National interests prevail as African leaders tread carefully on the Ukraine crisis

African countries are treading carefully in the Russia-Ukraine war to protect their national interests even as they defend the rights of Africans trapped in war zones.

Available data indicate that most African countries source most of their military equipment from Russia and may not want to bite a finger that feeds them in the ongoing calls to condemn the war.

While African leaders have been vocal and united in condemning discrimination against Africans in the humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, they are cautious in the condemnation of the aggression by Russia.

Divisions among African countries were laid bare when United Nations member countries took a vote on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia during which some countries appeared to avoid taking sides.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, chair of the African Union, and the African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said they were “particularly disturbed” by reports that some Africans had been turned away at European borders while trying to leave the war-wracked country.

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law,” the two leaders said in a joint statement on February 28. “In this regard, the chairpersons urge all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity.”

But as most African leaders voiced their solidarity with Africans trapped in the war zone, some were absent when the UN General Assembly convened to vote on Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.

Even President Sall’s Senegal was among 17 African states who abstained in the vote, signaling the importance of the political and military deals with Russia that they are wary of betraying. Russia’s well-known African allies Sudan, Mali, and the Central Africa Republic all abstained.

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