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HomeGeopolitical CompassEurope, Russia, OceaniaRussia-Ukraine War and The Future of Africa-European Relations: Is Europe Dividing Africa?

Russia-Ukraine War and The Future of Africa-European Relations: Is Europe Dividing Africa?

Author: Ukertor Gabriel Moti

Affiliation: Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies

Organization/Publisher: European Journal of Theoretical and Applied Sciences

Date/Place: June 7, 2023/Ukraine

Type of Literature: Analysis

Number of Pages: 11

Link: https://ejtas.com/index.php/journal/article/view/140 

 

Keywords: Africa-European relations, Security, Sustainable Prosperity, Russia-Ukraine War, Neutrality 

 

Brief:

This article delves into the Russia-Ukraine War and its implications for Africa-European relations, particularly focusing on how African nations navigate the delicate balance between maintaining neutrality and aligning with the conflicting parties. Qualitative research methods were employed to gain comprehensive insights into this emerging issue.

The primary objective of the study is to scrutinize the Russia-Ukraine war through the lens of African perspectives, shedding light on the pressures faced by African leaders to support opposing sides, their responses to this pressure, and the resulting impacts. Furthermore, the article explores the post-Berlin Conference of 1884 era and its influence on the future of Africa-European relations. It also addresses the establishment of rules that guide the equitable allocation of resources among Western nations.

 

The article is divided into multiple sections or subheadings, with each part dedicated to discussing a specific idea.

Starting with the first part, the authors discuss how African states have responded to the Russia-Ukraine war. The authors argue that the African perspective varied significantly when a vote occurred at the United Nations regarding a resolution “deploring in the strongest possible terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” Sixteen African states abstained, seven refrained from voting, and Eritrea cast its vote against the resolution, aligning with Russia, Syria, North Korea, and Belarus. The African Union expressed “extreme concern” about the invasion but did not provide pointed criticism of Russia. As such, Africa did not present a unified stance on the issue.

The position of some African states towards this crisis is likely influenced by Russia’s position in Africa. In this section, Gabriel Moti delves into the origins of the relationship between Russia and African states. Particularly, Russia’s significance as an arms supplier during the Cold War is noteworthy. By 2000, Russian arms exporters had renewed their focus on African states. Presently, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), approximately 49 percent of all arms imports into Africa are attributed to Moscow, with the majority going to countries like Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, and Angola.

At the same time Ukraine also is among the world’s top arms exporters, with a substantial portion of its arms exports directed to Africa, estimated at 20 percent between 2005 and 2009, notably to countries like Kenya, Chad, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, Russia has greater diplomatic leverage.

The author mentions the many African leaders that have supported the Russian military operation based on the assumption that Russia is a viable alternative to the liberal, neo-colonial West, for instance by welcoming Russian mercenaries into the Sahel to highlight European failure to contain jihadist groups in the region.

Afterward, the author discusses how the absence of principled consistency in conflict resolution contributes to Africa’s non-aligned stance, and views from the continent vary from country to country, with many states taking a ‘non-aligned’ position. How should this stance be understood in a multipolar and highly interdependent world?

The author indicates that there is a mistaken assumption that all of Africa acts the same politically. They also believe that African countries should support Western nations because the West is better at development, helping people, and has a shared history with Africa.

Nonetheless, Western surprise at Africa’s limited response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Africa’s neutral stance, reflect self-centeredness on both sides. The West wants African nations to join in condemning Russia, but African states hold onto their historic resentment of Western dominance. Some African authorities justify their indifference by comparing it to past conflicts like the US invasion of Iraq or the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, equating them with Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The next section in the article, “A Deeper Divide?”, argues about the divergence in perspectives that may help clarify why Africa tends to be lenient towards Russia, despite the fact that Russia has violated a fundamental AU principle regarding territorial integrity. The positions held by African states are not straightforward, which is understandable given the multitude of norms and values across a continent with 54 nations.

 On the one hand, African nations aspire to an international order that relies on rules rather than force. Simultaneously, they express sympathy towards Russia and China, both of which challenge this order for distinct reasons. The divisions among African nations concerning peace and security were already apparent in their responses to events in Libya in 2011 and Burundi in 2015.

The author argues that although all the African countries are geographically cohesive, and there are strong historical cultural ties that unite the continent’s peoples, Pan-Africanism suffered when the United Nations General Assembly voted in early March on a resolution demanding that Russia immediately cease its military actions in Ukraine. Out of the assembly’s 193 member countries, 141 supported the resolution, 5 opposed it, 35 abstained, and 12 did not vote at all. In this vote, Eritrea voted against the motion, 16 African countries abstained, including South Africa, and nine other countries did not vote at all. The reality is that African countries made their decisions based on strategic considerations about how the conflict would impact them, rather than solely focusing on the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict. This contrasts with the European Union, which managed to converge and reach a unanimous stance on the conflict.

