Why Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Remains Source of Contention in Africa

Thirty countries voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia, defending Ukraine's territorial integrity, and calling for peace, just two more than last year.

A year after Russia invaded Ukraine, African countries’ views on the conflict appear to have remained relatively unchanged.

Thirty countries voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia, defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and calling for peace, just two more than last year.

Madagascar and South Sudan, both of which voted no on a similar resolution last year, voted yes this time. Morocco also did not vote in 2022 but voted in favour of the resolution on Thursday.

Nearly half of all abstentions came from African countries. Gabon, which voted in favor of the pro-Ukraine resolution last year, was one of 15 African countries that abstained.

Officially, these countries state that they do not support Russia or Western-backed Ukraine.

Despite increased engagement and visits from senior officials from Western countries, as well as Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, their stance has not changed in the last year.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, a day before the latest UN assembly, but his last-minute intervention had no effect on the vote.

Namibia, which hosted US First Lady Jill Biden on her maiden tour of Africa this week, also did not budge.

“It’s not flipping a light switch,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told The Atlantic, acknowledging the diplomatic challenge the West faces in winning support for Ukraine in some African countries.

He expressed optimism, however, that South Africa – which is currently hosting 10 days of military exercises with China and Russia – was “on a slow trajectory” away from Russia.

The South African authorities have denied the war games were provocatively timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.