On March 2, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia's diplomacy in Africa was very effective, since almost half of the countries in Africa preferred to abstain or not to participate at all in the vote.
Twenty-eight African countries voted in favor of the resolution: Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tunisia, Zambia.
Seventeen countries abstained: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
No votes were recorded from eight countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Morocco, Togo. Eritrea was the only African country to vote against the resolution, joining North Korea, Belarus, Russia, and Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (Source: TASS News Agency)
The following is the first part of an overview of reactions in the African continent to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, dealing with South Africa's decision to abstain to vote the UNGA resolution condemning Russia.
South Africa's Abstention
Writing in his weekly letter, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa explained that his government had decided not be part of countries condemning Russia: "South Africa abstained from voting in last week's United Nations resolution on the escalating conflict between Russia and its neighbor Ukraine because the resolution did not foreground the call for meaningful engagement. South Africa expected that the UN resolution would foremost welcome the commencement of dialogue between the parties and seek to create the conditions for these talks to succeed."
Recently, Ramaphosa also stated that the war in Ukraine could have been avoided "if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region." Ramaphosa's positions were strongly criticized by the South African media, which mockingly called him "Cyril Ramaphoski."
The South African media outlet The Daily Maverick wrote that it is "impossible" to make a "rational case" for South Africa's support for Russia on economic grounds: "When it comes to trade between the two nations, Russia imported R1.3-billion worth of products from South Africa in 2021 and exported products to South Africa to the value of about R458-million. This is peanuts in comparative terms. Russia does not even warrant a spot on the list of South Africa's top 14 trading partners, which is headed by China, the U.S., Germany and the UK... When it comes to foreign investment, the relationship between Russia and South Africa is unbalanced. South Africa has around R77-billion worth of investments in Russia, while Russian investments in South Africa don't even total one-third of that, amounting to about R23-billion..."
The paper also underlined that since 2011 South Africa has also been considered one of the BRICS countries, which comprise Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, stating that the country paid R25.5-billion (almost $1.8 billion) in cash to be part of the BRICS bank. "However, it is far from clear whether membership of this bloc has thus far proved worth it for South Africa," the paper stated.
The Daily Maverick then added that South African support for Russia could be based on ideological grounds: "Since South Africa's reluctance to criticize Russia cannot be rationalized economically, the alternative we are pointed to is that it is ideologically founded. In a statement in late February, the Russian foreign ministry took care to remind Pretoria of the support given by the former USSR to the anti-apartheid struggle, stating: 'Let's underline that for a long time, the USSR remained the only major state that fundamentally refused contacts with the criminal [apartheid] regime.'" Sunday Times editor S'thembiso Msomi wrote in the latest edition of his paper that the gratitude many older South Africans feel for this historical assistance should not be underestimated: "To this day you will find veterans of the 1980s struggle who get emotional and nostalgic when they sing 'Soviet people/ lovely people/ here we are far from home/We will miss you/ we shall love you/ for the things you've done for us...' Msomi wrote."
Furthermore, the Daily Maverick stated that the principle that binds "contemporary Russia" and "contemporary South Africa" is "anti-imperialism" and the feeling to owe a "historic debt of loyalty" to Russia for the USSR's support in the anti-apartheid struggle.
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South African media also criticized the participation of the South African Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Thandi Modise, and her department's special advisor and the chief of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) at a cocktail reception at the Russian Ambassador Ilya Rogachev's residence in Pretoria on the occasion of the "Russian Motherland Defender's Day," on February 24, the day on which Putin authorized a "special military operation" against Ukraine. 
South Africa's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Monyela:'We Have Adopted A Non-Aligned Position'
On March 11, 2022, Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy and spokesperson for the country's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, published an article titled "Ukraine Needs An Inclusive And Lasting Roadmap To Peace," in the Daily Maverick, summarizing South Africa's official position in the conflict. Monyela's main point is that NATO is to blame for the escalation in the conflict in Ukraine. "Had NATO given Russia the security assurances they required and were promised since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the region would not likely find itself in the situation it is currently in... Just as Russia will not tolerate NATO positioning missiles near its territory, the U.S. would never tolerate Russia deploying missiles in its neighborhood. This was the very issue that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 – when Russia constructed sites for nuclear missiles in Cuba, and the U.S. threatened a nuclear response if the sites were not dismantled," Monyela wrote.
It is worth noting that former South African president Jacob Zuma also criticized NATO enlargement. In a statement released by the JG Zuma Foundation, Zuma stated: "[Putin] has been crystal clear about his opposition of the eastern expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Ukraine among other areas and is on record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of these forces... on his door-step."
Following is the full article:
"Had NATO given Russia the security assurances they required and been promised since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the region would not likely find itself in the situation it is currently in. That said, South Africa is firmly aligned to peace, security and justice, and not to the key protagonists. We are willing to work with all interested parties towards a ceasefire and lasting peace.
"The world sits at possibly the most dangerous juncture since the end of World War II. As conflict rages in Ukraine, the ramifications are being felt worldwide, and given that nuclear powers are involved, the conflict could escalate into one that poses a danger to the entire globe.
