Africa was divided at Wednesday's UN General Assembly, which has adopted a resolution deploring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling for the immediate withdrawal of its forces.
Eritrea was one of only five countries in the world that voted against it in the rare emergency session following more than two days of debate.
Its UN mission said it respects each country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, but wanted windows for diplomacy to remain open. The country opposed all forms of unilateral sanctions as “illegal and counterproductive” as Eritrea had been subject to such sanctions by the West for two decades and they only “hurt innocent people and undermine the road to peace”.
The 54-member African bloc accounted for 17 of the 35 countries that abstained from voting on the General Assembly resolution calling on Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces” from Ukrainian territory.
These included the Central African Republic and Mali, where Russian mercenaries and troops are helping the governments fight insurgencies.
Uganda said it had abstained to uphold its "neutrality" as the incoming chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam), a forum of 120 developing countries set up to stop their members from becoming pawns in Cold War power games.
the EU ambassador to South Africa queried on Twitter why South Africa had abstained. Clayson Monyela, South Africa’s head of public diplomacy, accused the bloc of having double standards, saying it should also condemn other aggressors in the Palestinian territories, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia.
Eight countries - including two that have recently witnessed coups, Burkina Faso and Guinea - did not vote at all.
Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged since November 2020 that has involved Eritrean soldiers fighting alongside Ethiopian troops, also did not vote. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that his country was closely following events: “We urge all parties to exercise restraint in the #Ukraine crisis.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is still ongoing. A Cameroonian student in the Russian-captured city of Kherson has said that he and his friends are terrified of going out, saying the southern Ukrainian port is now like a ghost town.
The situation is not different in Ukraine as African students in Ukraine seek cover in tunnels.