Seventeen African countries on Wednesday abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24 with explosions heard across the country.
Despite international condemnation, Russian troops attacked Ukraine on multiple fronts from Belarus, Russia and Crimea in what experts said could be the start of war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.
A draft United Nations resolution on Wednesday called on the Kremlin to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
The resolution passed with 141 nations voting in favor but some African countries were among the 34 that abstained from the vote. The 17 African nations that abstained included South Africa, Senegal, South Sudan, Mali, Algeria, Uganda, Burundi, and Mozambique. The others were Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Namibia, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Madagascar, Tanzania and Congo.
Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. Its UN mission said in a statement that “Eritrea’s vote is a demonstration of its uncompromising stand for peace. Its position is against internationalizing, incessant rhetoric, and impositions of unilateral sanctions, which regrettably further polarize international relations and escalate the situation with enormous implications for civilians.
“Instead, we have consistently opted for world regions to be given the needed space and solidarity to address political problems.”
It continued: “Eritrea opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive. Eritrea, as a country that has been subjected to such measures by the West for two decades, including new sets of unilateral measures, understands that sanctions do not resolve problems of peace and security. On the contrary, they only hurt innocent people and undermine the road to peace.”
Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said neutrality was behind his country’s decision to abstain from the vote.
“As incoming Chair of the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM) neutrality is key. Uganda will continue to play a constructive role in the maintenance of peace and security both regionally and globally,” he said.
Russia has been increasing its presence on the African continent in recent years and supporting it through aid, trade, military training, among others. It’s uncertain how the latest conflict could affect the relationship between the continent and Russia.