The Independent: In Africa, volunteering in Ukraine is a ticket to Europe, and governments do not want to anger Moscow

Ibrahim Darwish

London – Al-Quds Al-Arabi: Hundreds in Africa have expressed a desire to fight in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion as a means of emigrating to Europe, the Independent newspaper reported. In a report prepared by Portia Crowe and Momar Lo and removed, they said that Alassane Faye, a 45-year-old Senegalese construction worker, when he heard the news of the Russian occupation of Ukraine, wanted to do something “I can not stand. Injustice.” “I do not like to see people suffering,” added the worker, who lives in the town of Bout, near the capital, Dakar.
He found the phone number of the Ukrainian embassy in Dakar and asked for help, so he was told on a website to apply, then the Senegalese government intervened and blocked all recruitment, and then 35 Senegalese submitted applications. And Senegal is not the only one where many civilians have expressed a desire to join the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, but also in other parts of the African continent. At a time when most aspirants will not be able to reach Ukraine due to the cost of travel, conditions for military experience and government ban, many analysts were surprised by the amount of interest in the war and the partition of Ukrainians. ‘suffering. The Ukrainian and South African embassies said they alone received hundreds of requests – by e-mail, telephone or in-person interviews – to join the war. Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa said her embassy received a flood of messages when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the opening of the door to participation in the Foreign Legion. The same in Kenya, where the Ukrainian embassy there said it had received questions from those who wanted it, and the newspaper interviewed a number of people from Uganda and Burundi, where there is no Ukrainian embassy, ​​and they expressed a desire to volunteer for the war. , but they do not know how. Foreign Legion spokesman Demian Magrou confirmed the presence of “some volunteers” from Africa, but did not say how many and their nationalities. Last month, a military official said about 20,000 people from 50 countries had joined the troops.
In interviews with 7 people, they said that the main motive was the desire to help the Ukrainian people, but they indicated the possibility of their emigration through volunteering in Europe. Ukraine now offers free entry visas to those who want to fight, a rarity for African citizens whose passports are among the least powerful travel documents in the world. And those who do not have passports to immigrate to Europe, Africans make a long and dangerous journey to land where they are subjected to discrimination, extortion and detention. “If you think about volunteers, they are young, physically strong and can see this as a ticket out of Africa and a way to get into Europe and potentially stay there,” says Stephen Grazd, director of governance. and African diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Relations.
“Those applying to volunteer in Ukraine” may have previously tried to travel to Europe via unofficial routes, said Ibrahim Niyi, from Liberia, an associate at the Center for Democracy and Development, a rights group. Faye was arrested in 2005 while trying to emigrate through Spain on a fishing boat. He said a friend who owed him money invited him to attend the trip and paid him. He and a number of friends boarded the boat, but police came before the start of the voyage and arrested them. He says he does not want to take advantage of the war there, but the father of 6 children who is late to pay the rent of the house, can hardly wait for a job there after the war.
In the same context, Frederic Okot, 27, from Uganda, said he “would like to travel to Ukraine to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians and save lives.” He said he looked for ways to find the nearest embassy and asked a friend who works at the Foreign Ministry: “I am ready to fight for my brothers in Ukraine”, referring in a WhatsApp message to Russians with terrorist forces. When asked about the real motive for risking his life in a foreign war, he admitted he was looking for a way to leave his country. He has a university degree in social work and social management, but is unemployed despite research efforts. “I do not want to leave Uganda and I looked for a job and I could not find it in my country,” he said, “and I find myself addicted and unproductive.” He said that if he could travel to Ukraine, he would look for work and hope to travel to Britain.
Analysts say that behind the desire to volunteer lies the European coverage of the war in Ukraine, although now wars are taking place in Cameroon, Ethiopia and Mali, but none of those who wanted to volunteer in the European war showed interest in joining these wars. “The level of international coverage of the Ukraine war was high and the war in Cameroon did not get it,” and “No one in neighboring Nigeria knows as much about the war in Cameroon as they do about Ukraine,” says Nye. The wars on the continent remain as vague as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Therefore, it is easy to volunteer in this dispute, according to those who want to travel there. Okot said that if he wanted to fight in a close war, like in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or South Sudan, he had to work with the Ugandan army, not join an international battalion.
Faye said he was ready to help anyone who wanted to help, whether in Ukraine, Mali or the separatist region of Ximans in southern Senegal, but “the opportunity to help Ukrainians did not come to the rest of the regions or countries” and “I have no information about volunteering with Senegalese or Malians, and it was easy to communicate. ” with the Embassy of Ukraine. But Ukraine does not offer the price of a ticket or flight other than military experience and knowledge of English and Ukrainian. Nye said those trying to fight in Ukraine may have been ex-soldiers who previously worked with security contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq. He added that most of these workers have taken part in the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast, but most of them do not meet the conditions required for the current war in Ukraine. A spokesman for the Ukrainian embassy in Kenya said that after receiving a stream of questions over the phone and Facebook, interest had waned after explaining the financial cost and military expertise.
For Alan Kitnosa Sava, a Ugandan refugee in Zimbabwe, attending Ukraine is not an opportunity for him to flee to Europe, but because Vladimir Putin has backed dictators like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. He tried to apply through the Ukrainian embassies in South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, but was unsuccessful. Ukraine’s ambassador there, Lybov Abravetova, said her embassy had received a stream of phone calls, via Twitter and Facebook. Its embassy is responsible for 10 countries in South Africa and has sought guidance from each country’s foreign ministers on volunteering. Zimbabwe and 6 other countries did not respond, while Namibia and Botswana prevented volunteering.
In South Africa, she was told that any volunteer would have to apply through the National Conventional Arms Control Commission, the defense minister and ex-combatants before being allowed to travel to Ukraine. The ambassador noted the bureaucracy, noting that she had not yet seen the demands. South Africa was Iraq’s largest supplier of mercenaries, but in 2007 it passed a law banning mercenary activity and regulating “the provision of aid or services of a military and humanitarian nature in armed conflicts”. Other countries have directly prevented their citizens from volunteering, such as in Nigeria, which asked the embassy not to recruit fighters, and Nigerians responded by asking questions. In Algeria, the government asked the embassy to delete a Facebook post calling for volunteerism as a “flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention.”
The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and asked him to withdraw his call to volunteer. “The recruitment of foreign volunteers and mercenaries is illegal in our territory,” she said. The official African response was at odds with the Western stance, as countries like Britain, America and Canada did not deter their volunteer children. Maybe it was an expression of fear for what would happen next. Ney says the ban is to “avoid the Libyan situation, where in some cases young Africans volunteered as mercenaries and returned with a militant vision and created armed movements like in Mali, Nigeria and Chad”.
On the other hand, governments do not want Ukraine’s efforts to affect their relations with Russia. South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal were among 58 countries that abstained on April 7 in a vote to suspend Russia by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Algeria and Zimbabwe voted together with 22 countries that opposed the resolution. The governments of South Africa, Algeria and Senegal did not respond to a request for comment.

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