- Many African countries, which import Russian grain and energy while also buying Ukrainian grain and benefitting from Western aid flows and trade ties, have avoided taking sides over the conflict in Ukraine.
- Western powers have blamed Russia for the food crisis and last week the United States announced a $1.3 billion package to help tackle hunger in the region. Russia blames Western sanctions for grain supply problems.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is concluding the four-country tour of the African continent in Addis Ababa today, which began on Sunday upon arriving in Egypt, where he met with members of the Arab League before departing to the Congo Republic, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Prior to his departure, he released a column published in each of their leading newspapers that was republished on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website. He praised the continent for resisting what he called Western attempts to impose a unipolar world order and the support of multipolar integration organizations and pledged to help complete its decolonization.
“We appreciate the considered African position as to the situation in and around Ukraine,” he wrote in the column, adding that African countries had come under “unprecedented” Western pressure to join the sanctions.
He wrote that without economic sovereignty, no country is truly sovereign, and the independence of many African states is limited by the Western neocolonial chains that continue to hold them in bondage. Lavrov praised the African Continental Free Trade Area:
“as an important step towards the true economic independence of the continent, its final liberation from any manifestations of discrimination and coercion.”
African countries, which have a tangled legacy of relations with the West and the former Soviet Union, have largely avoided taking sides in the war in Ukraine. Many import Russian grain and increasingly energy too, but they also buy Ukrainian grain and benefit from Western aid flows and trade ties. Africa is also being courted by the West this week, with French President Emmanuel Macron due to visit Cameroon, Benin, and Guinea-Bissau and US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer on his way to Egypt and Ethiopia.
Lavrov has already visited Egypt and will head from Congo to Uganda, then Ethiopia, where African Union diplomats said he had invited ambassadors from several member states to a private meeting on Wednesday, dismaying Western donors.
According to Andrew Korybko a Moscow-based American political analyst, Russia’s challenge in Africa is that its historical ties with the continent from the Soviet era were largely eroded in the three decades since the erstwhile USSR’s dissolution, which makes it difficult for Moscow to assist Africa’s quest for economic – and genuine – independence. Nevertheless, its top diplomat suggested that cooperation on large-scale infrastructure projects, food security, and energy security could be areas where Moscow holds a competitive advantage vis a vis others. He wrote:
Lavrov’s trip will bear tangible fruits, especially considering that all African countries, including those widely considered to be under strong Western influence, refused to sanction Russia. Additionally, only four heads of state tuned in to listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s virtual speech to the African Union late last month.
In the Congo Republic, a small oil-producing former French colony north of the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, Lavrov visited President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power since 1979, with a five-year gap from 1992 to 1997. In a statement, Lavrov’s spokeswoman said this was the first visit by a Russian or Soviet foreign affairs minister to the country. She said friendly ties dated back to the Soviet era and that 8,000 Congolese citizens had studied in Russia.
Lavrov arrived in Uganda after he concluded his trip Democratic Republic of Congo, where he met President Yoweri Museveni, who has a long history of balancing strong relations with Western allies and good ties with Moscow. Sarah Bireete, head of Kampala-based campaign group the Centre for Constitutional Governance, said Museveni, who has been in power for 36 years, was increasingly keen on Russia because it did not question his government’s record, she said:
“Uganda has strong alliances with the West but they are beginning to question his democratic credentials so Museveni is now running to Russia which doesn’t query his human rights or democracy record.”
According to TRT World, Museveni said he saw no reason to criticize Moscow over the offensive in Ukraine, extolling Russian-African friendship, during a visit by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Museveni praised Russia as a partner in the struggle against colonialism going back a century while speaking alongside Lavrov on Tuesday. Citing his participation in student demonstrations against the crushing of the Prague Spring by the Soviet Union in 1968, Museveni said;
“If Russia makes mistakes then we tell them, but when they have not made a mistake we cannot be against them.”
