Racist treatment of African students in Ukraine
In the immediate aftermath of the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the racist treatment of approximately 16,000 African students as well as thousands of others from Asia gained international news coverage. Africans were denied admission onto trains, refused food provided to Ukrainians, while attempting to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Poland.
While the western corporate and government-controlled media outlets build their cases for the unconditional support of the NATO-backed regime in Ukraine, the experiences of African students attempting to flee the war has revealed the discriminatory racist nature of the authorities now in power in Kiev.
Several governments including the 55-member continental African Union (AU) has issued a statement protesting the treatment of their nationals living and attempting to leave Ukraine. In a statement released by the AU Commission: “The current Chair of the African Union and President of the Republic of Senegal, H.E. Macky Sall, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, are following closely the developments in Ukraine and are particularly disturbed by reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety
. "Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law.”
Television reports highlighting the racist treatment of African students have appeared on networks from Nigeria and Ghana to the Republic of South Africa. A 20-year-old medical student a Lviv University, Wasiu Sidiq from Nigeria, reported that he and fellow colleagues attempted to board trains to head out of Ukraine to Poland. After waiting in line for more than 28 hours they were told that Ukrainians could board the trains and not them. They told stories of not only verbal insults and discriminatory practices by the Ukrainian authorities as many of them were punched and shoved by the police and military personnel as well.
An article published by African Arguments says of the situation which is typical of the present atmosphere in Ukraine that: “’The reason the queue was not moving was because of the Ukrainians. They said they are the owners of the country,’ a furious Sidiq tells African Arguments over the phone. ‘I told one [Ukrainian] woman that both of us are foreigners right now.’ When the queue finally did start to move, Sidiq says that officials told Africans to form a separate line and other refugees started yelling at them. ‘They started shouting ‘foreigners go back, foreigners go back’. They were literally shouting it to our face,’ he says. ‘They did not care about us at that moment. They just wanted us to die.’… By this time he was exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. He noticed a stand that was giving out food to refugees, but he and other Black students were refused
. They were sharing bread, burgers, noodles and coffee,’ he says. ‘We went to meet these people [and tell them] that we were hungry, and they said the food is for only Ukrainians, not Blacks.’’’
These incidents should not have been surprising considering the expansion and institutionalization of fascist and Nazi ideology among those governing the Ukrainian state since the US-backed Euromaidan coup of February 2014. The first-person accounts of the African students who were more than willing to speak about what had been done to them in Ukraine, had to be swiftly suppressed in the western media. Although any keen observer of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine would know of the role of groupings such as the Right Sector and the Azov Brigades in creating an atmosphere of reaction against Russian-speaking Ukrainians because their worldview encompasses many of the assumptions which fostered the philosophical underpinnings of the rationale for the initiation of World War II (1939-1945).
United Nations, African States and the Ukraine Conflict
A debate at the UN General Assembly on March 2 over a resolution to essentially condemn and apportion exclusive blame on Moscow for the current military situation, was voted on by 141 UN representatives out of 191. 35 countries abstained from the vote including 17 member-states of the African Union (AU). Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Togo, Eswatini and Morocco were absent. Algeria, Uganda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Mali, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Brazzaville, Sudan, South Sudan, Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa abstained on the resolution. Eritrea was against it.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who has been under tremendous pressure by the US State Department over its position on Ukraine was quoted as saying: “South Africa expected that the UN resolution would foremost welcome the commencement of dialogue between the parties and seek to create the conditions for these talks to succeed. Instead, the call for peaceful resolution through political dialogue is relegated to a single sentence close to the conclusion of the final text. This does not provide the encouragement and international backing that the parties need to continue with their efforts.”
A clear indication of the uneasiness and disapproval of the US role in Ukraine was voiced by several African journalists during a briefing webinar on March 3 with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee. Several journalists asked critical questions related to the US position in Ukraine probing Phee in regard to the demands by the White House and State Department that every country around the world denounce Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
Journalists raised the issue of racism against Africans attempting to flee Ukraine into Poland along with unreasonable demands being placed on AU member-states. The transcript
of the webinar read in part: “This is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington, D.C. You just mentioned reporting about Africans facing racism in Ukraine and Poland, being denied entry into trains in Kyiv, and being turned back at the border with Poland. Is there any reason why the State Department has not publicly condemned racism against Africans in Ukraine and Poland?’…. ‘Yes, this is Katlego Isaacs from Mmegi News. I wanted to ask, why should African countries support the position of the US to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when the US supports the aggression in Israel against Palestinians?’…. My name is Swift from Gabz FM in Botswana. I wanted to ask, what is the position of the US on censoring of social media and the complete wipeout of the other party, in this case obviously Russia, since free speech and free press is the cornerstone not only of democracy but a tool that can create a counterculture or counternarrative?’”
Within the streets of countries such as Mali, Central African Republic (CAR) and Ethiopia there have been pro-Russian demonstrations.
These and other factors have frustrated the US in its diplomatic efforts to win unconditional support for its war against Russia in Ukraine. The existence of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) since 2008 under the guise of enhancing the security capacity of AU member-states in their struggles against what is described as “Islamic Jihadism”, has proved to be an utter failure. Despite the existence of a military base housing thousands of Pentagon troops in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti and the building of other makeshift installations, along with joint military operations and training opportunities for African military officers, the overall stability and security of many states has worsened.
US Congress Passes Anti-Russia Bill Reinforcing Neo-colonialism in Africa
A US Congressional bill “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” has been approved by a wide margin on April 27 that would target and punish African states that maintain political and economic relations with the Russian Federation. The legislation compounds the further militarization of the foreign policy of the Biden administration.
A leading Nigerian newspaper, Premium, sought to provide a rationale for the legislation now moving through the Senate. The report issued on May 20 reads in part that: “New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the bill was designed to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to ‘pilfer, manipulate and exploit resources in parts of Africa to evade sanctions and undermine US interests,’ and to finance his war in Ukraine. Some African governments suspect there’s more at play than protecting ‘fragile states in Africa,’ as Mr. Meeks put it.