African leaders tell forum in Dubai why they did not condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine

Nations chose to abstain to give diplomacy a chance, World Government Summit hears

African leaders take part in a panel discussion at the World Government Summit in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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Several African leaders have told a Dubai conference they refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine because they wanted to give diplomacy a chance.

The vice president of Tanzania and prime minister of Uganda made their comments on the second day of the World Government Summit, taking place at Expo 2020 Dubai.

There were 17 African nations that abstained from the UN General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s actions – almost half of all abstentions.

However, the summit heard how their abstention did not mean they necessarily supported the invasion.

Quote
We have more problems and abstaining is the way of diplomacy
Ugandan Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja

“We abstained because we want the world to give diplomacy a chance,” said Vice President Philip Mpango of Tanzania.

Africa is facing a crucial time as recent events have presented the continent with an opportunity to capitalise on changes to the global status quo, he said.

“This is a momentous time for the African continent,” said Dr Mpango.

“We are witnessing the shifting of tectonic plates, particularly with the rise of China and India on the global economic stage.

“There has also been a transformation of trade routes from the established colonial ones to Africa doing more business with the eastern world.”

He said African nations were putting in place mechanisms to thrive on the global stage.

These included diversifying the culture and tapping into technological developments to interact with the world.

Like the rest of the planet, Africa was experiencing an increase in the cost of living, caused by the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine which has caused fuel prices to soar.

“We have already seen rapid increases in food prices, we’re also seeing fertiliser costs rise and steel prices are going up,” he said.

“However, Africa does produce a lot of food and we want to encourage trade among ourselves.”

Uganda's Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja says African nations have to focus on their own problems. Pawan Singh / The National

His views were echoed by Uganda's Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who said African nations had problems of their own that they needed to focus on.

“We have more problems and abstaining is the way of diplomacy,” she said.

African nations have an opportunity to forge a new path for themselves in the face of the changing global picture, said the prime minister of Guinea.

“We are at a crucial turning point as the world is in crisis,” said Mohamed Beavogui.

“For years people said don’t worry about war ‘it’s only in Africa’.

“Now it is in the middle of Europe and we are suddenly asked to choose.”

He said the African nations that chose to abstain did so because they did not want to see war.

“We choose dialogue and diplomacy,” said Mr Beavogui.

“We want to see if it is possible to get people around a table to talk to each other.”

He also shrugged off the suggestion that his government was not recognised by other African nations after the military removed the former regime in Guinea last year.

“The present government emerged from a crisis due to a deficit in government,” he said.

“A president that was elected for two terms decided to change the constitution to have a third term.

“He actually did a coup, a democratic coup, to impose himself.”

Mr Beauvogi said this had caused great difficulty for his country and resulted in violent protests.

Mamady Doumboya, the military leader who led the coup against the former president Alpha Conde, said previously he was left with no choice due to “rampant corruption, disregard for human rights and economic mismanagement”.

Updated: March 30, 2022, 12:50 PM
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