African States May Be Pushing to Revive Non-Aligned Movement, Analysts Say

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Some African nations’ repeated abstentions on U.S.-led resolutions condemning Russia could be a subtle signal for the revival of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations, analysts say.

For years, the NAM had about 120 countries voicing a principle not to formally align with or against major power blocs.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the U.N. General Assembly has passed two nonbinding resolutions. For the first, half of the African Union member states abstained from voting — or simply withheld votes — to condemn Europe’s largest country.

Last week, the General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Of the 58 nations abstaining, 24 were African, including Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt. Eight African states, including Algeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, were among those voting against the resolution.

Pauline Bax, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for Africa, said African nations were deeply concerned about food and fuel prices rising on the continent because of the conflict, and their posture regarding condemning Russia could point to their unhappiness about the global intergovernmental body’s inaction.

“It’s a way of saying they’re not going to choose sides in this war, and especially not if it’s going to be a cold war between the U.S. and the East,” Bax told VOA. “And abstaining is one way to send a message.”

Paul Ejime, a London-based international affairs analyst, suggested that a desire to protect sovereign national interests, as well as bilateral ties with Russia, might explain most African nations’ reluctance to vote on a resolution against the Kremlin.

“The U.N. needs to give Africa a bigger say,” Ejime said. “Fifty-four nations make up the continent of Africa, but they’re only being treated like unequal partners.”