Windhoek, Dakar, Maputo and Kinshasa.
But North Korea’s cooperation with Africa goes far beyond these flashy constructions. Over the years, much more extensive links have been established between them.
Trade between the two partners is estimated at about $ 200 million each year. Minerals and fishing are at the top of their transactions, followed by armaments.
Despite the UN sanctions imposed in 2006 in Pyongyang in retaliation for its military nuclear program, this collaboration has continued well.
“Many countries have maintained close ties with the RPCN, ” says Graham Neville of the Chatham House think tank, “more than half of the 30 or so African countries still do business with it”.
The military aid, on the totally forbidden paper, concentrates the concern of the international community.
A UN expert report released in September pointed to eleven African countries suspected of continuing a military partnership with the Kim Jong-Un regime.
– Military aid –
According to this document, North Korea has reportedly delivered small arms to Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ), ground-to-air missiles in Mozambique, upgraded missiles and radars in Tanzania and trained soldiers and police in Angola and in Uganda.
In Namibia, UN experts are interested in two North Korean companies, Mansudae Overseas Project and Komid, which have built the headquarters of intelligence services and an ammunition factory.
Today very sensitive, these activities have not surprised. Since the independence wars, Pyongyang has established itself as a very loyal military ally of the Marxist regimes in Africa.
“During the Cold War, North Korea gained its reputation by providing useful and safe training for African soldiers,” said Samuel Ramani, an analyst at Oxford University.
The participation of the 5th Brigade of Zimbabwe, formed and supervised by North Korean officers, to the repression ordered since 1982 by Robert Mugabe against his opponents is the most famous example.
And these alliances continued well beyond.
Under the guise of fighting against imperialism, some African countries have kept their doors open in Pyongyang, allowing it to feed its currency banks to survive the sanctions.
In recent months, however, Kim Jong-Un’s arms of honors, sent to the world by nuclear missiles and bombs, have forced some of his friends away from his regime.
Sudan has cut off bridges with Pyongyang, Uganda has expelled its military advisers and pledged to “fully comply” with UN sanctions .
Tanzania has assured that it has reduced its relations “to a minimum”. “We are not in conflict with North Korea, but its program of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction is not good for the security of the planet,” said the head of diplomacy, Augustine Mahiga.
– ‘Friend Country’ –
Namibia says it has canceled all contracts with North Korean companies.
“The break is consumed. Even their citizens are sent home, “assured AFP Minister responsible for Presidential Affairs, Frans Kapofi. “It’s finish !”
To see, considered the UN . In a recent report, its experts regretted that most of the target countries have not “provided them with substantive answers yet”.
More generally, African capitals seem reluctant to slam the door in the face of Kim Jong-Un, despite pressure from the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea.
Last month, 150 North Korean aid workers packed up in Angola. End of contract, have justified the authorities.
“We have international obligations to respect,” conceded his foreign minister, Manuel Augusto. “But it’s not about breaking our relationship (…) it’s a friendly country that has accompanied us throughout our history”.
Clearly, North Korea does not seem close to losing the last four of its “comrades” African.
“The absence of the colonial past of the RPCN and its willingness to challenge theWestern oppressors are undoubtedly still admired by some African leaders, “says Neville.
“In addition”, adds the analyst, “doing business with the RPCN can be interesting for some schemes because it does not impose conditions of good governance like Westerners. This is especially true when it comes to armaments … ”