Gabriel Moti mentioned the visits of world leaders to Africa after this crisis, including President Macron’s visits to Cameroon, Benin, and Guinea-Bissau. Additionally, the Russian Foreign Minister visited Uganda and other African countries. The writer emphasized the differences between the two tours. Lavrov seemed determined to outwit Macron in a battle for the hearts and minds of African leaders. While Macron took a moral high ground concerning African leaders’ positions and the war in Ukraine, Lavrov embraced his hosts and counterparts and did not question their ethical compass. This stance weakened Europe’s position somewhat.

African countries that support Russia include even countries that Lavrov did not include in his visit, such as Zimbabwe, which has frosty diplomatic relations with the West and is in Russia’s corner on the issue of Ukraine, and the economic powerhouse of South Africa also seems to lean to the Kremlin’s side.

Nigeria, meanwhile, has taken the stance that Russia’s attacks are targeting only military installations in Ukraine. However, Nigeria’s federal government points out that it was willing to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine. The author states that Nigeria’s neutral stance is linked to its concern that recognition of breakaway parts in Ukraine could bring attention to the Biafran movement in Nigeria, which seeks secession. 

Ronald Chipaike, a lecturer in peace and governance at Bindura University in Zimbabwe, stated that Macron and Lavrov’s visits indicate the growing need to attract Africa at a time of increasing global tension and the potential for a “new Cold War.” He stated, “France, Russia, the United States, and China are all competing to support African countries, both diplomatically in organizations like the United Nations and as economic and political partners. The race to win Africa’s favor intensifies with each passing day.” 

Even the United States, which appeared disinterested in sub-Saharan Africa for many years, joined this diplomatic tour. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda during his tour of three countries, calling on governments, communities, and people across the continent to embrace Washington’s vision of democracy, openness, and economic partnership. This tour was seen as an attempt to limit the influence of Russia and China on the continent.

Among other sensitive points that have strained the relationship with Europe was the hierarchy seen in the treatment of migrants and refugees from Ukraine, as many Africans attempting to flee Ukraine were subject to mistreatment and longer wait times compared to white Ukrainians. This came at a time when relations between Africa and Europe were already tense. This was strongly condemned by the African Union, as well as individual countries, leading to the African side perceiving inconsistency and “double standards” in the treatment of African migrants. Given the significant impact of the war on food security in Africa, Western reactions to the invasion have resurrected longstanding grievances that most African countries hold against the West. These grievances are likely to undermine the partnership between the European Union and Africa in the future.

 EU-Africa Peace and Security Partnership, The author argues in the last section of his article about the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis on the European-African relationship, especially concerning peace issues and the aid provided by these countries to Africa.

Since the European Union’s allocated budget for activities in Africa has been reduced to 600 million euros from 2022 to 2024, concerns have been raised about its support for African peace and security efforts. This is especially concerning given the evolving security situation in regions like the Sahel. The tension in EU-Africa relations has increased due to the shift in EU’s security priorities following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 African partners believe the EU is withdrawing amid growing security challenges, which has led to questions about the EU’s commitment to Africa’s security. The activities of the Wagner group, a Russian private military group, have raised concerns and are seen as a direct threat to the EU’s interests in the region. There is a need to reevaluate the EU’s approach to Africa to address these challenges and build a stronger partnership.

Ukertor Gabriel Moti concludes his article by saying that to avoid sacrificing the EU-Africa partnership in the realm of peace and security, both parties need to manage the implications better and refrain from explicit confrontations. This can be achieved by clarifying each party’s expectations from the partnership in facing security challenges in Africa on regional and global levels and working towards an effective partnership that suits the challenging times.

The West should acknowledge that African nations will not accept interference in their engagement choices. Western governments should engage with Africa in geopolitical discussions instead of challenging the sovereignty of nations that feel neglected. To strengthen the relationship, the author suggests systematic, long-term efforts like diplomat and official training, building diplomatic services, and fostering the growth of European Studies Centers in African higher institutions. The Platform for African European Studies (PAES) is a promising initiative for evidence-based research and teaching on the EU, its politics, institutions, and cultures in Africa from an African perspective, benefiting both continents.

 

By: Chourouk Mestour, Ph.D. candidate in International Relations



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