US Diplomats have said they are hoping for“a strong African response” to Russia’s aggression and as well, for Africa to devise plans to help mitigate the economic effects of the Ukraine crisis on the continent.
US Ambassador to the African Union, Jessica Lapenn, in an interaction with journalists in Dakar said “We look for a strong African response to Russian aggression and welcome the opportunity to partner with Senegal and other Africans on both the response to Russia’s aggression but also to address the implications of it globally”.
Lapenn preferred to welcome the statement issued by the African Union on Thursday, February 24, 2022, the day Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, launched the invasion, which called on Russia to “respect international law, the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine”. The African Union’s statement stopped short of condemning the Russian intervention.
Akunna Cook, an Official in the US State Department’s African Affairs Bureau said it is important to recognise “that Africa is very much affected by the Russian invasion on Ukraine, both because of the economic impact which we are seeing here and across the continent in terms of rising commodities and fuel prices and also because of the threat to territorial integrity”.
Senegal’s Dependence on Russia and Ukraine
Lapenn and Cook, are in Senegal for consultation, along with President Macky Sall (President of Senegal), who currently holds the African Union’s rotating Presidency. The US Diplomats’ visit, which they described as a follow-up to that of US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in November 2021, came as a result of the Russian invasion on Ukraine, which is economically affecting African nations.
Senegal imports 57 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could shrink by three percent. Cook further explained that Senegal’s situation is so “because of the subsidies that will be needed to meet this demand”, calling it a “significant challenge”. Akunna Cook averred the US is looking at a series of options to lessen the economic effects, both with the World Bank and IMF and on a bilateral level.
The UN Voting Outcome
Senegal, which has strong relations with the West, surprised many by abstaining in a March 2, 2022, United Nations General Assembly vote which demanded a Russian ceasefire in Ukraine. But the West African State on the other hand, voted in favour of a second UN resolution on March 24, 2022, demanding that Russia stops the war immediately. Nearly half of all African countries abstained or did not vote at all in both votes.
Out of 193 member states, 141 voted in support of the resolution, five voted against, 35 abstained and 12 didn’t vote at all. Of the 54 African member states, Eritrea voted against the resolution, 16 African countries including South Africa abstained, while nine other countries did not vote at all. In all about half (26) of the 54 member states in Africa chose the path of neutrality in some form.
Meanwhile, the escalation in Ukraine by Russia still persists. NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenbergon on Thursday, March 31, 2022 has revealed that Russian Forces in Ukraine are not withdrawing but rather regrouping. Stoltenbergon made the revelation while commenting on Moscow’s announcements about scaling down military operations around Kyiv on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, after a Peace Talk between both nations (Ukraine and Russia).