The United States Thursday called for “a strong African response” to Russian aggression, Al Jazeera reports.
American diplomats spoke to journalists in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. They highlighted plans to help mitigate the economic effects of the Ukraine conflict on African countries.
“We look for a strong African response to Russian aggression and welcome the opportunity to partner with Senegal and other Africans on both the response to Russia’s aggression but also to address the implications of it globally,” Al Jazeera quoted U.S. ambassador to the African Union, Jessica Lapenn, as saying.
Ms Lapenn and Akunna Cook, an official in the U.S. State Department’s African Affairs Bureau, were in Senegal for consultation, including with President Macky Sall, who currently holds the African Union’s rotating presidency.
They described the visit as a follow-up to that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November. The visit comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dividing African nations.
Nearly half of African countries abstained during voting on the two UN proposals demanding an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nigeria supported both proposals.
Ms Lapenn preferred to welcome the statement issued by the African Union on February 24, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion. The statement had called on Russia to “respect international law, the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine.”
Ms Cook said it was important to recognise “that Africa is very much affected by the Russian invasion, by Ukraine, both because of the economic impact which we are seeing here and across the continent in terms of rising commodities and fuel prices and also because of the threat to territorial integrity.”
Senegal imports 57 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by three per cent “because of the subsidies that will be needed to meet this demand,” she added. She called it a “significant challenge”.
The U.S. is looking at a series of options to lessen the economic effects, both with the World Bank and IMF and on a bilateral level, said Ms Cook.
Russia’s war in Ukraine started on February 24, when President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘special military operation.’ Mr Putin said the invasion was to ‘denazify’ Ukraine.
The war has caused the death of over 1,200 people, according to the United Nations. It has displaced about 6.5 million people within the country, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said over 10 million people have fled their homes. These include more than half of Ukraine’s children.
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