Kenya and Uganda have maintained their opposite voting stances on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, keeping a pattern that may explain the influence of Moscow in the wider African continent.
At the 11th Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Kenya voted alongside 31 other African countries to endorse a resolution asserting the ‘Principles of the Charter of the UN’ seeking a “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”
The vote in which 141 member states supported, seven voted against and 32 abstained, means the UN General Assembly was demanding withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, earning Kyiv the much-needed international backing against Moscow.
Coming on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, however, it depicted a divided African continent in which countries have also maintained a neutral stance.
Uganda, just like last year, abstained and so did South Africa, which explained the UNGA vote wasn’t helping bring parties closer to a solution. Uganda abstained just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni by phone about their bilateral ties.
Sudan, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola and Algeria and Burundi abstained too. Tanzania was absent from the room, failing to register a vote while Eritrea voted no, becoming the only African country to reject the resolution.
Overall, there were more African countries supporting the resolution than last year when the UNGA first employed the rare emergency vote. Rwanda, DR Congo, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria and Niger were among those who supported the vote.
UNGA resolutions, generally known as ‘town hall’ debates carry little powers to implement but they grant the winners political capital. In March last year, 141 countries also supported a resolution to reaffirm Ukraine’s sovereignty, demanding that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.” Kenya voted for it too.
Dr Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs said the country had given a “sustained, clear, unambiguous and principled position” on the war in Ukraine.
Last year, Kenya, then a member of the UN Security Council, deplored Russia’s invasion, calling it a resurgence of new colonialism.
“We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression,” Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN said at the time.
The non-binding vote means Ukraine has gained two more African backers than last year in March. But India and China maintained their abstention.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had asked the world to choose “between good and evil” and said more countries beyond the West were seeing Russia as the bad one.
“The vote defies the argument that the Global South does not stand on Ukraine's side, because many countries representing Latin America, Africa, Asia voted in favour today.”
However, Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has used the Council to veto any binding resolutions. In February last year, it vetoed a resolution backed by 11 of 15 members. China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained.
The Council works such that one ‘no’ vote from any one of the five permanent members of the Council stops action on any measure put before it. France, the United Kingdom and the United States are the other members with veto powers.
In September, Russia also vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution to declare the sham referendums and annexation illegal. But under new rules at the UN, a veto in the Security Council triggers a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly where the veto-welding member explains using it.
On Friday, China issued a ten-point proposal to resolve the conflict, opposing Western sanctions on Russia, calling for dialogue, support for refugees and respect for territorial integrity