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Ukraine, Ukraine” African countries did not join the sanctions against Russia. Why did they support Moscow? Africa really stands apart in this conflict. Certain states, of course, joined the international condemnation of Russia, but the majority preferred to maintain ties with a long-standing partner, the successor country of the USSR. A couple of weeks before Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the African continent, and he was met there very cordially – at least better than his American counterpart. The Lenta.ru correspondent went to Africa to find out why Africans continue to warmly treat Russia and are even ready to take its side in the Ukrainian conflict. nine0003
“Russiya? Russia? the 40-year-old Ethiopian asked a group of Russian journalists walking around Addis Ababa. Convinced of the correctness of his guesses, he again uttered the word “Rusiya”, raised his hand to his lips and sent an air kiss. “And here we have Pushkin,” he pointed to a bust of a Russian poet standing ten meters away. – Great writer! I love Russia! Having flirted a little in front of the camera, he again confessed his love for Russia, sent another air kiss and disappeared into the building of the National Museum of Ethiopia. nine0003
Another passer-by, who was watching this scene, immediately approached the journalists and introduced himself as Brook. Unlike the previous interlocutor, he was not familiar with Pushkin’s work, but he also decided to confess his love for Russia: it turned out that he had been to Moscow with a circus troupe, and most of all he remembered vodka with potatoes – well, the cold, of course. “We love Russia very much here. Ethiopia and Russia are great friends!” The man said without hiding his pride.
Long-standing sympathy for Russia in Africa did not cross out even the hostilities in Ukraine and the subsequent international condemnation of Russian policy
Muhuzi Kainerugaba, the son of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his potential successor, has declared support for Russia by all the “non-white” population of the planet. This is, of course, an exaggeration. The attitude of African countries to the events in Ukraine is ambiguous, and there are those among the African states who consistently criticize Russia – for example, Kenya.
Young people dance at a rally by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The rebel group, which operated from 1973 to 2018, declared its main goal to be the struggle for self-determination of the Oromo people and their freedom from Abyssinian colonial rule. Voliso, Ethiopia, October 21, 2018
Photo: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters
But most countries on the continent preferred to take a wait-and-see attitude: when the UN General Assembly considered a resolution condemning Russia in March, 25 African states abstained from voting or missed it altogether. One – Eritrea – voted against. Moreover, some countries that initially took a rather tough position later softened it: for example, South Africa, although it supported the resolution, then blamed NATO for the conflict, and the President of the Republic of South Africa held a BRICS summit with Vladimir Putin at the end of June. The restrained reaction and unwillingness of African countries to join the pressure on Russia caused bewilderment among Western states, which since colonial times have had a strong influence on the policies of African countries and counted on their support. nine0003
abstained from voting for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, five more states opposed its adoption
There are many reasons for this, and one of them is just related to the colonial period: in Africa they remember very well, how the USSR helped the states of the continent in the struggle for independence – in word, deed, and weapons. The flag of Angola even depicts a Kalashnikov assault rifle, with which the Angolans fought against Portugal. nine0003
Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Sudanese President Salve Chiiru Mayarditu at the official welcoming ceremony for the heads of state and government of countries participating in the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 23, 2019
Photo: Sergei Chirikov / Pool / Reuters
The governments of many African states received diplomatic and military support from the USSR for many years after gaining independence, and the modern political elite of these countries was educated in Soviet universities. Russia, by the way, is helping African leaders with weapons to this day: it is the largest supplier of weapons and military equipment to the continent. Such close ties cannot be cut off overnight. nine0003
How can we automatically be against Russia? We forgave our former enemies, the colonialists, who did something bad to us. How can we be against someone who has never harmed, but rather helped us?
Yoweri MuseveniPresident of Uganda
Africa’s colonial past makes itself felt even half a century after independence. Congolese journalist Shantz Worley told Lente.ru that due to the continued influence of the former metropolises, many Africans are deprived of access to objective information about world events, including the situation in Ukraine. According to him, France still has a strong influence on the media space in the Republic of the Congo: only one point of view on Ukrainian events is broadcast on TV – the European one. nine0003
We would like to understand why the conflict between Russia and Ukraine started, why the parties cannot sit down at the negotiating table. But we hear answers to these questions only from French TV channels and French officials. We only have access to their version of events. I would very much like to hear what Russia has to say too
Shantz Worlikongoleese journalist
The time of colonialism is over, Worley continued, and it is time for everyone in the West to get used to the fact that Africa is now independent and cooperates with those with whom it benefits. nine0003
Another Congolese journalist, Muguel, turned out to be less restrained than his colleague, and introduced himself to the Lenta.ru correspondent as a “Putin fan.” “He is not at all like Western leaders, he speaks everything directly,” he explained. And then he completely admitted that he was praying for Russia to “succeed” in Ukraine. “Let the West get lost!” he exclaimed.
Soldiers near the residence of the President of the Republic of the Congo in the city of Oyo
Photo: Valentina Shvartsman / Lenta.ru
Dissatisfaction with the policies of the West is growing on the continent, especially its desire to maintain control over the internal affairs of independent African states.