Uganda was among 17 African nations that abstained in a March vote on a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian offensive, which was supported by 141 countries out of 193. Museveni drew heavily on historical events to explain his preference for staying on good terms with both Russia and the West, Museveni said.
“Whenever issues come up and some people want us to take positions against Russia, we say ‘but you people, these people have been with us for the last 100 years, how can we be automatically against them?’
“We have even forgiven our former enemies, the colonialists, the ones who have colonized us, the ones who had actually taken slaves from here and who did bad things. We have forgiven them and we are working on them.”
In the meantime, Lavrov praised what he described as “the responsible and balanced position taken by Uganda and other African states.”
He accused the West of displaying a colonial mindset by demanding that Africa adopt an anti-Russian stance.
Uganda’s state broadcaster said it would carry news bulletins from the Russian state-funded channel RT twice a day under a new memorandum of understanding signed with Moscow.
Uganda is among several nations in Eastern Africa suffering from food shortages due to the region’s worst drought in 40 years, plus soaring inflation fuelled by the crisis in Ukraine. Western powers have blamed Russia for the crisis, and last week the United States announced a $1.3 billion package to help tackle hunger in the region. Russia blames Western sanctions for grain supply problems.
After visiting Egypt and the Republic of Congo, and Uganda, Lavrov headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he met high government officials and AU representatives, which has long been a stalwart ally of the West but has recently rowed with the United States over its conduct of a conflict in its northern region of Tigray.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country, whose capital hosts the African Union headquarters. It’s been a close Russian partner since each of their imperial eras and relations has entered into a renaissance since Addis Ababa accused the West of supporting the former ruling partner (since designated by the state as terrorists) in its war against the federal government.
This is not the first time Lavrov visited Addis Abeba, he was here in 2018 where he signed agreements to boost relations between Ethiopia and Russia. in today’s meeting the two sides have also agreed to continue strengthening their relations in terms of international diplomacy, economy, trade, science, and technology.
While briefing the press following the discussion, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen said the fruitful discussion between the two ministers had reaffirmed that Ethiopia and the Russian Federation have shared values and interests in various areas, he said;
“Ethiopia attaches significant importance to the longstanding historical relations with the Russian Federation and appreciated Russia’s unwavering support to Ethiopia during difficult times of need.”
According to Fana Broadcasting, the Russian Foreign Minister handed over a message sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to Demeke Mekonen. Lavrov also called the Ethio-Russia relationships delightful and effective while noting the need to hold a meeting of the joint commission of the two countries.
The Russian Foreign Minister further said that Russia would continue to work together with Ethiopia on international and regional issues.
“We confirmed our firm support for those efforts which the government is making to stabilize the situation and launch an inclusive national dialogue to solve the key questions.”
In the meantime, an invitation letter from the Russian ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU, sent to a number of African ambassadors said the goal of the meeting was to deepen cooperation between Russia and African states. Two AU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity said the planned meeting, which would coincide with Hammer’s visit, was causing friction among Western donors because it signaled a pivot towards Russia.
One can say Lavrov has a successful trip on the tactical level of strengthening bilateral ties with each of the four states. This will in turn increase the odds of Russia’s strategic goal is met with time regarding the complete decolonization of the continent through its economic independence, even though it should be mentioned that other major countries such as China remain indispensable to this vision’s success too.
The overarching trend is that Russia’s top diplomat is visiting Africa precisely at the moment that the continent as a whole is pushing back against the West’s declining unipolar hegemony. The Africa of today is different than the Africa of just last year after few could have predicted that its countries would have defied Western pressure to sanction Russia. That just shows how powerful of a force multipolarity has since become, which will inevitably liberate the entire Global South from Western neo-colonialism.
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov Full message Before the four-day tour
Russia And Africa: A Future-Bound Partnership
On the eve of my visits to several African countries, I would like to share my reflections on the prospects for Russia-Africa relations in the current geopolitical context with esteemed readers.
Today, African states play an increasingly important role in global politics and economy, and take an active part in solving key modern-day problems. Their solidarity voice sounds more and more harmoniously in world affairs.
