Published: March 8, 2022 9.52am EST
In recent weeks the world has witnessed the most tense moments in international relations since the end of the Cold War. This was evident in the deliberations and voting by members of the United Nations on resolutions calling on Russia to halt its invasion and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
The events have also been a stress test for military and political alliances.
Africa yielded significant influence on the voting outcome with 54 countries, (27,97 % of all votes).
First, was the meeting of the 12-member Security Council on 25 February 2021. The three African representatives, Gabon, Ghana and Kenya, along with eight other countries voted for the resolution. However, Russia used its veto power to block it. This veto prompted the US and 94 countries to call an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly on 27 February 2022 where a similar, but non-binding motion was tabled. The assembly’s first emergency meeting in 40 years.
The resolution included a condemnation of Russia’s decision to “increase the readiness of its nuclear forces”. It was adopted with the required two-third votes of all member-states.
There was less unanimity in African votes at the General Assembly than in the Security Council where the allocation of non-permanent seats, while obeying a certain geographical distribution, does not require representative countries to be their regions’ mouthpieces.
The majority of African countries clearly sided with Ukraine – 28 out of 54 (51,85%). Only Eritrea voted against the resolution. But nearly a third refrained from taking sides (17 out of 54) – that’s if one understands abstention to be halfway between a yes and a no. Eight countries were absent.
My research has investigated the similarities and differences in countries’ reactions to crises. For example, I examined the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe and the opposite reactions of Western and Eastern European countries. I explained these through their different identities – or the “who we are?”.