In 2021, the #NoMore movement was born in Ethiopia in response to US attempts to influence the course of the armed conflict between the authorities of the country and the rebels in the autonomous region of Tigray – in favor of the latter
Members of the movement held thousands of protests in 30 countries and even near the White House in Washington. An art object with the inscription #NoMore was installed in the central Meskel Square in Addis Ababa – at the peak of its popularity, Twitter blocked key accounts that promoted the hashtag and the movement itself. nine0003
“The West does not like the leadership of our country, so they are trying to overthrow it by supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray.
But our government was democratically elected,” complained the Ethiopian Fikru, whom the Lenta.ru correspondent met near the monument. According to Fikru, the West is not able to do this only thanks to Russia, which “protected” Ethiopia in the UN: Moscow really used the right of veto, blocking resolutions condemning the Ethiopian authorities in connection with the conflict in Tigray. “I think Russia is a savior for the rest of the world,” Fikru continued. — If not for Russia with its veto power, the West could easily overthrow the government of any country. Russia keeps the balance. nine0003
While on a visit to Africa, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to turn anti-colonial sentiment on the continent against Russia, calling it “one of the last colonial empires.” “She decided to attack a neighboring country simply out of a desire to protect her interests there,” the politician told reporters. He made such a statement in Benin, an African state that was repeatedly attacked by France in the 19th century, but after two bloody wars it nevertheless fell, was colonized and became the center of the French slave trade due to its access to the ocean and a developed system of ports. His words outraged not only the Africans, but also the French. nine0003
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 28, 2017
Photo: Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
Color of the Nation
Ordinary Africans have mixed feelings about the conflict in Ukraine. Even those who sympathize with Ukrainians and criticize Russia, with some resentment and misunderstanding, pay attention to the fact that all the attention of the world community is now focused on Ukraine and unfairly bypasses the hardships and tragedies that fall to the lot of the African continent. nine0003
“They got it wrong: Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine… I feel sorry for the Ukrainians, because war is always bad. But they hardly talk about other wars. Here we have a war in Ethiopia, people are dying. But in the West they only talk about Ukraine,” Brook, an Ethiopian, complained in an interview with Lenta.ru. A similar opinion was shared by other Africans with whom the correspondent of the publication managed to communicate, African users of social networks write about the same. They explain to themselves the meager interest of Western countries in conflicts in Africa and the Middle East by the skin color of the civilian population dying there: “It’s just that they are not white. ” nine0003
22-year-old Haroun Bachili, a refugee from Mali, joined other Africans on a six-day swim from the African mainland to the Canary Islands. Spain, December 2020
Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
This racial component was reinforced by the stories of African students who faced discrimination while fleeing Ukraine after the outbreak of hostilities. Africans were not allowed on evacuation trains and buses, and those who did make it to the border were forced by border guards to wait for hours in the cold while Ukrainians were freely released from the country, a Nigerian student at the Chidinma Medical Institute told Lente.ru in March. nine0003
Even six months after the outbreak of hostilities, this topic continues to be widely discussed: African students see racism in the fact that European universities provide all kinds of support to their Ukrainian fellow students to the detriment of others. Because of this, hundreds of African students were left without the opportunity to continue their education, and those who ended up in Europe without the slightest support from local authorities.
“Although they [the European institutions] pursue good goals, they do not understand that these opportunities are for Ukrainians. Not for Africans, not for Indians… only for Ukrainians,” African doctor Koko shared on Twitter. The girl said that she could not even get an extract from the assessment sheet from the Ukrainian university: she was told that it was impossible to do this remotely, and she had to personally come to Ukraine. “We knocked on every door, sent emails, created petitions, appeared in the press … But nothing has changed. The Africans have not received such sympathy, support and humanitarian assistance as the Ukrainians,” she said. Her publication collected 31 thousand likes and caused loud criticism among Ukrainian users. nine0003
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex helps schoolchildren plant trees at the Chobe Tree Reserve in Botswana, September 26, 2019
Photo: Dominic Lipinski / Getty Images this is not a clash between Russia and Ukraine, but between Russia and the West
“The fault lies not with Russia, but with the West. It was they who broke the promise not to expand NATO to the east. Let them now rake up the consequences, ”said the Ethiopian Fikru. nine0003
At the same time, Africans are increasingly feeling the consequences of this geopolitical clash in their own skin. Russia and Ukraine are key grain exporters to the continent, due to hostilities and anti-Russian sanctions, supplies have been significantly reduced, and food prices in already poor African states have jumped sharply.
The grain deal concluded in July between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN did not bring the expected relief: grain from the unblocked Ukrainian ports was sent not to Africa, but to wealthy countries like Great Britain, Ireland, Italy and China
Meanwhile, 20 million people in the Sahel and West Africa are already suffering from food insecurity, and the number of hungry people will continue to rise due to severe drought and poor harvests across the continent. In Somalia, one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, thousands of people have already died of starvation.