The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, H.E Sergey V. Lavrov will visit Uganda later this week, as part of his tour in Africa in a bid to strengthen Moscow’s relations with the continent.

His tour starts today in Egypt where he will meet and hold talks with senior government officials. He will then fly to Congo Brazzaville before coming to Uganda, and later Ethiopia.

He is Russia’s most high ranking government official to visit Uganda since the establishment of diplomatic cooperation between the two countries in the 1960s.

On his two-day official visit to Uganda, Lavrov will among others hold a bilateral meeting with President Yoweri Museveni and a government delegation.

The historic visit is largely believed to be aimed at strengthening relations between African States and Russia, a country the West and the U.S wanted isolated with tough sanctions due to its Special Military Operation in Ukraine that started in February this year.

Russia, in this special military operation, which is ongoing, seeks to demilitarize Ukraine so that there would be no weapons posing a threat to Russia, protecting the people of Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and to denazify Ukraine by not only canceling laws encouraging Nazi ideology and practices, but also, withdrawing any legislation, which discriminates Russians.

Uganda was among the about 20 African countries which in March abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In his recent opinion published widely, Lavrov said: “On the eve of my visits to several African countries, I would like to share my reflections on the prospects for Russia-Africa relations in the current geopolitical context with esteemed readers.”

Also read: Russia and Africa : A future bound-partnership

“Today, African states play an increasingly important role in the global politics and economy, take an active part in solving key modern-day problems. Their solidarity voice sounds more and more harmoniously in world affairs,” Lavrov said.

Russia has consistently advocated for Africa’s strengthened position in the multipolar architecture of a world order which should be based on the principles of the UN Charter and take the world’s cultural and civilizational diversity into account.

Uganda’s relations with Russia

At the peak of the conflict, the West and the U.S, embarked on a disinformation campaign with a biased and single sided reportage on the conflict, portraying Russia as war mongers.

At the time, the Russian Embassy in Kampala announced that Kremlin-linked Russia Today had secured regular space on Uganda’s state broadcaster, UBC, to tell its side of the story.

Also, at the start of June, the ruling party in Uganda, National Resistance Movement (NRM), signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s ruling party to bolster cooperation.

For the same purpose, President Museveni also held a virtual call with former president Dmitry Medvedev, who is the chairman of the ruling party.

President Museveni and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin have had a good decade of increasing communication and cooperation in both military and non-military sectors. Traditionally, Russia has been Uganda’s number one source of military equipment.

Moscow has also been helping Museveni with technology and knowledge transfer in the military sector.

In 2012, Museveni spent four days in Moscow on a state visit where he gave a lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations University, lashing out at the ‘arrogant’ Western world.

“With improvements in weapons technology, with the use of precision bombs, stealth bombers, cruise missiles, anti-missile technology, ECM technology,” he said. “Renewed arrogance is manifesting itself in some quarters in the Western world.”

In 2011, Museveni purchased six Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighters from Russia amidst protest from government officials, including then Central Bank Governor Emmanuel Mutebile. The planes cost about $740m at a time when inflation had skyrocketed to above 30%.

Such transactions rarely get reflected in trade statistics. However, there was a more than 10-fold increase in Russia’s export volumes to Uganda in 2011, according to UN comtrade data.

Russia exports to Uganda averaged about $50m for most of the years in the last decade but went up unusually again in 2020 by five-folds. This is the year after Museveni returned to Russia in 2019 for the first Russia-Africa summit.

In the past decade, Uganda has also tried to attract Russian private sector players with no success. In 2015, a consortium led by Russian companies was a surprise winner of a contract to construct a $4bn oil refinery. The company however walked away from the deal months later. The oil refinery deal was in 2019 awarded to a consortium of American companies though not much work has been done on it.

Last year, a contract to install digital number plates on all vehicles and motorcycles in the country with the aim of tracking them was offered by the government to Joint Stock Company Global Security, a Russian company, which was facing multiple bankruptcy litigations.

It was also a miniature company employing about 10 people. Despite these revelations, the government declined to rescind the contract, and almost a year later, the company is yet to start working.

Africa, a priority to Russia

Still in his widely published opinion, Lavrov notes that Africa and its development is a top priority for Moscow.

“Today we stand in solidarity with the African demands to complete the process of decolonization and support relevant initiatives on the UN platform. The development of a comprehensive partnership with African countries remains among the top priorities of Russia’s foreign policy,” Lavrov notes.

“We are willing to contribute to its further growth – in line with the strategic decisions taken in late October 2019 at the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
At the same time, I would specially emphasize: our country does not impose anything on anyone or tells others how to live,” he adds.

He said Russia is firmly committed to the “African solutions to African problems” principle and that such an approach to developing inter-State ties dramatically differs from the “master – slave” logic imposed by former metropolitan countries, which reproduces the obsolete colonial model.

Lavrov explained Russia is much aware that the African States do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the US and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community.

“We appreciate the considered African position as to the situation in and around Ukraine. Although unprecedented by its scale the pressure from beyond has not brought our friends to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Such an independent path deserves deep respect,” he says.

Additional information: The Africa Report.

Kungu Al-Mahadi Adam is an experienced Ugandan multimedia Journalist with a background of fact checking and thorough research. He is very passionate about current African affairs particularly Horn of Africa. He...

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