I knew Rwanda in the time of the genocide against the Tutsi. I covered the wars in Angola, Eritrea and Burundi. I mobilized against the genocide in Darfur and the massacres in the Nuba mountains, for Christians persecuted in Nigeria and for the antiapartheid militants of South Africa. I stood on the side of the Algerian people when the Islamist groups were killing them off, and I supported the democratic aspirations of Libyan civil society.

I also have fond memories of a lively and happy Africa, from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Dakar, Senegal; from Lusaka, Zambia, to Nairobi, Kenya.

I have a message to Africa—one inspired by friendship, respect and my history of supporting your fight for justice and your hopes: There is, on large parts of your continent—especially its sub-Saharan zone—a strange, shameful and potentially tragic blindness regarding the war against Ukraine.

I was in Odesa in July, when 17 of your leaders arrived in St. Petersburg for the second Russia-Africa summit. There, the president of Burundi expressed his concern over “Western interference” and the “iniquity” of “sanctions inflicted on Russia.” Vladimir Putin seemed to barely believe it himself: the divine surprise of a blank check for his war against Ukraine by a representative of what Franz Fanon called the wretched of the earth.

Since the first sanctions vote at the United Nations, on March 2, 2022, many African countries have taken a course of at best abstention and neutrality, and at worst alliance with the murderous Russian regime.

This attitude is incomprehensible. Of course no one ignores that you depend on Russian wheat no less than Ukrainian wheat. But how can you fail to see that the general export blockade has only one culprit—the man who bombs Odesa’s silos, who unilaterally reneges on the grain agreement signed in July 2022, and who launched this senseless, imperial, bloody war?

Your position is ultimately suicidal. In your refusal to see the reality and in accepting the lies of Mr. Putin’s propaganda, you tie yourself to a man who isn’t your friend.

Russia is pillaging Sudanese gold, Nigerian uranium and Burkinabe cotton. At the height of the pandemic, Russia sold you the leftovers of their bad vaccines at inflated prices. Russia ridicules your youth by inviting young South Africans to “observe” the phony referendums on annexing territories taken from Ukraine, making them salute these “great and wonderful polls.”

And the Wagner Group—responsible for mass crimes in the Central African Republic, innumerable torture in Mali, and perhaps last week’s coup d’état in Niger that is taking down the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum. By what gruesome logic can it be seen as an instrument of a “fair and democratic multipolar world order” determined to fight against “neocolonialism,” as Mr. Putin said at the summit?

My African friends, Russia definitely isn’t your friend. In each of your countries where you open your arms wide to Russia, it reproduces the most atrocious of what the French, English, Belgian, Portuguese and German colonizers did before you chased them out.

Russia’s anti-Western rhetoric and incessant harping on yesterday’s imperialism is a crude distraction that shouldn’t fool you and that has no other effect but to hide the imperialism that Russia practices today.

This blindness is unworthy of Africa’s history. You can’t have fought so many wars of liberation only to turn your backs on a country, Ukraine, who is taking the same path and shaking free of its chains in turn.

May the memory of your illustrious pioneers inspire you. May the souls of the founding fathers of your free nations remind you of your own memory. Léopold Sédar Senghor, Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Louis Rwagasore would never have gone to St. Petersburg as Russia bombed Odesa. Ahmed Sékou Touré and Julius Nyerere would never have let themselves be humiliated by a Russian leader trying, for his own gain, to resuscitate the worst colonial practices.

Today’s Africa is the continent of the future and has grand historical responsibilities on the world stage. Its place is alongside the Ukrainians.

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