(Caption for photo at top of the post, “The 2019 Sochi summit drew almost all of Africa’s heads of state”–from this Feb. 27 BBC story: “Ukraine conflict: How Russia forged closer ties with Africa”.)
One doesn’t see the Biden administration or the US media noting the absence of real opposition to/condemnation of Russia in great parts of the world. Further to this post in early March,
now the Globe and Mail’s man in Africa reports on the situation in that continent:
Geoffrey York Africa Bureau Chief
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the chairman of the African Union early last month and asked if he could speak to African leaders to explain his country’s plight since the Russian invasion. The response was polite but noncommittal.
Five weeks later, even after repeating his request to another African Union official, Mr. Zelensky is still waiting for a chance to speak.
The unofficial snub is the latest sign of Russia’s continuing influence in many African countries. While the West sends a seemingly endless flow of weapons and politicians to Kyiv, there has been a distinct lack of African support for Ukraine and, significantly, a complete absence of African sanctions against Moscow.
This has been helpful to the Russian cause. Africa may be far from the war zone, but it has strategic value for President Vladimir Putin. It provides votes at the United Nations, arms sales for Russia’s military industry, business for its private military contractors, resources for its extractive sector and potential bases for its navy.
Mr. Zelensky has sought to weaken Mr. Putin’s support base in Africa, but has struggled to gain traction. While many African governments profess to be neutral on the war in Ukraine, they have often signalled tacitly that they favour the Russian side [emphasis added].
Despite pressure from Ukrainian diplomats and some Western powers, not a single African country has joined the West in imposing sanctions on the Russian government.
Mr. Sall [president of Senegal], the chair of the African Union, spoke with Mr. Putin on March 9. He then waited more than a month before taking Mr. Zelensky’s call on April 11…
South Africa, like many African countries, has abstained on key UN votes on the war in Ukraine, but the statements by its government and its ruling party seem to have endorsed the Russian view of the conflict. They have usually adopted the Kremlin’s preferred terminology – rarely using the terms “war” or “invasion” – as well as Moscow’s mantra of blaming NATO for provoking the crisis.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the government has been even more sympathetic to Mr. Putin’s viewpoint. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a recent newspaper column, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was merely a “robust response” to the “threat of encirclement by NATO.” He echoed the Kremlin’s rhetoric by criticizing the Western military alliance for its “provocative eastward expansion in Europe.”
…self-interested factors… motivate much of the African response to the war [quelle surprise!]. Some African leaders have a genuine preference for a neutral or non-aligned stand on the distant conflict, seeking to maintain relations with all sides. Some feel a historical loyalty to Moscow based on the anti-colonial struggles of the past. But many are also following their commercial and military interests…
In…[some] African countries, especially those with authoritarian regimes, there is a reluctance to antagonize Russia because it is their biggest supplier of weapons – and, increasingly, private military contractors as well [Wagner Group, anyone?].
The military agreement between Cameroon and Russia, unveiled last month, would reportedly allow Cameroon to obtain weapons and armoured vehicles while also helping it gain access to Russian intelligence and training.
“Cameroon needed a defence partner that could back its national military operational interest without conditions or interference,” said David Otto Endeley, an analyst at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies.
“Russia presents itself as a partner ready to do business with no strings attached.”
With a report from Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaoundé, Cameroon
Other relevant posts:
Theme song, Joe Biden doesn’t: