Russia in new bid to tie down West, Central Africa partners

Wednesday June 05 2024

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) attends a meeting with Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Karamoko Jean Marie Traore in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on June 4, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on yet another marathon visit of four African nations in three days (June 3 - 5), the latest in a string of high-profile trips to the region in the past three years.

Analysts say Russia is desperate to shore up its influence in the region as Western clout gradually diminishes, especially in countries where military coups and bad governance under West-backed civilian rules have led to rising anti-Western sentiments.

Guinea was the first leg of this latest tour that also took Lavrov to Burkina Faso, Congo Republic and Chad.

In Conakry on Monday, June 3, Mr Lavrov met with both junta leader President Mamadi Doumbouya and his Foreign minister Morissanda Kouyaté. According to a statement from the Russian Foreign ministry, the meetings were dominated by remarks carefully coined to shore up a feeling of respect for pan-Africanism, like African solutions to African problems, mutual interests and neocolonial practices.

Central and West Africa have been considered France's sphere of influence for decades. And events in these regions in the past few years have seen that influence by France shaking in some cases and entirely diluted in other cases.

The Russian Foreign ministry summarised the outcome as “a common approach … towards forming a more just polycentric world order with the supremacy of international law and UN Charter provisions...”


Read: Russian troops deploy to Burkina Faso

In Chad, where France still appears to retain some influence, Lavrov was measured in his statements.

“I can guarantee you that our friendship with Chad will not affect our relations with France in any way. France has other approaches, it proceeds from the fact that either you are with us or you are against us,” he said.

Chadian President Mahamat Deby Itno was in Russia in January. Itno’s office said on Wednesday following meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister in N'Djamena that the two countries reviewed areas of cooperation that would boost bilateral relations.

In Brazzaville, Congo Republic, besides seeking to grow Russia-Congo ties, which included a stated interest in expanding cooperation in the energy sector, much of the discussion centred on Congo’s role in restoring peace to Libya. President Denis Sassou Nguesso chairs an African Union High Level Committee on Libya.

In all four countries, military ties with Russia was at the top of the subjects of discussions.

Burkina Faso’s new junta leader, Ibrahim Traore, wasted no time in turning to Russia for security support.

Lavrov confirmed during his two-day visit to Ouagadougou on June 4 and 5 that Russian military trainers had been working in the country and promised that their number will increase.

“We are ready to provide our support for the just cause of Africans who are trying to free themselves from neo-colonial influence,” he said.