Seventeen African countries on Wednesday abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, signalling further international pressure on Moscow.
The UN General Assembly, which was this week sitting under an emergency session, a rare sitting occasioned only by a serious threat to international security, voted to condemn what a motion said was “aggression against Ukraine” following Russia’s February 24 invasion of its neighbour.
The vote, which is mostly politically symbolic but lacks legal strength, means the UN has declared Moscow’s decision a violation of the UN Charter, especially on issues of territorial integrity.
Voted by 141 of the 193 member states of the UN, the vote became only a first in 40 years when the General Assembly has sat and passed a resolution to reprimand a member’s aggression.
Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, Rwanda, Djibouti, Congo, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo voted yes.
Some 35 countries abstained from the vote, including Russia and China, and African states – Burundi, Senegal, South Sudan, South Africa, Uganda, Mali and Mozambique.
Ethiopia did not take part in the voting, but Eritrea, North Korea and Syria voted against the resolution.
Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, claimed neutrality was behind his country’s refusal to vote.
“As incoming Chair of the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM) neutrality is key. Uganda will continue to play a constructive role in the maintenance of peace and security both regionally and globally,” he said.
Though Uganda has not formally stated its stance on the Russia-Ukraine war, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the President’s son and commander of Land Forces, suggested that Russia had valid “security” reasons to invade Ukraine.
“The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia's stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right! When the USSR parked nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 the West was ready to blow up the world over it. Now when NATO does the same they expect Russia to do differently?” he tweeted on February 28.
The Ukrainian invasion has also raised concerns about the plight of black students caught in the chaos.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his government had established an emergency line, +380934185684, to help stranded foreign students.
“We are working intensively to ensure their safety and speed up their passage. Russia must stop its aggression which affects us all,” he said, but did not refer to the claims of racism.
The EU had earlier said its member states were accepting foreign students fleeing the war without condition.