France has called on African countries to show “solidarity” with Europe in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The war has divided the African continent, with nearly half of countries abstaining or not voting at the United Nations to condemn Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory.
Russia’s invasion is “an existential threat to the stability and integrity of our continent”, said minister of state at the French foreign ministry Chrysoula Zacharopoulou at the yearly Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security on Monday.
“That’s why we expect solidarity from Africa,” she told the forum, which is hosted by Senegalese President Macky Sall, and who is also current head of the African Union, and attended by other African heads of state and several foreign affairs ministers.
The war in Ukraine has impacted Africa, where food prices have soared across the continent as imports of grain and fertilizer have been limited.
“Africa is not against Ukraine, one should not get the impression that Africans are insensitive to the situation in Ukraine,” Sall countered Zacharopoulou.
But, he said many Africans feel that their own security, economic or health problems are being ignored: “This is 2022, this is no longer the colonial era. We are in 2022, so countries, even if they are poor, have equal dignity. Their problems must be treated with the same respect.”
Senegal surprisingly abstained from a vote in the UN’s general assembly on 2 March condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It voted in favour of a second resolution on 24 March demanding an immediate end to the war, and joined 143 countries voting for the 12 October resolution condemning Russia’s annexing four occupied regions in Ukraine.
“Africans say that even while Ukraine is at war, is being invaded, is being attacked, Africa is under permanent attack from terrorism,” Sall said at the forum.
In Mali and the Central African Republic the Russian military has provided support as France has withdrawn from its anti-jihadist Barkhane operation, which faced a lot of local opposition.
Zacharopoulou told the meeting that French military missions were not to “substitute” local armies, but to “support” them.