SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Mark Duerksen (Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University) as part of its SMA AFOE Speaker Series.
Africa is a frequent target for Russian information operations (IO), keeping Russia from being politically isolated, weakening democratic ideals, and strengthening the Kremlin’s regime security. Russia is deploying IO in Africa to pursue a variety of strategic objectives, including a) unobstructed access to natural resources, b) lucrative mineral and economic contracts, and c) preventing African countries from levying sanctions. Africa’s information space is already susceptible to malign operations; however, Russia’s IO is further degrading African countries’ information space. Dr. Duerksen stated that truthful information is becoming increasingly sparse in African media. Russian Television (RT) exacerbates this issue by allowing other media organizations on the continent to republish fake or misleading stories without restrictions.
Russia also uses media organizations in Africa as proxies to further pro-Russian narratives at a high volume and does it continuously. These proxies also allow Russia to deny that it is active in certain countries and regions. In one of the countries in which Russia is involved by way of proxies, the Central African Republic, journalists that post stories critical of authoritarian leaders are being murdered. This demonstrates how democratic principles are being undermined on the continent even further. To counter Russia’s malign IO, Dr. Duerksen stated that the US could help build awareness of the extent and impact of disinformation, support African countries’ capacity to counter disinformation, and impose costs on the architects of disinformation.