While South Africa blames NATO, Kenya along with African Union urges Russia to respect international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
While most African countries have decided to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, experts say it has already created blocks in the continent, with many countries quietly siding with warring parties.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was the first to open a barrage against the West, blaming NATO for the war in Ukraine. He said he would resist calls to condemn Russia.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region, “he said in the parliament.
Despite Ramaphosa’s support to Russia, the African Union (AU) earlier this month condemned Moscow’s invasion and called for an “immediate ceasefire.”
Senegalese President Macky Sall, who heads the AU, and AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat urged Russia to respect international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN Martin Kimani also denounced Russia.
“This action and announcement breach the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not deny that there may be serious security concerns in these regions but they cannot justify today’s recognition of these regions as independent states,” said Kimani during the UN Security Council emergency meeting in February.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mametlwe Sebei, head of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa, said many governments in the African content feel sympathetic to Russia, because of its anti-colonial legacy from the Soviet Union days.
But he added that there was a difference between present-day Russia and its past.
“There is a qualitative difference historically between the Soviet Union and Russia,’’ he said, adding that Russia is a capitalist state like the US and other western powers.
War divides Africa
Sultan Kakuba, a political scientist at Uganda’s Kyambogo University, said the Russia-Ukraine war has created blocks in the continent.
“Although some countries are taking a position of neutrality, this conflict will eventually divide Africa into two blocks. One in favor, and the other against Russia,” he said.
Mustafa Mheta, a senior researcher at the Media Review Network, a Johannesburg-based think tank, said in the rest of the world this war is testing the neutrality of various countries in Africa.
“This war is creating blocks in the world, including in Africa. The situation at the moment is reminiscent of the cold war,’’ he told Anadolu Agency.
Mheta said many countries that fought wars to liberate themselves from colonialism or those that consider themselves revolutionaries mainly in Africa and South America seem to be siding with Russia.
“The Russians and the Chinese have soft corners in Africa, as they do not place unnecessary demands on the countries when they give them a loan or anything that matters,’’ he said.
Kakuba said many countries in the continent purchase their military equipment from Russia and may not go along with the West to directly condemn the invasion of Ukraine.
Further, most of the countries in Africa have a history of being active members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Founded in 1961, the NAM, a forum of 120 developing countries, had of late lost relevance after the Cold War. These countries have committed themselves to maintain strategic autonomy and avoiding being part of political power blocks.
“I pray this war ends quickly before it escalates into a third world war, drawing in different players,’’ said Mahad Allie, a student at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.
Pretty Mpho, another student, said she is not happy with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I don’t think all countries in Africa have tilted in support of Russia. Many more are disgusted by Putin’s lack of respect in invading a sovereign state,’’ she said.