Ukraine and Africa must stand together despite Russia


youKraine was, until the Russian invasion of February 24, a major exporter of food to Africa. Every month, we exported more than five million tons of commodities, mostly through ports now destroyed or blocked by Russian bombs and mines. By road and rail, we can ship less than a quarter of the quantity.

So you have Russia to thank for rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices in Africa. Then there is the destabilizing role that Russian military actors play on this continent. They are not sending food to Africa but rather the Russian model of a small but immensely wealthy elite ruling through the barrel of a gun over a sea of ​​poverty.

Africans don’t want it. They want open and accountable governments that protect citizens’ rights.

Ukrainians are no different. In fact, the past, present and future of Africa and Ukraine are linked. We share a tragic history of colonialism and struggle against oppression. Ukrainians have known political liberation only since 1991, when we emerged from the chaos of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was decades after most African countries achieved independence, but only three years before South Africa was liberated from apartheid, an emancipation that we not only applauded, but nurtured through military training and technical.

You fought for your independence against the colonial powers. Today we are fighting Russian imperialism. And like Africans, we have endured and withstood previous episodes of external aggression, even genocide. At least seven million Ukrainians, about a fifth of its population, lost their lives during the Holodomor in 1932/3, a famine orchestrated by Stalin and his apparatchiks. The invasion by Nazi Germany less than a decade later killed another 6.5 million people. Each nation’s story is of course its own, but Ukrainians learned the news of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with special empathy, as we do for the African nations and communities that today suffer from insecurity.

And like Africans, we emerged from these dramas more determined than ever to be masters of our destiny.

We realized that independence is one thing, but true independence is another. With our former occupier on our doorstep, we have had to continually fend off Russian interference in our sovereign political and economic affairs, through the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Euromaidan protests a decade later. These events were a powerful response from our fellow citizens who were protesting against Russian interference. And yet Moscow’s response was to invade our country, first in 2014 and again this year.

Democracy suited Russia only when its preferred candidates were installed in power.

We also connect with Africans through a mutual love of freedom. After struggling to free themselves from colonial powers, in many cases Africans went on to fight military and authoritarian regimes. At the root of these struggles was a commitment to common values, human rights, mutual respect and the rule of law. These are not goals, of course, but processes, parallel journeys between Ukraine and Africa, our common destiny.

Colonialism left both Ukraine and Africa with economies more suited in some respects to the needs of their imperial masters than to their local citizens. We have made the best of it as we have worked to leave this bitter past behind us. Our economy is also based on great agricultural power, coupled with the power of our human resources. We look forward to the day when not only can we once again freely trade our goods with the world, but we can also contribute our agricultural and educational expertise to Africa’s impending economic revolution. It is a source of pride – and yet great sadness – that 9,000 African students were studying in Ukraine before February 24. We look forward to welcoming them and others to Ukraine when this war is over.

Instead of fulfilling this great promise, today we suffer together. But we want the best for future generations and to determine our own future. This is the meaning of true independence. Slavic Africa!

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