01.03.2023 Author: Oleg Pavlov

African Union under Western pressure

On February 23, the UN General Assembly voted on another anti-Russian resolution on Ukraine, which was pathetically titled “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”  Russia, as in the spring of last year, was condemned by 141 states.

However, 24 African countries out of 54 refused to condemn Russia, and 30 voted for this anti–Russian project. Moreover, the backbone of the states voting against Russia has remained almost unchanged since the first such resolution was voted on in March 2022. However, now Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan have demonstrated further drift towards the West.  Gabon moved away from the pro-Western line, and Mali for the first time solidified with Eritrea and voted against.

Without any doubt, these results indicate the most severe Western pressure on African states, first of all small and dependent on foreign aid, such as Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, and the Comoros.

Shortly before the vote, from February 16 to 19, the 42nd session of the AU Executive Council and the 36th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of African States took place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in the luxurious complex of the African Union, where the issue of the situation in Ukraine was not included in the agenda, but was invisibly present and discussed on the sidelines.

In principle, there is nothing unusual about this. Such events are held regularly by the African Union, which unites 55 States of the continent. The official agenda of the current meeting included largely routine issues of the development of regional integration, in this case, the African Free Trade Area (ACFTA), climate change, issues of peace and security on the African continent, ensuring food security and a number of others that are hardly new. As per tradition, the issue of the transition of the current chairmanship of the African Union was resolved. This time, Senegalese President Macky Sall, who spent a very successful year in this capacity, handed over the chair to the President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani.

There was some intra-African intrigue: for a long time several countries fought for the post of chairman, but Kenya was especially energetic, where elections were held last year and the president was replaced. It traditionally follows London and votes in the UN accordingly. However, in the end, tradition won and the Comoros received its hour of glory at the last session of the African Union, taking the post of chairman of the AU.

Until the end, however, the issue of the composition of the pan-African “troika,” usually consisting of the AU chair country of the past, current and next year, was not resolved. If two members of the “troika” are well known – Senegal and the Comoros, then the third place has not yet been determined: Algeria and Morocco are fighting for the post of AU chairman in 2024, which have come together in a serious geopolitical battle over the fate of Western Sahara, which Morocco seeks to absorb with the support of the United States, and Algeria traditionally supports the POLISARIO Front, which is fighting for the liberation of this territory. There is a split in the African Union over this: the state itself – the Western Sahara Republic – is not recognized by the UN, but is recognized by the African Union and is its member supported by some other powerful countries od the continent, such as South Africa. Russia has taken a “legalist” position in this conflict: maintaining contacts with the POLISARIO Front, but not recognizing the Western Sahara Republic.

The meetings themselves were overshadowed by an incident with an Israeli representative who entered the Nelson Mandela meeting room without accreditation. He was rather rudely taken out of there – although Israel has an observer status, many in the African Union dispute this decision taken by the AU Commission, since it was not coordinated according to due procedure with other countries. In principle, this year the African Union has largely returned to its traditional line of critical perception of Israel’s policy and its actions towards the Palestinians and very definitely speaks in favor of a two-State solution and allowing the Arab people of Palestine to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination.

In general, this topic of self-determination of peoples sounded quite loudly in the African Union this year, although much was happening behind the scenes and discussed on the sidelines. The truth is that the Western powers, primarily the US, the UK and the European Union countries, after February 24, 2022, began to exert the strongest pressure on the African states and on the structures of the African Union, to make them not only condemn the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, but also cut all their contacts with Moscow. At the summit of African states in Addis Ababa, both the US and the EU landed a powerful diplomatic force to rein in the Africans.

The West used a well-known narrative: imperialist and authoritarian Russia, wishing to absorb neighboring countries, attacked poor democratic Ukraine and decided to tear it apart. Admittedly, this narrative, based entirely on the presumption of Moscow’s guilt, its alleged unwillingness to comply with the principle of territorial integrity of states, partly worked. According to a number of UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia, about half of the African states supported the discourse of Americans and Europeans, although the other half took a neutral position, which was shown by the vote on February 23.

However, it should be noted that, as the special military operation progressed, the opinion of African countries began to change, although this still has little effect on the voting results. Firstly, they were tired of the brazen pressure from the Western bloc, frontal attacks by ambassadors on the offices of heads of state and their foreign policy departments, which began to go beyond all bounds of decency. The frankly stupid statements of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who in a completely racist way compared Europe to a blooming garden surrounded by a jungle, clearly added insult to injury. Africans were also influenced by the actions of the Ukrainian authorities themselves, who gave priority to white-skinned Europeans when evacuating foreign students from the country, which caused a sharp reaction from the African Union itself.

Africans did not like the persistent attempts of the United States to get African states to support illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the West against Russia. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen openly threatened African states during her January trip to a number of capitals of the continent that if they disobey, they themselves would fall under sanctions.

Finally, Africa appreciated the balanced approach of Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin, who quickly responded to the concerns of African states regarding a possible shortage of food and received in Sochi on June 3 last year the chairman of the African Union (at that time Macky Sall), accompanied by the chairman of the Afro-Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. As a result, a so-called grain deal was concluded, which allowed Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain to world markets. However, they almost did not get to Africa, despite the active propaganda both from Kiev and the EU on the “assistance to the poorest countries of Africa.” At the same time, Russian grain remained blocked, despite the sworn assurances of UN Secretary General António Guterres that he would do everything possible to create conditions for the export of Russian grain and supply it to the African countries.

All this fuss, when Africa gets 0.5% of the grain from the grain deal, opened the eyes of many in Africa. So Jeje Odongo, Uganda’s foreign minister, said on February 22: “We were colonized and we forgave those who colonized us. Now the colonialists demand from us that we become enemies of Russia, which has never colonized us. Is that fair? We don’t think so: enemies remained enemies, and friends remained friends.”

This is just one evidence out of many that Africa is not ready to mindlessly follow in the wake of the West. They understand that by advocating for the right to self-determination of Russians in the Crimea, in the Donbas and in other regions of the former USSR, Russia continues its principled line to support the freedom and independence of peoples, as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s in relation to Africa. African countries and peoples should ask themselves the question: would their states have existed if Russia had supported the principle of territorial integrity of states, and not the right of African peoples to self-determination? Russia is not against those who live in Ukraine, but against the Kiev regime oppressing Russian people, preventing them from speaking their native language, destroying their history, monuments and culture. This is what the Western colonialists were doing in Africa and now actively support those whom they put in charge in Kiev.

This truth, thickly flooded with tons of Western Russophobic propaganda, is beginning to come through to the surface of the information ocean, and the peoples of Africa will soon figure out who their real friend is, and who is only pretending to be one.

Oleg Pavlov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.