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SEEKING A CEASEFIRE

What is Africa’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

A man in grey hair gestures using his right hand.
Pool via Reuters/John Thys
African Union Commission Chairperson Mahamat Moussa Faki.
  • Carlos Mureithi
By Carlos Mureithi

East Africa correspondent

Published Last updated

The African Union (AU) has called on Russia to respect international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty.

In a statement on Feb. 24, AU chair Macky Sall and AU Commission chair Moussa Faki called on Russia and Ukraine (pdf) to establish a ceasefire and open political negotiations “to preserve the world from the consequences of planetary conflict.”

Kenya, Gabon, and Ghana spoke out against the escalating conflict at an emergency meeting for the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 21, but most African countries have remained quiet. South Africa on Feb. 23 asked Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The USSR’s history in post-colonial Africa

While Russia’s influence on the continent has been slowly rising in the recent past, it pales in comparison to the USSR’s in post-colonial Africa from the 1950s to the 1970s. Seen as an alternative to Western imperialism and capitalism, some post-colonial African leaders aligned themselves with the USSR with adopted ideologies ranging from socialism to Marxism-Leninism.

Several African countries, including Algeria, Guinea, Ethiopia, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) received financial and sometimes military support from the USSR during their own independence struggles.

Revered African statesmen, including the first president of the DRC, Patrice Lumumba, and Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara also adhered to socialist ideologies emerging from the USSR.

Russia and modern-day Africa

Russia has in recent years been rebuilding and strengthening its relations with African countries through trade, aid, and security, most notably through the Wagner Group. The private group is reportedly aligned with the Kremlin and has been helping Mali and the Central African Republic fight insurgencies, much to the chagrin of France, which is falling out of favor with several former colonies.

Thousands of Africans, meanwhile, study in Ukrainian universities, mostly from Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt.

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