The U.S. government says more African voices are needed to challenge Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This week, most African countries voted in favor of a U.N. resolution condemning the conflict in Ukraine waged by Russia. But experts say African nations will likely say little about the war and protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Speaking to an African journalist online Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said Ukrainians need African support.
“The United States believes strongly that African voices matter in the international community, that your voices matter in the global conversation. We believe that it is critical at this moment in time that the entire international community demonstrates unity and speaks with one voice against this aggression and in support of principles, timeless principles. These include sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes, and protection of civilians,” Rhee said.
On Tuesday in the United Nations General Assembly, 141 countries condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution and 16 countries from the continent abstained.
Kasaija Apuuli, a political science professor at Makerere University, says Africa has many internal problems and cannot engage itself in a foreign issue.
“We always have our internal problems in Africa. I don’t think it will be advisable for us to engage in matters of course, it concerns us in the sense that these are matters that affect international peace and security, but I don’t think Africa can craft a role in for itself in this kind of arrangement, and moreover we do have [the] European Union which is a premier regional organization in Europe which is engaged in the matter. I don’t think [an] African Union intervention will be welcomed,” Apuuli said.
Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine last week, a decision that has the world condemning Russia and calling on it to withdraw its forces. The United States, European countries and others have hit Russia with economic sanctions.
Wale Olosola, an expert in international politics, says Africa won’t take sides in the conflict, but it needs to stand for respect of international law protecting the rights of the states.
“It makes more important sense to continue to shape the discourse and narratives in terms of helping to preserve, helping to promote the framework of the current global order that stresses the need for countries to respect their equal status under international law. The need for, regardless of size, history, political structure or resources, it needs to protect the interests of all states,” she said.
Phee said her government would help manage the war's economic impact in countries.
“We see the rise of fuel prices, commodity prices, and we know that this disruption is doubly hard given the earlier impact of the COVID pandemic. But we are already engaged in efforts to promote stable energy and commodity prices, working on supply chains, and you saw this week that President Biden joined other international leaders in releasing strategic oil reserves in an effort to manage fuel prices,” Phee said.
The U.S. government has assured the African governments the conflict in Europe will not affect its engagement with the continent.