The number of African countries that abstained in the United Nations General Assembly vote condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine surprised some. But it follows a certain logic based on recent and historical precedents, says analyst Aanu Adeoye.
“Africans see this Russian-Ukrainian invasion as Russia on the one hand against Ukraine and some Western allies,” Aanu Adeoyescholarship holder of the Russia-Eurasia program at Chatham House in London told RFI.
Initially issuing a strong statement on the Russian invasion in late February, the South African Foreign Office backtracked slightly with a statement explaining its abstention, saying the UN resolution does not “create an environment conducive to diplomacy”.
“You will remember that South Africa also abstained last time, in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea,” says Adeoye, adding that she also supports Russia as one of the BRICS. (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of emerging countries,” says Adeoye.
“If South Africa was so deeply concerned about the failures of the resolution as drafted, it should have voted against it.
“And South Africa… along with five other liberation movements in southern Africa, have historical ties to the former Soviet Union,” he told RFI. All six abstained in the vote.”
Tanzania Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)Namibia’s decision SWAPO partyand ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe were all based on socialist or communist doctrine, and a number of these movements received aid from the Soviet Union.
Angola, for its part, used Russian weapons to gain independence from Portugal in 1975, and its flag features a Russian AK-47.
The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, also won support from the USSR during the struggle against apartheid.
Influence in the Sahel
Russia has made several inroads into the African continent, notably in the mining sector and the security sector.
Russia has strengthened itself against sanctions by mining and exporting gold from Sudan, according to the British Telegraph newspaper.
Bypassing Sudan’s transitional civilian government, Russia dealt directly with paramilitary leader Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Hamdan Daglo to smuggle gold, increasing its reserves by 20%.
However, the gold agreements predate Hemedti; Russia began working with Sudan during the era of strongman Omar al-Bashir. At some point in January 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry admitted Russian entrepreneurs were training the Sudanese army in Sudan.
Some have gone further, suggesting that Hemedti’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), formerly known as the Janjaweed, are currently being trained by the Wagner Group, a private military outfit owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crony. Yevgeny Prigozhin. RSF would protect Sudanese gold mines in remote areas.
Sudan also abstained in the UN vote on Ukraine.
Further west in the Sahel region, experts say the Wagner group is providing security for Mali, amid the withdrawal of French and European troops in the country.
Tensions rose between France and junta leaders after the second coup in May 2021, leading France to announce it would withdraw its troops by June.
“Russia is much more interested in Africa now, but we shouldn’t exaggerate that interest,” he says, indicating that the number of Wagnerian soldiers, at around 1,000, is far below the number of French soldiers or 15,000 UN peacekeepers.
That said, they are interested in presenting themselves as reliable security partners and they are ready to sell weapons without any preconditions, which makes it a big problem for a number of people,” such as the leaders of the military junta. .
“The Russians are not going to ask you stupid questions about a transition to democracy, it’s not something that concerns them,” he adds.
Guns for Uganda
One of the abstentions came from Western ally Uganda, but it is in line with President Yoweri Museveni’s previous relationship with Russia.
At the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, some African leaders said they would be interested in buying arms and weapons. Museveni went further.
“Uganda said that Russia should give more loans to African countries so that they can buy weapons and armaments from Russian manufacturers,” Adeoye said.
However, Uganda’s opposition leader, MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, condemned Russia’s actions against Ukraine and President Museveni’s meeting with Russian Ambassador to Uganda Vladlen Semivolos.
Their meeting came a day after the vote with a strategic photo shoot covered by local and international press.
“What Moscow is preaching to African countries is this sovereignty that says, ‘We’re not going to meddle in your internal affairs, we’re not going to preach to you about things like human rights and democracy. .’ They just want to do business with the government,” says Adeoye.
However, the sanctions against Russia by the United States and the European Union could have an impact on the average consumer on the African continent.
“People might start to feel the pinch. Not only has the price of oil increased, but the price of wheat too,” says Adeoye.
“Wheat is present in so many staple foods, so many African countries currently depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat,” he says.
Ukraine’s cabinet passed a resolution on Wednesday banning exports of rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, sugar, salt and meat until the end of this year, further squeezing the African continent.
Between sanctions and foreign isolation, Russia may be forced to reassess its affairs in Africa and elsewhere.
“With the struggling economy, Russians are going to have to prioritize, which could affect where they can do business overseas,” Adeoye concludes.