France seeks African support over Russian invasion of Ukraine

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A French minister on Monday (October 24) told a gathering of regional African leaders in Senegal that France was calling on African nations to show “solidarity” with Europe over Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

The Ukraine war has divided opinion in Africa. Nearly half of the continent’s countries have abstained or didn’t vote to condemn Moscow’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Russia’s invasion is “an existential threat to the stability and integrity of our continent”, minister of state at the French foreign ministry Chrysoula Zacharopoulou told the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security.

“This is what all Europeans are living through,” she said. “That’s why we expect solidarity from Africa.

“We can never repeat it enough: Russia is solely responsible for this economic, energy and food crisis,” she told the conference, opened by Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Africa has strongly felt the war’s impact. Food prices have soared as imports of cereal and fertilisers have been restricted.

France and the West in general are often the butt of accusations of neo-colonialism in Africa — that they try to impose policies on local governments or promote their own economic interests.

In Central African Republic and Mali, Russia has built up close ties that have translated into Russian military support and waning French clout.

Zacharopoulou assured the meeting that when Paris sends a military mission such as the Barkhane force to fight jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel it was not to “substitute” for local armies but to “support” them.

Sall, who is also current head of the African Union, told the conference, “Africa is not against Ukraine. One shouldn’t get the impression that Africans are insensitive to the situation in Ukraine. That’s not it at all.”

But, he said, many Africans felt that their own problems, such as security, the economy or health, were being ignored.

(With inputs from agencies)

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