“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,” Kimanzi Nashon, a student in the Kenyan capital Nairobi said. “When we go there, and then the war ends before anything happens, I will come back to Kenya and be a millionaire.”
And Nashon isn’t alone in harboring such naive thoughts of being a hired fighter in Ukraine.
“If an opportunity presented itself for me to fight in Ukraine as a mercenary, I would be on my heels running there,” Beatrice Kaluki, who is unemployed in Kenya, told ‘Deutsche Welle’. “I would rather die on the front line in Ukraine knowing that my family would be compensated even after my death, rather than die from depression because of the insane unemployment rate!”
However, African countries have come out strongly to condemn Ukraine’s call for African fighters to join the “international legion” against the Russians.
Now Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria have criticized Ukraine’s efforts to enlist international fighters as it resists a Russians. Analysts say those who have responded to the call need to reconsider.
According to Ryan Cummings, director of ‘Signal Risk’, a South African-based security risk management consultancy, ‘President Zelenskyy might be capitalizing on Africa’s challenging socio-economic conditions to lure African fighters to Ukraine.’ According to the Nigerian daily, ‘The Guardian’, more than 100 young men registered their interest in fighting for Ukraine at the country’s embassy in Abuja.
A spokesperson for Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Francisca Omayuli, said Nigeria would not allow its nationals to volunteer as mercenaries.
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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was astonished to learn that the embassy of Ukraine in Dakar had posted an appeal on its Facebook page for foreign citizens to come to Ukraine’s military forces.
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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.
“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 (POTI).
“They are only interested in answering a call without perhaps understanding the issues surrounding the Ukrainian conflict,” Gaye said.
For security and risk analyst Ryan Cummings, African countries need to consider the implications of allowing their citizens to travel to Ukraine as hired guns. “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,” he said.
He warned that the Kremlin could also retaliate by ending diplomatic relations with African countries that support Ukraine in this way.