Africa, make no mistake: abstaining from morality is immoral. Serious moves afoot to boycott those African countries that abstained from demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. This includes South Africa which by abstaining from this historic vote condemns its own courageous struggle for democracy.
The majority of African countries, as with the majority of countries worldwide, voted to demand that Russia cease hostilities and withdraw. It was a historic and brave moment for the world. The results demonstrate which African countries are weak and withering, and which are strong and prospering.
Here are the weak and withering African countries: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
This is 17 of Africa’s 54 countries.
There are nuances in many of these ill-made decisions.
Mali has just thrown out most of its French diplomats and French military which has occupied it since nearly the time of Napoleon. There was no way they would affirm anything that Macron suggested.
Algeria, for example, is deeply dependent upon its natural gas production to Russian engineering and financing. By the way Algeria made a loud public announcement last week right after the invasion began that it will do everything possible to assist Europe if it gets into a energy war with Russia. This fascinating paradigm needs its own detailed story.
Less so but in the same corner is Angola, which since throwing off its total dictatorship for a slightly less one a few years ago is struggling with oil and natural gas companies to retool its rich natural resources, and Russia has had an integral part in doing this.
South Africa and Namibia struggled during the Trump administration to respond without anger to the humiliations from America. These included many deliberate acts of hostile diplomacy such as the cancellation of various trade agreements for no good reason, and many more less important but more public moments of shame such as when Trump called them shitholes and repeatedly mispronounced “Namibia.”
So Namibia now takes its vengeance. South Africa already had by joining a trade alliance that was much celebrated called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). That alliance has not achieved much success through tariffs or otherwise, but it remains prominently on the books.
Tanzania and Uganda are the much littler brothers of Kenya. Kenya as I reported in an earlier blog delivered a scathing rebuke to Russia in the UN. Tanzania and Uganda’s actions carry no more morality – or maturity – than a little brother’s swipe.
Burundi, the CAR, the Congo, Madagascar, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe are already near failed states that will always seek validation in the exercise of noticeable power.
The leaves Senegal. That bewilders me.
None of these excuses is sufficient. Except for the failed state group the remainder all promote and praise democracy. Few truly achieve it but certainly South Africa has.
So South Africa is the saddest example of all. It is the most mature and has arguably the most heroic history. This flips a country exalted for its courage to one that has become little more than a follower of despots.
I’m a privileged American. My sufferings and those of my family and friends can’t begin to approach that of virtually any middle class African. I know how hypocritical it must seem to those Africans that I’m calling them out.
But I’m not like those Americans who have facilitated or even inflicted misery on the rest of the world. I’ve always argued for a fairer global distribution of wealth and privilege, putting me in a decisive minority of Americans. I can’t shed my privilege any more than an African businessman can shed his manifold disadvantages.
But neither will I shed my morality. Right now demanding Russia withdraw from Ukraine evinces nothing but very simple morality. The downside is evident: a loss of priority with the great dictators of the world including China.
All the countries that refuse to condemn Russia now are condemning the struggle for human rights and democracy.
South Africa is condemning its own courageous struggle for democracy and demonstrating it lacks the hope and fortitude to sustain its own revolution.