Kenya President Ruto to skip Russia-Africa Summit

Wednesday July 26 2023
President Ruto leaving AU summit

Kenya's President William Ruto. PHOTO | AMANUEL SILESHI | AFP


Kenya’s President William Ruto will skip the upcoming Russia-Africa Summit, choosing, instead, to be represented by the African Union.

Hussein Mohamed, the President’s Spokesman, said Ruto had conveyed the message to the continental body to carry the wishes of the country at the Summit, Moscow’s second since 2019 to try and tie down relations with Africa as it gets shunned by the West over its war in Ukraine.

“President William Ruto will not be personally attending the Russia-Africa summit; instead, he will be represented by organs of the Africa Union. This decision aligns with the stance of African Heads of State and Government, who believe that in order for Africa to engage in meaningful discussions with global partners, partnership summits organised by external parties need to be reviewed to establish an effective framework for African Union partnerships,” Mr Mohamed said on Wednesday.

Read: Why Ruto is playing West, Russia ping-pong

Ruto had been critical of summits inviting African leaders to another place, and recently said it was disrespectful to be loaded in buses as though they were school children. However, he himself has attended such summits before, and was even bused in London, last year during the burial of Queen Elizabeth II.

Yet, he says the skip is in line with AU Assembly’s Decision 762 of February 2020 which said the African Union/African Continent is to be represented at partnership meetings between the African Union/African Continent and a partner country by the Members of the Bureau of the Assembly of the Union, as well as chairpersons of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Chairperson of the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) of AUDA-NEPAD and the Chairperson of the AU Commission.


Currently, the AU Chair of the Assembly is Comorian President Azali Assoumani while the Bureau includes Egypt, Botswana, Burundi and Senegal. Presidents Azali Assoumani the chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Senegalese President Macky Sall and Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who are both members of the AU Bureau had confirmed attending. Representatives of Egypt and Botswana, the other members of the Bureau were expected and so is Presidents Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

At home, Ruto had promised to meet with opposition leader Raila Odinga, with whom he has bickered over the country’s economic and taxation policy. It led to violent protests recently, only suspended after opposition groups claimed police brutality.

Read: Ruto bullish stance makes political settlement hard

Raila, who was addressing the international media in Nairobi County on the State on the Nation, stressed that the AU should take a position and not remain neutral, his calls coming at a time some Heads of State and Government embarked on a shuttled diplomacy to reconcile Putin and his Ukraine counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Kenya has also played host to top government officials from Putin administration as well as Ukraine, despite taking a firm position as stated by her presentative to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Martin Kimani before the war.

“I don’t think whether this time it’s helpful for Summits between Russia because Russia is involved in the war. Just like Ukraine- Africa Summit also ought not to be welcomed at the moment,” advised Raila.

He continued, “There is a war situation and Africa need to take a very firm stand on this issue, it is not a question of right or wrong and therefore my position is that we cannot be neutral in the face of an aggression.”

The Russia-Africa Summit, however, is Moscow’s opportunity to make deeper friends with Africa as the West continues to shun Russia over its invasion of Ukraine last year in February. The Second Russia-Africa Summit has come four years after the first, largely due to Covid-19. But it has come amid a new geopolitical perspective including Western sanctions on Russia government departments, officials and entities with ties to the government owing to the war.

"Yet a preliminary programme released ahead of the meeting on July 27 shows the topics will be based on Moscow’s ties with African countries and businesses to do. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address a plenary session at the Summit and will reportedly describe the state of and prospects for developing the full range of ties between Russia and African nations in the political, economic and humanitarian areas,” according to the Kremlin.

The participants, including African Presidents such as South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa and Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, will join in a final declaration of the summit which will dictate the future of ties.

Read:Russia-Africa summit: What Vladmir Putin stands to gain

Participants will discuss issues like ‘Partnership for Food Sovereignty’ to be addressed by Konstantin Babkin, President of the Rosspetsmash Association and President of the New Commonwealth Industrial Union. Others include Andrey Guryev, the President of the Russian Association of Fertilizer Producers (RAFP), Boris Listov, Chairman of the Management Board of the Russian Agricultural Bank, and Benedict Okey Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank), a programme brochure showed on Tuesday.

Russia argues Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world in terms of food security, despite agriculture employing more than 60 percent of its labour force.

“The only way to solve this problem is to achieve food sovereignty. This is a realistic possibility due to the continent's immense agricultural potential,” the programme added. 

In a commentary on Monday, Putin had said he will use the Summit “shape a non-discriminatory agenda for cooperation.” Russia, he argued, has consistently supported Africa to rid itself of the yoke of colonialism and oppression.

“We understand the importance of uninterrupted food supplies for the socio-economic development and political stability of the African States. Notwithstanding the sanctions, Russia will continue itsenergetic efforts to provide supplies of grain, food products, fertilizers, and other goods to Africa,” he wrote.