Africa Consoles Russia, Hopes for Increased Economic Cooperation

March 30, 2024

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Russia is never as isolated as many external countries think. It has non-Western friends, especially in Africa, which constitutes part of the Global South. And there is a growing political sentiment and understanding among the majority of its African allies that the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine are allegedly behind the terrorist attacks against Russia due to its special military operation in Ukraine.

There have been so many interpretations and analyses around the world. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the incident a terrorist attack. The Islamic State—Khorasan Province (IS-KP or ISIS-K), a South-Central Asia-based regional affiliate of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility. But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said at a weekly media briefing with reporters that it was “extremely hard to believe” that Islamic State would have had the capacity to launch an attack on a Moscow concert hall on March 22 that killed at least 140 people.

Popularly referred to as Crocus City Hall, it is a music venue located in Krasnogorsk, Moscow Oblast (north-west of central Moscow, close to the Moscow Ring Road). The venue was opened by the businessman Aras Agalarov on October 25, 2009. On March 22, 2024, it was severely damaged by an explosion during a major terrorist attack that killed more than 140 people. Since March 22, African leaders have poured in messages of condolences to the Russian leadership and the entire Russian people.

The concert hall is a part of Crocus City, comprising the Crocus City Mall, Crocus Expo, and Vegas City Hall, along with various hotels and restaurants. It is one of the largest in the area. It is part of a larger block of shopping centres, restaurants, and other attractions called Crocus City.

On March 28, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, expressed his deep condolences and feelings of solidarity over the terrorist attack in Moscow. Beside that, however, both leaders also expressed satisfaction with the current level of strategic partnership between their countries and further discussed issues of practical trade, economics, energy, and humanitarian cooperation.

Speaking in the context of the BRICS Chairmanship, which Russia has taken over since January 2024 from South Africa, they discussed interaction within the group in its new expanded format. Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates joined BRICS as new full members, which is a strong indication of the growing authority of the association and its role in international affairs.

In light of the peace initiative advanced by African states to resolve the Ukraine crisis, Ramaphosa briefed Vladimir Putin on South Africa’s intention to continue working in this area with due regard for Russia’s legitimate interests. Putin, in turn, outlined Russia’s position of principle on developments around Ukraine, noting that Russia had always been open to a serious and substantive discussion of a political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict.

The President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election as President of the Russian Federation, noting his great personal contribution to strengthening friendly relations between Russia and Egypt. In January 2024, Egypt became a full-fledged member of the BRICS, always described as an informal association of emerging economies.

It was noted with satisfaction that the multifaceted cooperation between the countries is successfully developing as a strategic partnership, with major mutually beneficial projects underway in various spheres. Current issues on the international agenda were considered, including the situation around Ukraine and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone. Vladimir Putin praised Cairo’s efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

On March 26, the President of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland of the Republic of Niger, Abdourahamane Tchiani, extended his warm solidarity with the Russian people and heartfelt condolences over the numerous victims of the heinous terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall.

In discussing the bilateral agenda, the leaders expressed their determination to step up political dialogue and develop mutually beneficial cooperation in various spheres. They also exchanged views on the developments in the Sahel-Sahara region, with an emphasis on the coordination of security and counterterrorism efforts.

Late March, President Putin has also held phone conversations with President of the Republic of the Congo Denis Sassou-Nguesso and with Interim President of the Republic of Mali Assimi Goïta at their initiative. Both African leaders resolutely condemned the terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue and offered their deep condolences to the people of Russia.

On his part, Putin reassured that he would strengthen Russia-Mali ties in various fields, including the implementation of joint projects in the energy, agriculture, and mining sectors. Assimi Goïta expressed special gratitude for the deliveries of Russian wheat, fertiliser, and fuel, free of charge. Putin and Goïta also exchanged opinions in the context of the uneasy situation in the Sahara-Sahel region and agreed to step up practical interaction to counter terrorism.

With Congolese Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who expressed his deep condolences and solidarity with the Russian Federation in connection with the barbaric terrorist attack, Putin reassured him of the implementation of agreements reached following their meeting at St. Petersburg’s Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023.

According to the official transcript, Malian Assimi Goïta and Congolese Sassou-Nguesso did not congratulate President Vladimir Putin for the successful re-election in mid-March, but the Kremlin said the leaders by phone agreed to continue their contacts.

According to historical records, March 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the Republic of the Congo. In this context, the presidents reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the further development of active bilateral interaction in political, trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian, and other areas.

Congo, with an estimated 5.3 million population and the fourth largest oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea, is located in the central-western part of sub-Saharan Africa, along the Equator. Mali, now under military rule, is soliciting Russia’s military assistance to ensure peace and security in the Saharan-Sahel region. Mali, home to nearly 20 million people, is a landlocked country located on the rivers Senegal and Niger in West Africa.

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