Russia has consistently advocated Africa’s strengthened position in the multipolar architecture of a world order which should be based on the principles of the UN Charter and take the world’s cultural and civilizational diversity into account. In this context, we welcome the successful development of such integration structures as, for example, the African Union, East African Community, Southern African Development Community, Economic Community of Central African States, Economic Community of West African States, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). We consider the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area as an important step towards the true economic independence of the continent, its final liberation from any manifestations of discrimination and coercion.
Russia-Africa ties are based on the time-tested bonds of friendship and cooperation. Our country has not stained itself with the bloody crimes of colonialism, has always sincerely supported Africans in their struggle for liberation from colonial oppression, and provided practical and often gratuitous assistance to the peoples of the continent in the formation of their statehood, creation of the foundations of national economies, defense capabilities build-up, and training of qualified personnel. Today we stand in solidarity with the African demands to complete the process of decolonization and support relevant initiatives on the UN platform.
The development of a comprehensive partnership with African countries remains among the top priorities of Russia’s foreign policy. We are willing to contribute to its further growth – in line with the strategic decisions taken in late October 2019 at the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
At the same time, I would especially emphasize: that our country does not impose anything on anyone or tells others how to live. We treat with great respect the sovereignty of the States of Africa, and their inalienable right to determine the path of their development for themselves. We are firmly committed to the “African solutions to African problems” principle. Such an approach to developing inter-State ties dramatically differs from the “master-slave” logic imposed by former metropolitan countries, which reproduces the obsolete colonial model.
We know that the African colleagues do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the US and their European satellites to gain the upper hand and to impose a unipolar world order on the international community. We appreciate the considered African position as to the situation in and around Ukraine. Although unprecedented by its scale the pressure from beyond has not brought our friends to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Such an independent path deserves deep respect.
For sure, the current geopolitical situation requires certain adjustments of the mechanisms of our interaction: first of all, there is a question of ensuring seamless logistics and tuning the system of financial settlements to make them secure from outer interference. In cooperation with its partners, Russia takes steps to enhance the use of national currencies and payment systems. We are working to gradually reduce the share of the dollar and euro in mutual trade. We stand generally for establishing an efficient financial system that is proof against the potential impact of the unfriendly States.
The task of bringing Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets and encouraging them to participate in large-scale infrastructure projects also comes to the fore. We assume that, as conducted, the second Africa – Russia summit will facilitate settling those and other tasks. Together with our African friends, we have got down to working through its content.
Food security issues are currently high on the international agenda. We are well aware of the importance of Russian supplies of socially important commodities, including food, to many countries around the world. We are mindful that these supplies play an important role in preserving social stability as well as in achieving the benchmarks of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I would like to emphasize that the speculations of Western and Ukrainian propaganda that Russia allegedly “exports hunger” are completely unfounded. In fact, these are yet another attempt to shift the blame to others. It is well known that already during the time of the “corona crisis” the collective West, using the mechanism of currency issuance, “absorbed” commodities and food flows, worsening the situation in the developing countries dependent on food imports. That is when the grave situation in the food market began to take shape. Western sanctions imposed on Russia in recent months have further exacerbated negative trends.
It is essential that all our African friends understand that Russia will continue to fulfill in good faith its obligations under international contracts with regard to exports of food, fertilizers, energy, and other goods vital for Africa. Russia is taking all measures to this end.
Moscow will continue to pursue a peace-loving foreign policy and play a balancing role in international affairs. We are in favor of broad interstate cooperation based on the provisions of the UN Charter, first of all, the principle of the sovereign equality of states. We will continue to strengthen productive interaction with foreign partners who in their turn are willing to cooperate with us.
In this context, we assume that relations between Russia and Africa, whether political, humanitarian, or trade and investment, are of an intrinsic value and do not depend on fluctuations in the international environment. It is good to see that our African friends have a similar understanding. Together we will be even stronger.