US Speaks on need for unity against aggression in Ukraine

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By Staff Reporter

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee, Speaking from Washington, D.C. in a conversation with African journalists called for the international community to demonstrate unity and speak with one voice against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The Assistant Secretary said the US is calling for all to support principles, timeless principles of “sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes, protection of civilians” in a digital press briefing.

“Today is day 8 in Putin’s [Russian President Vladimier] full-scale war against Ukraine.  Here is why I wanted to talk to you, African journalists.

“The United States believes strongly that African voices matter in the international community, that your voices matter in the global conversation,” she said.

“Yesterday, the UN General Assembly voted for a resolution that condemned this aggression, and that vote was higher than almost any vote count we have seen in response to international events, and African votes were very important in that – in that discussion and in that vote.  Why were they important?  They were important to send a message that this aggression is unacceptable in Ukraine and anywhere elsewhere in the world,” said Assistant Secretary Phee.

Talking to the effects of the Cold War on Africa, Phee said the United States is sensitive to the legacy of the Cold War, particularly in Africa.

“The position and policy of the Biden [US President Joe Biden] administration have been to encourage more, not fewer, choices for Africans.  But Putin’s unprovoked aggression is an assault on world order.

“We are not asking you to choose sides.  We are asking Africans to join us in choosing the principles I’ve discussed, in choosing people who are now suffering from this assault.

“We recognize that this early conflict, these early days of this conflict are already having an impact on African economies, as they are in the United States and elsewhere in the world,” said Assistant Secretary Phee.

She told journalists that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the world economies including African economies that are hard hit by rising fuel prices, commodity prices, and which she argues are compounded by the impact of COVID pandemic.

she added that the US is already engaged in efforts to promote stable energy and commodity prices, working on supply chains and that this week President Biden joined other international leaders in releasing strategic oil reserves in an effort to manage fuel prices.

Racism suffered by Africans fleeing Ukraine

Assistant Secretary Phee noted there has been genuine concern and alarm about the treatment of Africans who had been studying in Ukraine.

“We are proud of Ukraine…foreign minister has made clear that all individuals caught up in the chaos of this war must receive equal treatment,” she said.

She notes that Ukraine has established an emergency hotline for African students.

“We’ve also talked to neighboring countries about the need for visa-free entry to help people caught up in this war.

“And we’re also working with our partners in the UN who are providing assistance to underscore the need that every individual deserves assistance and should receive assistance without regard to race, religion, or nationality.

“So this is a difficult time for the international community, but we’re proud of the [rate] of the global response, the global rejection of this aggression, and we’re grateful to Africans for being partners with us and other members of the international community in dealing with this unprecedented action,” Phee said.

The Assistant Secretary quoted Ambassador Kimani, the Kenyan representative to the UN Security Council, who she said last week said, “We rejected” – that is, we, African states coming out of a colonial period – “We rejected irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural factors.  We reject it again today.”

she emphasized that it is important that the world stand fast to say that it is unacceptable to use military force to resolve problems.

“We are very concerned about the civilians in Ukraine, but we are also concerned about the principle that any government, any powerful government can invade another country without cause, without provocation.

“So those are the principles that are at stake, so they’re not only relevant in Europe but they’re relevant in Africa.

“And I think that in the United States, like Africa, I have seen a lot of discussion about why should we care about Ukraine.

“People in the United States are like people in Africa where we have been protected by our oceans, and we sometimes have the luxury of thinking that we don’t have to care about what happens thousands of miles away from us. But we don’t believe that is true anymore in our world,” Phee said.

Assistant Secretary Phee noted Africans must be concerned about the war in Ukraine citing the example of how the world has been dealing with the COVID pandemic.

“The COVID pandemic doesn’t recognize borders, and what happens in one part of the world affects another part of the world.

“We see that in trade.  And so we also see it in the matters of peace and security.

“As we in the West care about peace and security in Africa, Africans, as important, significant members of the global community, also need to care about peace and security in other parts of the globe,” said Phee.

African countries maintaining military and economic ties with Russia

She said prior to the Ukraine war launched by Putin, the US and many African countries have been concerned about the presence of the Wagner Group in Mali and in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“I think we share the concerns of the populations of those countries as well as many other Africans about the conduct of those mercenary forces.

“What we have seen is a reckless disregard for civilians.  We have seen the abuse of force to achieve political objectives.  And those are the types of behaviors we’re now seeing in Ukraine,” she said.

Phee added a third element in Africa is “we’ve seen these foreign mercenaries exploit the natural resources of African states for their own ends, not for the development of African economies and countries”.

Phee said regardless of what happened in Ukraine, “we believe that the presence of such mercenaries on the continent is not good for those countries and is not good for Africans, and we support particularly the voice of ECOWAS in rejecting and calling for an end to the presence of such groups which are so disruptive to the lives of Africans where they are present”.