Ukraine War: Why Some African Countries Are Thinking Twice About Calling Putin

Lagos, Nigeria

Nelson Mandela was once asked why he still maintained ties with Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, among others, the Cuban and Palestinian leaders who had been branded terrorists by Western powers. the honored one South African statesman replied that it was a mistake “to think that their enemies should be our enemies”.

This attitude is largely typical of the response of some African nations to the war between Russia and Ukraine. Across the continent, many seem reluctant to risk their own security, foreign investment and trade by supporting either side in this conflict.

While the attacks on Ukrainian civilians and their own citizens fleeing the war zone – from countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya – have been widely condemned, there has been a much more muted response from some key African nations.

The continent’s countries are in a precarious position and do not want to be drawn into proxy battles, says Remi Adekoya, an associate lecturer at England’s York University.

“There is a strong line of thought in African diplomacy that states that African states should uphold the principle of non-interference and therefore should not become involved in proxy wars between East and West. For example, since some states engaged in proxy wars during the Cold War,” Adekoya told CNN.

One influential voice that has made it clear that he will not antagonize Russian leader Vladimir Putin is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Addressing his country’s parliament on Thursday, he said: “Our position is very clear … there are those who insist that we should take a very hostile stance and position towards, say, Russia. And the approach we have chosen is that we insist that there should be a dialogue.”

After initially releasing a statement calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine, South Africa has blamed NATO directly for the war because it considered Ukraine’s membership in the military alliance against Russia is.

“The war could have been avoided had NATO heeded warnings from its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ramaphosa told parliament on Thursday.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma also previously issued a statement saying Russia felt “provoked”.

“Putin has been very patient with Western forces. He has been crystal clear against the eastward expansion of…NATO into Ukraine…and is on record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of the armed forces…it seems justified that Russia felt provoked,” Zuma said according to a released statement through his foundation on March 6th.

South Africa has strong ties to Russia, and Ramaphosa has written about being approached as a mediator in the conflict because of its membership in BRICS — a group of emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Ties between the two countries also date back to the apartheid era, when the former Soviet Union supported South Africa and the African National Congress Party in their liberation struggles. “These favors have not been forgotten,” Adekoya said.

South Africa was one of 17 African nations to abstain on the March 2 UN resolution calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Nigeria and Egypt were among 28 African nations that voted to condemn Russia, while eight others did not vote. Eritrea was the only African country to openly vote against the resolution.

Zimbabwe The Foreign Ministry said in a statement one is not convinced that the UN resolution is aimed at dialogue, but “it poured more fuel on the fire and thus complicated the situation”.

Many of the countries that abstained in the UN vote are authoritarian regimes. They see Putin’s unilateral decision to invade Ukraine as a show of power and an ego they cherish and can come to terms with, Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede, a political scientist and professor at Farmingdale State College in New York, told CNN.

One of those who have it spoke out prominently for the Russians The leader is Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the influential son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

His father has ruled Uganda with an iron fist for 36 years and there has been speculation that Kainerugaba will be a possible successor if 78-year-old Museveni eventually steps down.

Kainerugaba tweeted: “The majority of humanity (who are not white) support Russia’s stance in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!”

Some African countries have also been reluctant to speak out against Russia because they “want to keep their options open in case they face existential threats or some kind of revolution at home in the future,” Adekoya said.

“They saw Putin keeping Assad in power in Syria, because without Russian intervention, Assad’s regime would have been overthrown a long time ago,” he added.

Adekoya also pointed out that part of the muted response is due to what is perceived as Western hypocrisy.

– Source: CNN

On GPS: Kenya’s trumpet call to Ukraine

Kenya’s representative to the UN Security Council, Martin Kimani gave a strong speech on the fringes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Drawing a parallel between Ukraine’s emergence as an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the experience of post-colonial states in Africa, Kimani criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military build-up and his support for redrawing Ukraine’s borders by recognizing the breakaways Small towns of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Kenya rejects such a yearning to be violently persecuted,” he said, referring to Russia’s recognition of the two territories as independent states. “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”

During the speech, he also mentioned other nations in the Security Council that had violated international law and were not threatened with sanctions. “He didn’t mention them by name, but he spoke of the US and Britain invading Iraq in 2003… and never really being held accountable,” Adekoya said.

“There are many people in many parts of the world who would like to see the rise of other regions and the end of Western dominance of the world order, to put it simply … of course no right thinking person in Africa or anywhere in the world is looking at what is happening now what’s going on in Ukraine and thinks it’s a good thing…but a lot of people see the hypocrisy,” he added.

In recent years, Russia has established itself as one of Africa’s most valuable trading partners – becoming a major supplier of military hardware with key alliances in Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia and Mali.

Africa was omitted 18% of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think tank.

Some analysts say Russia’s support or non-censorship speaks to a broader sense in parts of Africa that Western political positions are not always working in their favour.

“The message Moscow is spreading is: if you are tired of the paternalistic way the West is approaching you, we will be your security partners. It will be an equal relationship,” Aanu Adeoye, a Russia-Africa analyst at Chatham House, told CNN.

Unlike many of its European counterparts, Russia is not a former colonial power in Africa and thus has greater scope for soft power measures aimed at challenging Western dominance on the continent.

The Soviet Union also maintained client ties with many African states during the Cold War, and Moscow has attempted to revive some of these ties.

Before the invasion, Russian state media company RT announced plans to set up a new hub in Kenya with a job advertisement which said it wanted to “cover stories that have been overlooked by other organizations” and that “challenge the conventional wisdom about Africa”.

But Africa has often been at the center of the scramble for influence in the great power competitions between major geopolitical players such as the US, China and Russia.

Some countries try to exploit this position in a variety of ways.

Odugbesan-Omede explained that Tanzania, for example, has recognized the current situation as an opportunity for its energy industry. “Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan sees this as an opportunity to look for markets to export gas,” she said. “Tanzania has the sixth largest gas reserve in Africa. While some African countries will suffer some economic shock from the battle between Russia and Ukraine, others are trying to weather the storm by looking for new avenues of profitability,” Odugbesan-Omede added. Ukraine War: Why Some African Countries Are Thinking Twice About Calling Putin

Charles Jones

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