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Social activist Graça Machel on Monday defended Mozambique’s position of abstaining in the vote on the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pointing out that the African country’s sovereign interests should be respected.
“The government is doing very well to abstain on this vote, there are many other issues that are behind what led to this conflict that are not being put on the table,” Machel told reporters.
The activist was speaking on the sidelines of an event promoted by the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which she chairs.
Mozambique, she said, should position itself according to its interests, at each moment, because it is a sovereign country.
“We are being forced to take either one side or the other, what we are saying is that we will take neither one nor the other [side], as long as the interests that are behind and that led to this conflict are not very clear,” she declared.
Graça Machel stressed that Mozambique’s stance in relation to the Russia-Ukraine conflict is coherent with its past of belonging to the defunct Non-Aligned Movement, as the nations that strived for neutrality during the Cold War between the West and the former communist bloc were known.
“I miss that time when we had the Non-Aligned Movement, if there was a strong leadership it would be important to reactivate the Non-Aligned Movement,” she said.
Graça Machel’s first husband, Samora Machel, was an outspoken Marxist-Leninist and was president of Mozambique at a time of closer cooperation between the African country and Moscow, during the times of the USSR and the communist bloc.
She is also the widow of former South African president, Nelson Mandela.
Ambassadors from western countries have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the Mozambican government’s abstention from voting on the General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with US and European diplomats reminding Maputo that their countries channel a lot of support to the African nation, in the context of development cooperation, which is considered blackmail by the Mozambican authorities.
Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine on 24 February that has killed at least 1,793 civilians, including 176 children, and wounded 2,439, including 336 minors, according to the latest figures from the UN, which warns that the actual number of civilian casualties is likely to be much higher.
The war has already caused an undetermined number of military casualties and the flight of more than 11 million people, including 4.5 million to neighbouring countries.
This is the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II (1939-1945) and the United Nations estimates that some 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Russian invasion has been condemned by the international community in general, which has responded by sending arms to Ukraine and strengthening economic and political sanctions against Moscow.