Ukraine’s move to recruit mercenaries from Africa to fight Russians sparks uproar

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Many young Africans may be willing to go to Ukraine as hired fighters to escape poverty

Fighters from across Africa are positively responding to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for like-minded people to come to his country’s defense against Russia’s invasion despite condemnation from several countries.

Zelensky has been seeking for what he refers to as the “international legion” of foreign volunteers to join the defense of Ukraine and fight in a war that broke out in his country on February 24. He went on to temporarily lift visa requirements for mercenaries to enter the country and join the fight against Russian forces.

Zelensky’s call is already attracting potential foreign fighters from as far away as Nigeria and Kenya, according to German News Agency DW.

“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.

“When we go there, and then the war ends before anything happens, I will come back to Kenya and be a millionaire,” said Nashon.

Local news reports also indicated last week that more than 100 young men registered their interest in fighting for Ukraine at the country’s embassy in Abuja.

However, African countries have come out strongly to condemn Ukraine’s call saying it flouts international law.

Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria have criticized Ukraine’s efforts to enlist international fighters as it resists the Russian invasion. Analysts say those who have responded to the call need to reconsider.

On Monday, Nigeria issued a warning on Twitter to its citizens that it would not tolerate any recruitment of mercenaries to fight alongside Ukrainian forces against Russian troops.

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

“As a responsible member of the International community and consistent with our obligations under International law, Nigeria discourages the use of mercenaries anywhere in the world and will not tolerate recruitment of Nigerians as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine or elsewhere in the world” he said in a statement.

According to Ryan Cummings, director of Signal Risk, a South African-based security risk management consultancy, Zelenskyy might be capitalizing on Africa’s challenging socioeconomic conditions to lure African fighters to Ukraine.

“African nationals might see an economic opportunity from participating in this conflict,” Cummings told DW.

According to reports by DW, Senegal has also expressed its displeasure with Ukraine’s government, saying that at least 36 people in Senegal were ready to confront Russian forces.

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.

Senegal, which shares extensive political and military ties with Russia, was one of 17 African countries to abstain from voting on the March 2 UN resolution condemning Russia’s aggression and calling for an end to the fighting.

Algeria, another client of Russia’s military hardware, also called on Ukraine to desist from trying to enlist fighters from its country. Its government, too, has remained silent over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“These young people who want to get involved [in Ukraine] have not fully considered political or religious implications,” said Serigne Bamba Gaye, a researcher on peace, security and governance at the US-based Peace Operations Training Institute.

Russia has stated any country that is actively assisting Ukraine in this war, or as Russia calls it ‘a special military operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine,’ will be considered at war with Russia

“They are only interested in answering a call without perhaps understanding the issues surrounding the Ukrainian conflict,” Gaye said.

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