Russia’s military invasion into the territory pf the former Soviet republic of Ukraine was the main theme on the agenda for deliberation held on March 3 at the United Nations General Assembly.

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The goal of the operation is to protect the people who, for the last eight years, have been suffering humiliation and genocide. It is also to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.

After the heated debates and discussions, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine.

According to reports, the Assembly had all 193 UN Member States in attendance. A total of 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, which reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

The Assembly President Abdulla Shahid struggled to read the results of the vote as ambassadors began applauding, and then standing up, as he started speaking.

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

It was sponsored by more than 90 countries and needed a two-thirds majority in the Assembly to pass. Five countries – Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) Eritrea, Russia and Syria – voted against it, while 35 abstained.

The voting capped off a rare special emergency session of the General Assembly that began the previous day during which countries took to the podium to declare their positions on the crisis, now entering a second week.

African representatives and their votes was considered very interesting. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour.

Among those abstaining from vote were South Africa, Algeria, Uganda, Burundi, Senegal, South Sudan, Mali and Mozambique. Others were Sudan, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Madagascar, Tanzania and Congo.

Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution.

Besides that however, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, Ghana, Gambia, Gabon, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Liberia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Somalia, Niger, Benim, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles ,Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others, voted yes.

Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Eswatini were not in the room. Uganda said it abstained from the vote to uphold “neutrality” as the incoming chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

NAM is a forum made up of 120 developing countries to assert their independence from the competing claims of the two superpowers.

In a tweet, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Adonia Ayebare, said the country would “continue to play a constructive role in the maintenance of peace and security both regionally and globally.

Shahid said the resolution reflected the international community’s grave concern about the situation in Ukraine. “I join Member States in expressing concern about ‘reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children’,” he said, citing the text.

In practice, African countries hold similar views on the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, even including those that voted and those that abstained.

“Rwanda voted in favor of this resolution to firmly support that sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of any country must be respected,” reads a statement delivered by the Minister Counsellor in Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN, Robert Kayinamura.

He emphasized that the solution can only be achieved through dialogue by parties, taking into account the concerns of both sides, adding that “the current war does not guarantee that it will bring peace; instead, it is likely to generate subsequent crises and human suffering.”

“Military actions should cease immediately and go for a peaceful settlement of this crisis. Russian Federation and Ukraine have the key to resolving this conflict. The external intervention will only worsen the situation.”

The dialogue should be characterized by calm of concerned parties to seek a solution towards ending the conflict to ensure that civilians do not continue to pay the heaviest price of military escalation, he pointed out.

Rwanda also expressed serious concern with the extent of humanitarian devastation and peace and security challenges caused by this war including reports that Africans are being racially segregated and denied safe exit and admission to neighboring countries.

“We call upon all those involved to allow unhindered evacuation without looking at their color,” said Kayinamura.

Explanation of vote after the vote by Amanuel Giorgio, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the UN During the 11th Special Emergency Session Of the United Nations General Assembly.

Eritrea is taking the floor in explanation of vote after the vote on the draft resolution A/ES-11/L1

Eritrea firmly believes that respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter, are sacrosanct principles and should be respected by everyone, at all times, for the attainment of sustainable world peace.

Eritrea’s vote is a demonstration of its uncompromising stand for peace. Its position is against internationalizing, incessant rhetoric, and impositions of unilateral sanctions, which regrettably further polarize international relations and escalate the situation with enormous implications for civilians. Instead, we have consistently opted for world regions to be given the needed space and solidarity to address political problems.

The situation between Russia and Ukraine raises serious concern with political, economic and security ramifications for Europe and the rest of the world. It requires immediate resolution by giving more chances to diplomacy. We hope that the ongoing talks between the two parties on the Belarusian border yield a quick and acceptable agreement to stop the war and pave a foundation for peace in the region.

Eritrea opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive. Eritrea, as a country that has been subjected to such measures by the West for two decades, including new sets of unilateral measures, understands that sanctions do not resolve problems of peace and security. On the contrary, they only hurt innocent people and undermine the road to peace.

“It will be remiss if I don’t address disturbing reports that African citizens living in Ukraine are facing difficulties to cross the borders. We call on all countries to facilitate safe passages to people fleeing for safety regardless of their racial identity,” the document says.

“Let me conclude by reiterating that Eritrea would like to see that the windows for diplomacy remain open. We are confident of the ability of the parties to resolve their differences and reach an outcome that meets the interests and concerns of all. We hope that the international community constructively supports the parties in their search for sustainable peace,” it concluded.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated he was duty bound to stand by the resolution and be guided by its call. “The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear: End hostilities in Ukraine now. Silence the guns now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy now.”

He stressed the need to act quickly as the situation in Ukraine threatens to get much worse, adding “the ticking clock is a time bomb.” A humanitarian appeal has been met with record generosity which will allow for a scale-up in the delivery of vital assistance, including medical and health supplies, as well as food, water and protection.

“Looking ahead, I will continue to do everything in my power to contribute to an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent negotiations for peace,” Guterres said, adding “People in Ukraine desperately need peace. And people around the world demand it.”

For Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, this was “a defining day,” recalling words from his statement in the Assembly. “The UN is still alive and going through the process of catharsis,” he said. “I believe in the United Nations; now people in Ukraine have more reasons to believe in the United Nations.”

This UN resolution is not legally binding but is an expression of the views of the UN membership, aimed at increasing pressure on Moscow.

UN General Assembly convenes such meetings to make urgent recommendations on a particular situation relevant for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where the Security Council fails to act owing to the veto of a permanent member. It was the first time in 40 years the Security Council has referred a crisis to the assembly and only the 11th time an emergency session of the UN general assembly has been called since 1950.