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Why Africa must remain non-aligned

By Editorial Board
04 November 2022   |   2:45 am
The principled stance of many African countries on the Russian-Ukrainian conflicts has been a source of discomfiture to Ukraine and its Western sponsors.

The principled stance of many African countries on the Russian-Ukrainian conflicts has been a source of discomfiture to Ukraine and its Western sponsors.

Ukraine had sought to persuade African countries to its side before the recent United Nations General Assembly vote over the Russian annexation of four regions in Ukraine, namely, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Even as a handful of African countries voted to condemn the so-called Russian annexation, it has kept wondering why most African countries have been indifferent to the war in Ukraine. Also, it warned that Africa should not remain neutral; in other words, Africa must support it in the war with Russia.

Much earlier, Ukrainian blackmail of the continent began with an emphasis on the point that Africa would die of famine because of Russia’s blockade of the Ukraine port. It denied that the West relies on the import of grains, including fertilisers from Russia and Ukraine. Following the advent of the UN-brokered lift of blockade by Russia, the grains made their way to European factories, with only a few trickling down to the continent. 

Nevertheless, the implication of this insistence and perhaps impudence posturing over Africa’s principled position is that the continent is seen as one that can be rail-roaded into the designs of some superpowers enamoured of their own interest than that of Africa.

Inspite of the obvious crisis of nation-building that many African countries daily contend with, Africa has come of age and is in a position to decipher where her interest is best protected; certainly not in a proxy war that the West is waging against Russia through Ukraine.

While we condemn the Russian invasion, it is abhorrent to support Ukraine which has made itself a pawn in the chessboard of the United States and its European allies. It is unimaginable how Ukrainians are offering themselves as canon folders for all types of weaponry from the West.

Africans are not so warped not to understand the geopolitics that is playing out in Ukraine. It is unfortunate that the Ukrainians are allowing their head to be used to crack a coconut, in other words, being used as pawns in the chessboard of the West.

Africa has come of age; it must never forget its history and allow itself to be used by a self-appointed global policeman and those who think the world belonged to them alone. The times call for retrospection, and Ukraine should free itself from the geopolitics of the West and remain neutral for the sake of peace and the interest of its citizens. 

Historically, Africans have suffered at the hands of the West which enslaved and colonised the entire continent. As cited in Patrons of Poverty: “During the sixteenth century, about 13,000 slaves were exported per annum to Europe and America.

Subsequently, this rose to about 27, 000. In the course of the eighteenth century when the British became very active in the trade, an estimated 70,000 slaves were taken away to the ‘deep South’ in North America.

In 1780 in the U.S. alone, there were about 575,000 black slaves and by 1863, they were about 4 million. Overall, the total number of slaves who landed in the Americas has been estimated at 15-20 million while some studies put it at 10 million those who made it live to the Americas and the Atlantic islands.

About half a million slaves that worked the plantations of the colony of Haiti accounted for two-fifths of France’s overseas trade. The sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton produced in the colony were consumed in Europe and America.”

Colonialism further compounded the misery of Africa. In How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney notes that: “Colonial Africa feel within that part of the international capitalist economy from which surplus was drawn to feed the metropolitan sector…exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advancement, but only on the assumption that product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place.

Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation, but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called ‘mother country.’ From an African viewpoint, that amounted to consistent expatriation of surplus produced by African labour out of African resources. It meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped.”

The exploitation is continuing today through sundry neo-colonial nexuses. It should be noted however that in the heydays of decolonisation from European imperialism, it was only Russia under the Soviet Union that came to its rescue.

Africa is alive to its own history, which was why its leaders pushed for a non-aligned movement along with other leaders from Asia in the thick of the Cold War between the Eastern and Western Blocs.

The former was led by the Soviet Union while the latter was led by the United States. Being non-aligned prevented alignment with any of the two great powers; it permitted an independent policy from the orbit of the contending superpowers. It was driven by such personages as Jawaharlal Nehru, Josip Broz Tito, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Kwame Nkrumah. Indeed, as observers have rightly noted, the only autonomous space Africa had in the post-war years to develop was within the context of bipolarity in which it was non-aligned.

It is significant that the African Union Chairman, President Macky Sall of Senegal has stated in clear terms Africa’s position at the recently concluded 77th Session of United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In his words: “I have come to say that Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history; that it does not want to be the breeding ground of a new cold war, but rather a pole of stability and opportunity open to all its partners, on a mutually beneficial basis…This Africa of solutions wants to engage with all its partners in a reinvented relationship that transcends the prejudice that whoever is not with me is against me.” 

This is clear enough for Africa to follow. Africa must remain non-aligned in the unravelling conflagration in the eastern corridor of Europe that may yet result in a global nuclear war if due care is not taken.