Norms and Values
Relations Between Russia and Africa at the Present Stage

The results of UN General Assembly voting make it possible to at least formally interpret a certain split and lack of unity among African countries in relation to Russia. We can also conclude that those 19 countries that have never voted “yes” are open to continuing the cooperation with Russia that they had originally sought to pursue, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

The second Russia-Africa Summit has been announced for the end of July 2023. It should serve as a significant event in the development of our relations and set the agenda for the medium term. Almost three years have passed since the first such Summit, which took place in Sochi in autumn 2019. To some extent, it is possible to perform a kind of audit of the agreements reached at the time; to compare what has been achieved with what was planned three years ago, and to identify untapped potential for cooperation.

It is clear that during this period, the global coronavirus pandemic occurred, which significantly limited all contacts in the political, economic, and cultural spheres. Many planned projects were put on hold for reasons that were both objective and understandable. Only now is there an opportunity to return to their implementation.

In addition, starting from February 2022, the geopolitical situation in the world and the position of Russia have changed radically. Russia has departed from its usual, ordinary revisionism to pursue an open military and political challenge to the countries of the West. As a result, the severity of the geopolitical struggle in the world has acquired a qualitatively different character. Accordingly, the pressure from the West on the rest of the world to cut contacts with Russia has become very powerful. The countries of Africa were not spared this pressure. Therefore, the very fact that these countries maintain constructive contacts with Russia amid these conditions can be perceived as an act of political courage.
Historic Russia-Africa Summit: A Long Way to Go
In late October, Sochi hosted the first Russia-Africa summit, which was attended by heads of state or government from nearly every country in the continent. Although experts have shifted their attention to the global results of the forum, the discussion at the Valdai Club, held on October 28, focused on bilateral relations between Russia and African countries, with all their political, economic and cultural aspects, as well as on the prospects for cooperation between Russia and the countries of the continent.
Club events

In this context, it would be indicative to consider the results of voting by African countries in the UN General Assembly at the meetings of its 11th Emergency Special Session, dedicated to Russia and Ukraine. Five resolutions were adopted during this session. First: A/RES/ES-11/1 (draft voted A/ES-11/L.1) “Aggression against Ukraine”, March 2, 2022. Second: A/RES/ES- 11/2 (draft voted A/ES-11/L.2) “Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine”, March 24, 2022. Third: A/RES/ES-11/ 3 (draft vote A/ES-11/L.4) “Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council”, April 7, 2022. Fourth: A/RES/ES-11/4 (draft vote A/ES-11/L.5) “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”, October 12, 2022. Fifth: A/RES/ES-11/5 (draft voted on A/ES-11/L.6) “Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine”, November 14, 2022. The resolution A/RES/ES-11/6 (draft voted A/ES-11/L.7) on the anniversary of the conflict on February 23, 2023 “Principles of the UN Charter underpinning the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine”. Also during this period, already within the framework of the ordinary annual session of the UN General Assembly on December 15, 2022, the resolution 77/229 on human rights in Crimea was adopted (such resolutions have been adopted by the UN General Assembly annually since 2016).

The voting results of African countries on these resolutions are summarized in the Table 1.

Table 1

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The resolution ES-11/4 on territorial integrity, adopted after referendums on the entry of four new regions into the Russian Federation, received the greatest support from African countries: 30 countries voted in favour, 19 abstained, 5 did not vote and no one opposed. Furthermore, in terms of the level of support among African states, there is the very first resolution ES-11/1. 28 countries voted for it, 17 abstained, 8 did not vote and one country opposed. The vote for resolution ES-11/2 on humanitarian consequences showed approximately the same result: 28 countries were in favour, 17 abstained, 8 did not vote, and one country was against.

Against this background, two other UN General Assembly resolutions received much less support from African countries. Regarding resolution ES-11/5 on reparations, 15 countries were in favour, 27 abstained, 7 did not vote and 5 opposed. Resolution ES-11/3 on the suspension of Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council received even less support. Here, only 10 countries were in favour, 24 abstained, 11 did not vote and 9 were against it. And the resolution 77/229, adopted at the ordinary session of the UN General Assembly on human rights in Crimea, received the least support from African countries. There is an equality of voters for and against: 5 for, 5 against, 35 abstained and 9 did not vote.

If we look at the voting results for individual African countries, the situation is as follows. Five countries voted “yes” for all five resolutions: Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Malawi, the Seychelles and Chad. Four “yes” votes were given by eleven countries: Benin, Ghana, Zambia, Cape Verde, Kenya, Comoros, Congo DR, Libya, Mauritius, Niger and Sierra Leone. Nine countries voted in favour of three of the resolutions: Gabon (and one vote against), Gambia, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia and Tunisia. As a rule, these are the countries that voted for at least three “clean” resolutions, only condemning Russia, but did not vote for resolutions with additional organisational conclusions: on the Human Rights Council and on reparations. In total, 25 countries that voted in favour of three or more resolutions.

Four countries voted in favour of two of the resolutions: Botswana, Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe, and Senegal. Six countries voted in favour of only one of the resolutions (usually the one pertaining to territorial integrity): Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Morocco, Togo, and South Sudan. These 10 countries more or less constitute the middle of the list.

Finally, 19 countries didn’t agree to any of the resolutions. Of these, eleven countries either abstained or did not vote in all cases: Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, Namibia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini and South Africa. Three countries voted against the resolutions once: Algeria, Burundi, Congo. Four countries voted against twice (regarding the resolutions on the Human Rights Council and the one on Reparations): Zimbabwe, Mali, Central African Republic, Ethiopia. One country, Eritrea, voted against the resolutions four times.

Of course, these UN General Assembly voting results should not be interpreted as an absolute verdict. The remarks of the President of Serbia, which also voted “yes” on a number of resolutions, are well known: that it did so only under pressure from the West, but in fact is open to dialogue with Russia. Perhaps the same approach played a role in the voting of some African countries. However, one way or another, the results of these votes make it possible, first, to at least formally interpret a certain split and lack of unity among African countries in relation to Russia. Second, we can conclude that those 19 countries that have never voted “yes” are open to continuing the cooperation with Russia that they had originally sought to pursue. These countries, I think, constitute the “core” for the further promotion of Russia’s dialogue with the countries of the continent.
Asia and Eurasia
How Russia Can Build Relations With Friendly Countries
Timofei Bordachev
The sooner we understand that the basis of “soft power” is internal, and not in the activities of Russia’s representatives abroad, the sooner we will be able to benefit from our own objective advantages, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.