Africa must not blow hot and cold on Ukraine war

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula(right) present a gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who paid him a courtesy call at Parliament on May 29th, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya’s stand on the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine is well known. In a speech delivered during the UN General Assembly on February 21 last year, Kenya’s UN Ambassador Martin Kimani told Russia to respect its border with Ukraine, and warned of the dangers of stoking the “embers of dead empires”.

But that did not deter Russia from invading Ukraine three days later on February 24, a move that was greeted by global condemnation. The war in Ukraine has raged on for more than a year now, causing thousands of deaths, displacement of tens of thousands and massive destruction. There are no signs that fighting will abate soon.

Yet amidst this tragedy, a top Russian official has been on a charm offensive in Africa. Kenya is among African countries that Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov has toured lately. Besides, Kenya, he has visited Mozambique, Mauritania, Mali, Sudan, Burundi and South Africa in the space of a few weeks. In addition, a Russia-Africa summit will be held in St Petersburg, South Africa from July 26 to 29 under the auspices of BRICS, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa economic bloc.

These visits signal Russia’s renewed interest in Africa at a time it is increasingly getting isolated by the West following its invasion of Ukraine. The invasion, coming after the disruptions caused by Covid-19, has negatively impacted a global economy still trying to find firm footing. 

Our government has fingered the Russian war in Ukraine as a factor in Kenya’s economic woes, the rise in fuel costs and shortage of wheat and other grains. The result is the high cost of living that has practically gone through the roof. 

Notably, Lavrov’s visit to Kenya came hot on the heels of a visit by his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. This is a clear indicator that both sides are seeking to win friends to their sides. Their visits prove how much the two antagonists value Africa. Africa should take note of that and stop pretending that all is well.

It should receive the two sides with open arms, but should not shy away from laying down conditions for their friendship. Africa must demand that the two sides bring the brutal war to an end. Particularly, African countries should tell Russia to stop its war in UKraine for there is no shred of doubt that the Kremlin is the aggressor. The truth is, this war will never come to an end if Russia doesn’t want it to.

Much as they are in desperate need of handouts during this tough economic times, African leaders must gather the courage to say what is in the hearts of many African people; that this war has caused enough suffering not only to Ukrainians and Russians but also to the world at large. That this is this time to put as stop the war.

That call should be amplified as the continent gears up for Russia-Africa summit. Africa must choose to take the moral high ground by telling Russia to end this war. Africa should stop blowing hot and cold on the war in Ukraine due to tokens that will not pull it out of the economic morass that we are in, thanks to this war.