The Role of African States in the Fight Against Russia Invasion of Ukraine
While the majority of attention has been focused on the crisis’s implications on transatlantic relations and NATO unity, it also acts as a critical litmus test for conceptions of African solidarity and regionalism in general. The African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), all of which were established to represent this solidarity, have been undermined in recent months by disagreements among heads of state over how to address the recent wave of coups in the Sahel and the rising insurgency across the continent. At large demonstrations in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Guinea, and Mali, the Russian flag was prominently displayed, and military commanders invited Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to confront terrorists.
On the other hand, the AU’s own Constitutive Act of 2002 advocates the inviolability of borders and the principle of territorial integrity. The European Union demanded an immediate ceasefire following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. According to Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations in February 2022, an invasion by Russia would imperil Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Ghanaian ambassador described Russia’s move to recognize eastern Ukraine and withdraw from the Minsk agreements as “disappointing.”
Africa’s leaders have been compelled to find a means to retain a semblance of stability in the face of adversity. South Africa’s BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) grouping of middle-income countries has confounded EU and Ukrainian diplomats for weeks, despite their acknowledgement of the country’s unique relationship with Russia. When Russian forces entered South Africa on Thursday, the South African government took action and requested their withdrawal. It is noteworthy that the Nigerian government did not condemn the invasion or call for a cessation of hostilities.
Numerous African nations are becoming increasingly interested in extending their trade and investment potential through links with both the Western and Asian hemispheres. Russia has exerted both security and economic influence on the continent in recent years. China, a prominent participant in the region, has invested about $3 billion in 2021 alone, and appears to have given the invasion implicit assent. It seems improbable that we will return to the Cold War era, when African leaders were required to pledge allegiance to a foreign power. The critical question now is how African governments will maintain ties with their diverse range of external partners — and with one another — as the geopolitical landscape substantially changes in the aftermath of Ukraine’s outright invasion and violation of international law.