The United Nations General Assembly is slated to vote on Monday to condemn what is being described by the United States and its European allies as an “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions.
The decision follows a referendum Russia has conducted in four regions of Ukraine at which they voted to become part of Russia.
At the end of September, the issue was tabled at the Security Council, but Russia used its veto power block it. Pro-Ukraine diplomats pushed it to the General Assembly, where there is no veto power, and the global campaign of influence is on.
Africa, with its 54 members, is the focus and Ukraine has been feverishly campaigning to get countries like Cameroon, which have remained neutral and interpreted in diplomatic circles as supporting Russia by the pretext of neutrality, on board.
Early this month, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, was in Senegal, whose president is African Union current chairman, to canvass for votes against Russia at the General Assembly.
He projected Moscow to be condemned for spiraling food costs, especially in Africa.
At a press conference in Dakar, Kuleba promised that Ukraine would be sending “boats full of seeds for Africa”.
“We will do our best until the last breath to continue exporting Ukrainian grain to Africa and the world for food security,” he said.
He was just re-echoing his President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who on, June 30, told AU leaders in a video conference that "Africa is the hostage of those who started the war against our state".
The "unfair" level of food prices "caused by the Russian war is felt painfully on all continents," he said, and proposed the organisation of a "major Ukrainian-African political and economic conference".
The resolution Ukraine wants Africa to support at the UN is demanding that Russia reverse its "annexation" of Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and are “inconsistent” with the principles of the UN Charter.
The proposed resolution adds that the Russian sponsored referenda “have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alternation of the status of these regions of Ukraine”.
It demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders … to enable peaceful resolution of the conflict … through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means”.
In a six-page reaction to UN ambassadors, the Associated Press quoted the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, saying a call to vote against his country propagated by the US and its allies is “a clearly politicised and provocative development aimed at deepening the divide” among UN member nations.
He claimed the Western actions have nothing to do with protecting international law and the UN Charter, and are only to “pursue their own geopolitical objectives,” alleging Western “double-standards” in backing Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 without a referendum.
Unlike Kosovo, the Russian Ambassador said, the four Ukrainian regions “are exposed to a real existential threat from Ukraine now”.
He added that Moscow understands the “huge pressure” the United States and its allies will exert on other countries to support the resolution, and “we also understand that in such circumstances it may be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly”. Therefore, he said, Russia is proposing a secret ballot and calls on member states to support the initiative.
Although the votes by the 193 countries that make up the General Assembly will have no legal binding, it will just be to measure global influence and propaganda. On March 2 when the war started, the General Assembly voted 141-5 to condemn Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Only four countries — Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria — voted with Russia against the resolution. Thirty-five countries abstained, including Cameroon.
On March 24, there was another resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, urging an immediate ceasefire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools and hospitals critical to their survival, the votes were 140-5 with 38 abstentions.
The votes against Russians reduced again on April 7 when a resolution was tabled to suspend the country from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, over allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine engaged in rights violations that the United States and Ukraine called "war crimes". The vote was 93-24, with 58 abstentions.
Statistically, Russia has been winning in the propaganda war with Africa being the battle ground of influence. What is at the centre, however, is the interest of each country, and there is no question that the African interest is in backing Russian.
But why have they not had the audacity to support overtly than just being neutral, which in any way is perceived as the acquiescence of silence?