Ukraine’s tough fight to win Africa’s backing

Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, will have a difficult time winning over African leaders to his cause as they resist calls to separate themselves from Vladimir Putin. The public and media have so far paid less attention to Mr. Kuleba’s first visit to the area than his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov’s did in July. In the face of conflicting narratives in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Mr. Kuleba said the 10-day African journey sought to foster a mutually beneficial “Ukrainian-African renaissance.”

Tuesday marked the start of his trip, and there he met President Macky Sall of Senegal and Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall, who serves as the country’s head of state. Agreements for bilateral cooperation in commerce, agriculture, and other fields were struck between the two nations. On Wednesday, Mr. Kuleba traveled to the Ivory Coast to meet with government representatives and business executives. As Moscow experiences international reaction over the conflict that has caused a worldwide food catastrophe, Russian diplomats have maintained a major media and public presence in Africa.

Ian Khama, a former president of Botswana, urged the continent to support Ukraine in an op-ed that was published on the Daily Maverick website in South Africa on Sunday. He claimed that “people in the developing world, in Africa and Asia, are now suffering as a result of what the Russians have done.” Newspapers in Egypt, Congo, Brazzaville, Uganda, and Ethiopia ran an opinion piece written by Mr. Lavrov that blamed the West for the food crisis just before he went on his African visit. In light of what seemed to be combat setbacks in Ukraine, the Russian official made use of his presence on the continent to emphasize the Kremlin’s might. A second Russia-Africa conference is being planned for Ethiopia the following year to strengthen ties.

The West has come under fire for putting pressure on African nations to denounce Russia. Zimbabwe and South Africa have pleaded with the continent to oppose US efforts to penalize nations that support Russia. Fears of future destabilization are raised by Russian participation, notably through the Wagner group’s use of mercenaries in Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Libya. This is because some nations have unintentionally become puppets in the Kremlin’s effort to gain influence.