Traditional Ties Earn Russia African Countries’ Silence in Critical UN Vote

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Those were the prophetic words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recalled now by influencers on social media pressing South Africa to cut or reduce old “friendly ties” with Russia.

But backing away from a long political and economic relationship with Moscow will not be easy. The eastern European nuclear power has already begun to call in the debt earned from years of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid support.

Writing recently on the South African news site,, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in South Africa extolled the “traditionally friendly ties between our countries which date back to the struggle against apartheid.” They cited visits to the USSR in the 1920-30s by prominent ANC members, stalwarts of revolution such as Josiah Gumede, Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks.

Similarly in Ghana, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a personal letter to President Nana Akufo Addo congratulating him on the country’s 65th independence anniversary.

“Please accept my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the National Holiday of the Republic of Ghana!” Putin addressed the Ghanaian leader. “The relations between Russia and Ghana are traditionally of a friendly nature. I am convinced that further development of a constructive bilateral dialogue and partnership meets the interests of our peoples, contributing to the peace and security on the African continent.”

Africa’s hesitation to speak out at a recent UN vote against Russia’s unprovoked invading and bombing of Ukraine, may be linked to their Cold War ties. A more significant factor is Russia’s huge military footprint on the continent,” writes Will Brown, Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

More than half of African nations have military cooperation agreements with Russia—the largest exporter of arms to sub-Saharan Africa. All Ethiopia’s jetfighters were supplied by Russia while Uganda’s combined force of five Mig21s and Sukhoi30s were also Russian supplied. Fifteen of Uganda’s 20-strong fleet of combat helicopters were also Russian supplied. Sudan has 35 Russian jetfighters and 67 helicopters.

In the UN vote, 17 African countries refused to condemn Russia’s imperial ambitions in Ukraine. Another seven African countries refused to vote at all. Their leaders are all authoritarian or dictatorial with little regard for human rights abuses by their security forces.

But openly collaborating with Russia for the near future will carry significant reputational costs, warns Joseph Siegle, research director for the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington. “As the human costs from Russia’s unprovoked war mount, ties with Russia will become even more problematic.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 March 2022]

Photo: Russian-made Su-30K fighter jets sold to Ethiopia. Source: Horn Affairs

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