Accessibility links

Breaking News

Lavrov Africa Trip Sought Sway - Analysts

FILE: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, taken 7.27.2022. "AFP PHOTO / Russian Foreign Ministry / handout"

Analysts say the just-concluded four-nation tour of Africa by Russia's top diplomat could likely be an attempt by Moscow to exploit its narrative of the crisis in Ukraine and food for foreign policy leverage among African leaders.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's trip to Africa sought solidarity with his hosts as the West piles pressure over its invasion of Ukraine, which has led to food and fuel price hikes with Africa and other least developed continents feeling the pinch.

Lavrov, the first top Kremlin diplomat to visit Africa since the crisis was in the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Rafael Loss, an Analyst focused on German and European foreign and security policy told VOA from Brussels that the agenda was to ''influence'' foreign policy.

''Countries like Egypt, Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia depend on Russian and Ukrainian grain imports, so I think (Sergei) Lavrov's trip should be seen as trying to position Russia in this global battle of the narrative over the food crisis'', he said.

Loss said a deal brokered by the United Nations, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia to allow grain exports through the Black Sea could lessen the potential of a food crisis this year.

The analyst added "But we also saw that the day after the agreement was signed, Russian forces struck the harbor of Odessa. This violates the spirit of the agreement."

Steven Horrell, senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) told VOA the Kremlin is well aware of the damage of the food crisis to its image in Africa, hence the visit to try to sway the narrative and perceptions.

''Sergei Lavrov's message is that Moscow is the multipolar world power - the alternative of the U.S, West, and Europe. They are going to continue on the theme that the West and Europe are the colonizers. Those themes play well throughout the global south'', he said.

Analyst Loss said the history of European-African relations and colonialism, which are still attached to a number of bilateral and AU relations may be informing the non-alignment movement posture by most African states on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Horrell also stated ''Any depiction of this recent (grain export) deal would be about Russia, (presenting itself as the) magnanimous benefactor of African nations, and more oppressed nations everywhere. This is blatantly false, but it's still a messaging tactic that gets traction in Africa and the rest of the global south."

Okello Oryem, Uganda's State Minister for Foreign Affairs told VOA's Swahili Service that Africa will not be ''used'' to support any sides in the war. He said Kampala will not join other Western or European nations in sanctioning Moscow, saying ''There's nothing special about Western sanctions."

''Stop using Africa as a means to get Africa to support or take sides in this conflict or the means to get out of this conflict. We don't want to be part of it'', he said, adding that ''They should dialogue (for) a peaceful resolution."