globe on sand

The Wednesday Politics Thread Recruits the World

Halfway through the week already, your Wednesday politics thread comes to you from the road. Fortunately not stranded for lack of gas money, I can spare the energy to compile a few links into a serviceable thread header!

Ukraine’s bid to recruit fighters from Africa sparks uproar

“If Ukraine decides to pay me a very good amount of money, which I know I cannot earn here, I will definitely go there and fight,” said Kimanzi Nashon, a student in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

A spokesperson for Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Francisca Omayuli, said Nigeria would not allow its nationals to volunteer as mercenaries.

Senegal’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was astonished to learn that the Ukrainian Embassy in Dakar had posted an appeal on its Facebook page for foreign citizens to come to Ukraine’s military defense.

In a statement, the Senegalese government criticized the initiative and warned its citizens that recruiting volunteers, mercenaries or foreign fighters on Senegalese soil is illegal.

Deutsche Welle (DW) [archive]

Russian Outlets Seize on Accounts of Racism 

Analysts at the Washington-based Alliance for Securing Democracy tell VOA that after initially ignoring the story, Russian-affiliated outlets have tried to amplify reports of Africans and other people of color meeting with racism as they try to flee the fighting in Ukraine.

Analysts say it is too early to tell whether Russia’s efforts to play up racism are resonating with audiences, especially as recent data suggest Moscow’s current influence operations, overall, are having trouble gaining traction.

Russia could try to use the reports of discrimination against Africans, both verified and unverified, to further divisions in the West. They could also prove useful to Russia in Africa, as Moscow seeks to enlarge its military footprint there at the expense of the United States and other Western nations.

Voice of America (VOA) [archive]

France welcomes African students fleeing Ukraine, offers them a chance to study

France has created a new initiative to help Africans studying in Ukraine whose studies have been disrupted by the  Russian invasion. The idea is to enable them to follow the same course they were enroled in in Ukraine, but in a French university. So far, 300 African students have applied to take part in the scheme.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) [archive]

This South African Politician Claimed He Was in Ukraine and No One Knows Why

On Saturday, 12 days after Russia invaded, South Africa’s minister of transport, Fikile Mbalula, tweeted to his 2.7 million followers that he was, without any context, in Ukraine.

The thing is: He wasn’t in Ukraine. He had no reason to be in Ukraine. And yet, he tweeted that he was in Ukraine. 

Surprisingly, that wasn’t his only bizarre tweet of the morning. Mbablula retweeted a post from the Russian embassy in South Africa that parroted Vladimir Putin’s false claim that Russia’s invasion is about fighting Nazis in Ukraine – a tweet and retweet that angered the German embassy in South Africa so much they responded to it by saying: “What [Russia] is doing in [Ukraine] is slaughtering innocent children, women and men for its own gain. It’s definitely not ‘fighting Nazism’.”

For now, the South African government – which voted to abstain on the UN’s resolution to condemn Russia for the invasion – doesn’t appear to be at all curious as to why a cabinet minister pretended to be in Ukraine. Until they do, it’s likely the mystery will just roll on. 

VICE [archive]

Untangling the narrative web surrounding South Africa’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict

South Africa’s decision to abstain from a United Nations vote condemning Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine has caused revulsion for many. In his regular newsletter on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa defended South Africa’s neutral stance on the grounds that a peaceful resolution should always be sought in such cases.

This highly simplistic approach may be valid on paper, but it does not come close to matching the reality of the Ukraine situation — responses to which have been steeped in hypocrisy from all sides.

Although Putin has sought to deepen African relations over the last decade, and paid lip service to making Africa a foreign policy priority, Russia’s trade with the African continent is still dwarfed by its trade with Asia and Europe.

In a statement released by the Jacob Zuma Foundation on Sunday night and attributed to Zuma himself, the former president wrote that he had always known Putin to be “a man of peace”.

Although Zuma making false claims in public is no longer remotely surprising, the brazenness of this particular position must legitimately raise questions about whether Zuma, and other ANC leaders, might owe far more to Russia than just historical gratitude.

Daily Maverick [archive]

Why have attempts to debunk Russian war propaganda on Weibo failed?

In an attempt to debunk Russian pro-war propaganda circulating on Chinese social media, the China office of the European Commission (EU China) began debunking fake news on Weibo on March 4. However, the effort has had very little effect.

While the western world is getting aware of the Russian war propaganda, fake news portraying the Ukrainian government as terrorists and Nazi supporters has continued circulating in the Chinese speaking world through mainland Chinese media outlets which heavily rely on RT and Sputnik as main sources of information on the Ukraine crisis.

It is noteworthy that on March 3, the Chinese propaganda authorities handed down instructions to “turn down the temperature on public sentiment toward the Russia-Ukraine conflict” (via China Digital Times). Specifically, online platforms were asked to remove content that challenge the Chinese government’s official statements and foreign policy stances, in light of Sino-Russian antagonism among other harmful content such as public anti-war declarations.

Global Voices [archive]

Trying to get a handle on propaganda concerning race as it relates to the situation in Ukraine really tests my limited news sourcing skills. While it’s no surprise that Russia seeks to amplify racial tensions to sow division in the West, that mustn’t mean turning a blind eye towards the myriad ways race inflects this conflict.

Fortunately there are places like this with people like you — nice people capable of considerate discussion of complex factual and emotional subjects. Flag the outlying not-nice comments and thank the mods and clam wranglers for keeping the place tidy. Please redirect all potential McSquirrel Rule violations into the nearest pillow fit for screaming.