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AU: Africa Not a 'Battleground' For Global Powers

Posters displaying the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union, during the 60th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU) at the African Union Commission (AUC) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 25, 2023

ADDIS ABABA - Africa must not become a "geostrategic battleground" for global powers, as it grapples with several threats to its own peace and security, African Union leaders warned on Thursday, celebrated as "Africa Day."

The African continent of 1.3 billion people has found itself at the center of a tussle for influence among the major powers, which has redoubled since Russia's invasion of Ukraine 15 months ago.

"In this international context of confrontation of divergent political interests, the will of each side threatens to transform Africa into a geostrategic battleground, thereby creating a new Cold War," A.U. Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said.

"In this zero-sum game, where the gains of others would translate into losses for Africa, we must resist all forms of instrumentalization of our member states," he added in an address at A.U. headquarters in Addis Ababa.

In February, 22 AU member states abstained or did not vote on a U.N. General Assembly resolution that called for Russia withdraw from Ukraine. Two of them - Eritrea and Mali - voted against the resolution.

Moscow is seeking deeper political, economic and military ties in Africa as well as Asia as Russia becomes increasingly isolated on the international stage over the conflict in Ukraine.

Offsetting Russia's gambit, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who is currently on a tour of Africa, on Wednesday urged certain African nations to end their "neutrality" over the war.

"We want to develop a new quality of partnership based on three mutual principles: mutual respect, mutual interests, and mutual benefits," he said, announcing plans to establish new embassies in Africa and hold a Ukraine-Africa summit.

Moscow has scheduled a Russia-Africa summit in July, following a trip to several African countries at the start of the year by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Another outside power, Beijing, has funded major infrastructure development in Africa but denies Western charges it is practicing "debt-trap diplomacy."

Faki hailed the successes of the 54-nation A.U. - which succeeded the OAU in 2002, listing "Independence and victory against apartheid, that of significant economic and scientific progress, sports, arts, the growing international role of Africa and so on."

However, he also acknowledged "negative factors such as democratic decline through unconstitutional changes of government, with their litany of oppression and gagging of freedoms, insecurity, the spread of terrorism, violent extremism, the uncontrolled circulation of arms, the harmful effects of climate change."

Despite the difficulties, Faki said, Africa remains "characterized by its greater capacity for resilience", pointing for example to its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The current head of the African Union, Comoros President Azali Assoumani also denounced "the unconstitutional changes of power" which have multiplied in Africa in recent years.

"Inter and intra-African conflicts but also terrorism persist and consequently the peace, security, democracy and development of our continent are threatened in several of our countries," he said.