Ukraine’s Charm Offensive in Africa Marks a Welcome Change of Pace

Ukraine’s Charm Offensive in Africa Marks a Welcome Change of Pace
African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, in Lviv, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2022 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba began a 10-day visit across Africa this week that began in Dakar, Senegal, followed by stops in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The tour, billed as an attempt to “better explain Ukraine” to African countries, comes as Kyiv seeks to build “political support for Ukraine from the countries of the global south against the background of Russian aggression” amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

From the very beginning, part of that war has played out in the diplomatic sphere, particularly at United Nations headquarters in New York. Last week, Moscow once again vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning its actions in Ukraine, this time with regard to its “annexation” of Ukraine’s Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions into Russia. Attention has now shifted to the General Assembly, where the U.S. is leading a massive lobbying effort to whip votes in favor of a similar resolution. Countries in the Global South—including Africa’s 54 U.N. members, which comprise 28 percent of the entire body—are expected to be courted aggressively as part of that effort.

African positions on the war in Ukraine have come under immense scrutiny from Washington and its European allies since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, and that has intensified ever since roughly half of the U.N.’s African member states did not support a U.S.-backed General Assembly resolution in March condemning Russia in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Western powers, particularly France and the U.S., have demanded that those countries take what they regard as a tougher stance against Moscow.

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