Communist states viz., Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea have been generally supportive of Russia. In South America, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Nicaragua are sympathetic despite the majority of OAS (Organisation of American States) viewing the US in a ‘love-hate relationship’.
In East Asia, most of the states are still pro-US and remain concerned about the rising Chinese influence. Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand and India are pro-US.
In Africa, nearly 27 countries voted in favour of the resolution, including Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria while 17 out of the 35 nations, i.e., nearly a one-third of AU (African Union) abstained. They included Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Four countries joined Russia in voting against the resolution while their public generally remained critical of their leaders.
Addressing the UNSC one week earlier on the conflict, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Martin Kimani, took a philosophical path on colonialism and its aftermath in Africa but failed to define the African interest in the war.
Therefore, the vote at the UNGA Chairperson of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU the Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, issued a joint statement with the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in which they confessed to being “particularly disturbed by reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border were being refused the right to cross the border to safety.” Ukraine had then set a policy of first allowing Ukrainian women and children on trains and transport to flee the Russian invasion.
In 2020, nearly 76.000 foreign students from Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the globe were in Russia; and in 2020 Ukraine nearly a quarter were from Africa. The Irish Times explained that “roughly 20 per cent of Ukraine’s foreign students were African, including 4,000 Nigerians.”
From 1953 to 1982, the foundation for African educational exchange was laid with the former Soviet bloc including Russia and Ukraine. The deterioration of education in Africa by the continent’s own rulers turned what should have been an “educational exchange” into an “educational export.”
From the African perspective, Russian advantages are manifest: pointedly, it is stated that Russia had not invaded or colonized any African country, nor indulged in slavery, nor used its African nationals to develop industries and cities in which they are treated as lesser human beings. On the other hand, exploitation of the continent by leading nations of NATO and EC in the past is a historical fact. Russia, for instance, has not been warehousing stolen billions from Africa, nor is it home to shell companies. Also, they were not linked with sponsoring coups to remove nationalistic African leaders. For Africans they supported anti-apartheid forces in South Africa and collaborated with Cubans in fighting for liberation in Angola and Ethiopia; the Cubans were then rendering both military and civil economic assistance that is still gratefully acknowledged by many African and Third World nations.
Initially, PM Macron had been trying to douse the fire of the Ukraine war during shuttle diplomacy between Kremlin and Kiev before the Russians fired the first shot. But France continues to exploit resources of Francophone Africa in which most monies belonging to former colonies are warehoused in France. It also takes key decisions regarding expenditure, contracts and other matters concerning those countries. Moreover, it has instigated many coups in Africa and funded armed groups and militias in doing its bidding all over in the Francophone Africa.
The general African stance of neutrality with underlying sympathy for Russia has largely typified most African nations’ response to the Russian-Ukrainian war. In fact, many African nations appear hesitant to risk their security, foreign investment and trade by backing one side or the other in the conflict. Notwithstanding condemnation on Ukrainian civilians and citizens fleeing war zone by certain countries viz., Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya — there is muted response from key African nations. In fact, most countries find themselves in a delicate position: not to get drawn into proxy battles of major powers a la the Cold War. The adage that when ‘elephants fight it is the grass that suffers’ is a stark lesson guiding many African nations. However, the incipient food and fuel crises due to US-imposed sanctions are forcing a rethink.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022
The writer is former Adviser, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University, Islamabad