"Considering the current loss of life, it is time to suspend debates and work towards lasting peace in the region. South Africa has repeatedly called for the international community to de-escalate tensions and bring the sides closer to dialogue and not further apart. The door of diplomacy should never be closed even after a conflict has broken out.
"We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact, the loss of life, injury, and the displacement of people as a result of this conflict. The conflict is also having a devastating impact on the global economy, and higher fuel and food prices are something that none of us can afford.
"In keeping with our independent foreign policy, we have adopted a non-aligned position and sought to discourage a war in which the chief protagonists are essentially the big powers, with the people of Ukraine being on the receiving end of post-cold war disagreements on what would constitute a safer Europe and Russia. We called for dialogue based on honoring long-standing agreements. We are firmly aligned to peace, security and justice, and not to the key protagonists.
"We call on all sides to uphold international law, humanitarian law, human rights, and the principles of the UN Charter, and to respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We urge all to increase their diplomatic efforts to seek a solution and avert further armed escalation. An immediate ceasefire would give the parties space to resolve issues through negotiation.
"South Africa attained democracy through a negotiated settlement, and we remain steadfast in our conviction that achieving peace through negotiation, and not force of arms, is attainable.
"Actions taken by members of the international community that are likely to harden the stance of the protagonists should be avoided. The continued imposition of sanctions could shut the door to resolution of the conflict.
"Despite extensive commentary on this situation, very little is said about the causes of the conflict. Any diplomatic process must address the security concerns of all parties. Had NATO given Russia the security assurances they required and were promised since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the region would not likely find itself in the situation it is currently in. Russia has been asking NATO for legally binding guarantees that NATO membership would be denied to Ukraine and Georgia, and that NATO's eastern expansion would end.
"Russia also wants assurances that no missiles will be deployed near its borders that could be used to strike its territory, and that NATO military drills not take place in the vicinity. Just as Russia will not tolerate NATO positioning missiles near its territory, the U.S. would never tolerate Russia deploying missiles in its neighborhood. This was the very issue that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 — when Russia constructed sites for nuclear missiles in Cuba, and the U.S. threatened a nuclear response if the sites were not dismantled.
As stated recently by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the U.S. continues to adhere to the tenets of the Monroe doctrine, whereby the U.S. believes that as the dominant power, it has the right to intervene in any country in the region that threatens U.S. interests. Russia has stated that its concern has been for its own national security interests as NATO has expanded eastwards towards its borders over the past two decades, despite promises that this would never happen.
"Documents at the National Security Archive at George Washington University indicate that in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 9 February 1990, then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviets that NATO would not expand 'not one inch eastward.' On 31 January 1990, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said that NATO should rule out 'an expansion of its territory towards the east.' He advocated for NATO and the Warsaw Pact to be eventually dissolved into a model for a common approach to European security.
"Instead of honoring these commitments, NATO has admitted 14 eastern European countries to join as members since 1999, despite Russia's statements that NATO expansion is a serious provocation. In direct breach of these commitments, NATO actively sought to admit Ukraine and Georgia as active members. These moves have been accompanied by declarations that name Russia and China as adversaries in need of containment. This has proved to be needlessly provocative, especially as many politicians in leading NATO countries have warned against this given that they are known redlines for Russia.
"In 2007, William Burns, the current Director of the CIA, wrote to Condoleezza Rice warning of the dangers associated with NATO's Membership Action Plans (MAP) for Ukraine and Georgia. Burn's warnings have been echoed by analysts such as Henry Kissinger. This issue remains one of the root causes of the current conflict and needs to be urgently addressed as part of the de-escalation and peaceful resolution of the current conflict.
"South Africa is willing to work with all interested parties towards a ceasefire and lasting peace. As a middle-power, we depend on responsive institutions of global governance to assist in working towards security. We call on the big powers who use their militaries disproportionately more than they do diplomacy, to work with us within the United Nations to settle this and other conflicts that have been raging for many years. We also call on them to consistently respect international law. We repeat our call for a peaceful resolution of this crisis."
 News24.com/witness/news/putin-a-victim-of-bullying-tactics-of-the-west-zuma-20220307, March 7, 2022.
 Twitter.com/CyrilRamaphosa/status/1504431141599813633?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw, March 17, 2022.
 Timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/opinion-and-analysis/opinion/2022-03-20-cyrils-finally-taken-a-stand-hes-putin-russia-first/, March 20, 2022.
 Dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-03-08-untangling-the-narrative-web-surrounding-south-africas-stance-on-the-russia-ukraine-conflict/, March 8, 2022.
 Thesouthafrican.com/lifestyle/ukraine-russia-thandi-modise-cocktail-party-russian-ambassador-da-john-steenhuisen-anc-ramaphosa/, March 2, 2022.
 News24.com/witness/news/putin-a-victim-of-bullying-tactics-of-the-west-zuma-20220307, March 7, 2022.
 Dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2022-03-11-ukraine-needs-an-inclusive-and-lasting-roadmap-to-peace/, March 11, 2022.