The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kouleba, has revealed a determined and “long-term” effort to reinvigorate Kiev’s relations with Africa and lessen Moscow’s influence on the continent, which he believes is founded on “coercion, corruption, and fear.”
After years of neglect, Ukraine is actively courting African nations in the hopes of garnering support in the face of Russia’s invasion that commenced in February 2022.
In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Kouleba expressed his commitment to a “Ukrainian-African renaissance” to restore these ties, acknowledging the need for systematic and sustained efforts on the continent.
Having undertaken three tours in Africa since last autumn, Kouleba emphasized the significance of this endeavor. He also highlighted a recent visit by a delegation of African Heads of State, led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, to Ukraine in June.
While “most African countries” currently maintain a neutral stance towards the conflict, Kouleba pointed out that a gradual erosion of Russian influence is underway. Notably, Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Equatorial Guinea have become new partners for Kiev in Africa. Kouleba clarified that Ukraine’s goal is not to replace Russia but to liberate Africa from its grip.
Kouleba accuses the Kremlin of employing tactics such as “coercion, corruption, and fear” to retain control over African nations. He downplayed Russia’s influence, attributing its limited impact to “propaganda and (the paramilitary group) Wagner.” Russia has sought closer ties with Africa, utilizing entities like the Wagner group, and positioning itself as a counter to Western “imperialism” and “neocolonialism.”
Dismissing Moscow’s claims of caring for Africa’s food security, Kouleba labeled them as “false.” He cited Russia’s withdrawal from a crucial grain export deal, despite the ongoing invasion.
This move in July raised concerns about potential increases in cereal prices, disproportionately affecting the poorest countries. In response, the Russian president promised free grain deliveries to select African nations. Kouleba highlighted that the true costs of Russia’s actions are borne by Ukrainian farmers and African consumers.
Amidst the geopolitical tensions, Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts aim to foster stronger ties with Africa, challenge Moscow’s influence, and contribute to the continent’s progress and stability.